Sri Lanka can’t afford to lose any more wetlands: expert

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo is fast losing wetlands in and around the city and needs to protect them urgently, an international expert said.

Flooding of Colombo could be much worse than a major flood in 2010, when the city’s economy was disrupted, if the remaining wetlands are not preserved, said Matthew Simpson, an international wetland scientist from the United Kingdom.

Simpson helped draw up a wetlands management strategy that was discussed at a forum organised by the Ministry of Megapolis and Western Development.

“Flooding is potentially a big issue – it has been since the great flood in 2010,” Simpson said. “In future too it will be a potential issue as wetlands act as important flood retention areas.”

A World Bank study of the 2010 flood estimated that the damage it caused was about one percent of the gross domestic product of Colombo, he said. 

Simpson said the city has to decide on protecting its wetlands as another flood like in 2010 could lead to very high economic losses.

“If we lose wetlands we risk having that level of damage every year. There will be massive economic costs to the city.”
Wetlands are essential for the well being of the city’s residents and provide essential habitat for wild life, Simpson said.

“Unfortunately they are being threatened by land filling, dredging, solid waste dumping, waste water pollution – the wetlands are being degraded every year,” Simpson said. 

Studies show that 40 percent of Colombo’s wetlands have been lost since the 1980s with the current rate of loss being 58 acres a year.
(COLOMBO, March 24, 2016)