ADB mulls restoring Sri Lanka wetland

ECONOMYNEXT – The Asian Development Bank is considering giving aid to Sri Lanka to restore a key wetland north of the capital Colombo, which could help reduce flooding, an ADB official said.

The proposed project highlights the economic importance of wetlands and how ecosystems, which get degraded with urbanisation and industrial development, could be valued, said Herath Gunatilake, ADB’s Director of  the Regional and Sustainable Development Department.

“The project on urban improvements in Colombo is looking at opportunities to restore the Muthurajawela wetland,” he told an international forum on the valuation of forest ecosystems and their services. “If so, we can actually relieve part of the floods.”

A more pragmatic approach that takes into account financial aspects is needed to ensure better protection of vulnerable ecosystems, Gunnatilake he told the forum held by the Ministry of Mahaweli Development and Environment, with the support of the Sri Lanka UN-REDD Programme and the Forest Department.

“We need to look at the finance and fiscal aspects. If not, finance ministries, which provide the funds, will be reluctant to look at it.”

A combination of science and economics was needed, and sound evidence, Gunatilake said.

Methods to value eco-systems were improving over time, but there were still some people who don’t believe them because of wide differences in valuations, he said.

“We need uniformity in methodology.”

There was an urgent need to restore degraded ecosystem services and maintain them at a certain level, Gunatilake said.

Current environmental management efforts failed because of the dependence on donations and public funding, he said.





“We never tried to see how we can mobilise private sector funding. There are various ways to get private sector money, but there needs to be innovative approaches.”

Gunatilake gave the example of ‘wetland banking’ in America, where businesses could make money while natural ecosystems were protected.

Under the scheme, property developers are required to create wetlands in place of those they destroy when developing real estate.
(COLOMBO, Oct 18, 2016)

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