World Water Day 2019: Shangri-La partners UNDP to protect cascades in NWP

In commemoration of World Water Day 2019, Shangri-La Hotel, Colombo partnered with UNDP to protect the cascades in the North Western Province of Sri Lanka, by pledging to plant an initial 800 trees to protect the Mahadhodanaththewa tank in the Madde Ramabawa Cascade.

Both Shangri-La and UNDP are working together to realize the vision of a sustainable and climate resilient Sri Lanka.

Over 2,400 years ago, the ancient kings of Sri Lanka built a sophisticated network of small tanks connected by canals to large reservoirs to collect and redistribute every single drop of rain the land received. The tanks were built in cascading systems, using the natural inclination and topography of the land, full of small watersheds. They kept the natural cycle of water through soil, vegetation and atmosphere.

The main goal of the system was to save and re-use water, allowing cultivation of rice in the dry zone. Tanks, paddy fields, watersheds, canals and natural ecosystems were perfectly interlaced. These cascades provided the ultimate solution for communities, particularly smallholder farmers, to survive - providing both food and water security.

However today, many of these tanks need to be revitalized. Furthermore, with erratic changes in the climate, shifting from extreme drought to floods, these cascades now need to be upgraded.

Despite the importance of these water bodies much of it has been neglected. Furthermore, deforestation across the area has also made the area more dryer making survival difficult for communities and animals. The dry zone is now hotter than ever. Clean water and food are scarce and is often a luxury to the community around.

Farmers are struggling to make ends meet with crops dying failing to make yield. Animals are affected too. Elephants are now increasingly making their way towards villages in search of water causing a growing human-elephant conflict.

Speaking about this project, Resident Representative of UNDP Sri Lanka, Jorn Sorensen stated, "We have supported the Government of Sri Lanka for over five decades and we remain committed to continue working closely with the Ministry of Mahaweli Development and Environment to implement this project to strengthen the resilience of vulnerable smallholder farmers in the country’s dry zone, who are facing increasing risks of rising temperatures, erratic rainfall, and extreme events attributable to climate change."

General Manager and Executive Vice President of Shangri-La Hotel, Colombo, Timothy Wright stated,"We are humbled to be associated with such a partnership as it not only helps the environment, it also helps to improve the soil quality, increase shade and provide biomass, all of which can help in growing food crops in the future.

"This kind of symbiosis in sustainable development mechanisms to preserve and restore a site’s natural ecosystem always stands firm in the ethos of Shangri-La."

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