Sri Lanka Mangrove Swamp Restoration

The Nagenahiru Foundation in Sri Lanka stands for the protection and conservation of the environment for the benefit of future generations, and is specifically concerned with the conservation and protection of wetland resources through programmes of educational, awareness and action.

Mangrove forests are unique habitats, adapted to the living conditions of brackish estuaries and coastal areas. In no other biotope is the same habitat shared by so many different creatures, salt and freshwater species as well as sea and land organisms. Also, all mangrove species have extensive root systems that serve as a barrier against tidal waves. This particular area consists of 10 major wetland vegetation types and 303 species of plants. Over the past 100 years, about 50% of the world’s mangrove forests have been irrecoverably lost.

The main objective is to facilitate the sustainable community management of Mangrove Ecosystems of the Madampa Lake Wildlife Sanctuary in Sri Lanka. This wildlife sanctuary is an extensive lake system facing several threats due to uncontrolled community activities such as land reclamation, dumping of household and industrial waste, and the logging of mangrove trees for timber and firewood. The project aims to increase the communities’ understanding of the importance of the mangrove ecosystem through long term educational programmes and empowering communities in implementing mangrove conservation programmes.

The project aims to:

  • Establish an educational garden and demonstration nursery with an outdoor classroom for mangrove education
  • Run awareness and educational workshops to increase understanding of the importance of and necessity of preservation of rare endangered mangrove plants and restoration
  • Reforest 6 acres of destroyed mangrove areas in the Madampa Wetland, planting over 10,000 new seedlings

The Update

A medicinal plant arboretum and herbarium have been developed at the Nagenahiru Centre for Environmental Education under the guidance of experts from the National Institute of Traditional Medicine.  Some 100 medicinal plant species were introduced into the one acre garden at the centre with the objective of propagating these rare plants amongst surrounding communities.  Some plants are also cultivated for education, demonstration and field research purposes.  A medicinal plant house was also constructed to house 21 severely threatened plant species typical to the area. Some of the plants are used by  surrounding communities to generate herbal medicines for minor health problems.

A mangrove exhibition garden area has been developed, to include 36 mangrove species, 6 of which are severely threatened.  The garden is used for educational purposes for local schools and other visitors to the cente, presenting not only flora and fauna species, but also offering insight into the (usually hidden) nature of the mangrove wetland.

24 educational workshops were carried out, with a total of 1138 participants to provide useful information to wetland users, particularly women, government officers and school children.  Further to this, three 3-day intensive training programmes were run to give women and young people from the surrounding wetlands more indepth knowledge of the wetlands, with the aim of these people becoming future leaders of conservation in the area.

Scientific data has been collected in order to publish a handbook on mangroves ‘Wonders of mangroves in Sri Lanka’.  Written by Manoj Prasanna, a research officer in the biodiversity division of the Monistry of the Environment and Natural Resources Sri Laka, the book wil address the educational interest of school children and university students, filling a gap caused by the absence of such educational material in the local language.

In June of 2011, an international event was held to share lessons learned and experiences of mangrove reforestation in Sri Lanka.

Two mangrove nurseries were established with a total of 12,000 seedlings grown.  All were planted in the Suduwella mangrove restoration site in the Spring of 2011. The seed collection and planting for this part of the project was carried out by local women, providing them with an additional income.  A new nursery with 3,000 seedlings has been established in order to continue reforestation activities.

In an area of 6 hectares, 11,000 seedlings were planted to reforest an area of degraded mangrove and they are now growing well. This reforestation will restore the ecosystem, improve its biodiversity, provide a natural barrier to  disasters such as Tsunamis, and improve the breeding and spawning  sites of fish and mollusc species that the local community utilise.

Many other groups interested in mangrove restoration now regularly visit the restoration sites to learn and collect data on restoration techniques. The book ‘Wonders of Mangroves’ produced through this project is found to be particularly useful.  The project is therefore having a longer term, broader positive impact.

Image: Supporting local communities