Urban wetlands of Sri Lanka’s capital city Colombo ‘a potential boost for tourism and residents’ health’
The international news agency Reuters is spotlighting the “wilder and wetter past” of Sri Lanka’s capital city Colombo, and the potential for its urban wetlands network as a tourist attraction.
The World Bank, meanwhile, reports that “wetlands could easily become one of Colombo’s most attractive tourist draws—generating as much as Rs.2 billion annually for the city by providing recreational opportunities”.
Which is good news for the Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka (FOGSL), which is campaigning to “develop ecological sustainability in the selected urban wetland systems as models for conserving the biological wealth contained in these parks with the involvement of general public and concerned institutions”.
Reuters hails a plan that “aims to develop the revivable wetlands around the parliament lake so that they offer recreational, tourist and other benefits, rather than leaving the land unused”.
It reports Sameera Premarathana, manager at Baddagana Park, which offers a nature trail for the public, as saying that “the full tourist potential of Colombo’s wetlands has been assessed at about 2 billion rupees ($12.7 million) per year”.
But to be successful, city communities must have a say in the rehabilitation of the wetlands. “People have to feel part and parcel of the project—they need to experience that these projects make very real changes to their lives,” says Sameera.
The World Bank notes that “‘Wetlands For A Sustainable Urban Future’—the theme for World Wetlands Day 2018—highlights the crucial role wetlands play in Colombo”.
It says that “wetlands provide a host of valuable eco-system services, including flood protection, natural air conditioning and food and livelihoods for surrounding communities”.
And it also notes the health benefits to residents of Colombo, since “the wetlands reduce the incidence of cardiopulmonary and respiratory diseases, coughing, bronchitis, and lung cancer”.
Last but not least, says FOGSL, tropical wetlands are among the most productive ecosystems in the world, comparable to rain forests and coral reefs.
Their shallowness, high temperature, high nutrient content and profusion of light guarantee a large biomass turnover and rich and diverse plant and animal communities.
They are important features in the landscape that provide numerous beneficial services for people and biodiversity.
Some of these services, include protecting and improving water quality, providing a habitat for numerous species, storing floodwaters and maintaining surface water flow during dry periods.