Sri Lanka’s current mangrove cover, estimated to be 15-000 19,000 Hectares, is a mere 0.3% of the total landmass and is critically low, putting the island at risk from the impact of climate change and natural disasters such as storm surges and Tsunamis. Mangroves are an integral part of our forests and constitute about 2% of Sri Lanka’s total forest cover – they are very much a part of the fast dwindling 17% of our primary forests.
WNPS’s Accelerated Natural Regeneration of Mangroves (ANRM) Project was launched with the goal of regenerating the damaged mangrove habitats in Anawilundawa Wetlands and building sustainable livelihoods in surrounding communities. The project aims to restore approx. 45 hectares (110 acres) of the mangrove ecosystem at Anawilundawa, which have been destroyed due to shrimp farming.
WNPS partnered the Department of Wildlife Conservation on this project in the first half of 2020 and despite the chaos caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the project has successfully reached its initial milestones including recording of the faunal and floral species in a section of the surrounding habitats, creating a mangrove plant nursery using harvested seeds from the site and establishing baseline data for the project.
This important conservation project is to be conducted by Sri Lanka’s Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC), Department of Forests (FD), Wayamba University (Science Partner), facilitated by the Wildlife & Nature Protection Society (WNPS).
Referred to as “Blue forests” coastal and marine ecosystems consisting of mangrove forests, seagrass meadows and tidal salt marshes are some of the most efficient carbon sequestration tools found in nature. They can store up to ten times more CO2 per unit area than tropical rainforest, making them a powerful weapon against global warming and climate. These natural ecosystems also play a key role in the country’s coastal protection and provides protection from storm surges and catastrophic events like floods & tsunamis. Not only this, mangrove ecosystems provide sustainable livelihoods for many rural communities.
In the late 1990’s over 50% of Sri Lanka’s Mangrove habitat was destroyed to establish Shrimp Aquaculture, severely affecting the functioning of coastal ecosystems. This destruction of ecosystems is compounded by the fact that it also cripples livelihoods that depended on Mangroves associated small industries like Artisanal Fishing, Firewood, Herbal Medicine and Tourism. Anawilundawa Wetlands was one such damaged habitat, which is a wetland ecosystem of global importance and one of six RAMSAR sites in Sri Lanka.
It is home to over 150 species of birds; both resident and migratory, 20 species of mammals and over 70 species of butterflies; whilst over 50% of the country’s freshwater fish species are found in these waters. Human intervention on restoration of mangrove habitats is needed to ensure that this destroyed habitat is brought back to its original glory, comprising all flora and fauna that were specific to the ecosystem.
This requires the careful systematic, scientific process of Accelerated Natural Mangrove Regeneration, with minimal external intervention. In addition, a critical dimension of this process is the engagement of local communities to ensure the regeneration of sustainable livelihoods in the communities that live around these mangrove habitats. The ANRM project takes into account all these elements and WNPS hopes to continue with upcoming project plans, now that the worst of the pandemic seems to be behind us.
WNPS is thankful to Hemas Consumer Brands who have come on board as a long-term financial partner on the ANRM project, to assist the regeneration of mangrove habitats as well as to enhance local livelihoods. Part of Sri Lanka’s Hemas Group, Hemas Consumer Brands, is a leading manufacturer in beauty and personal care sector. Their operations are focused on the three components of Sustainability; Environment, Social, and Economic and partner with conservation organisations on several environmental conservation projects to protect and restore Sri Lanka’s natural environment.
Founded in 1894, the Wildlife & Nature Protection Society (WNPS) focuses on the conservation of wildlife, forests, marine eco-systems as well as endangered species. Their mission is to protect Sri Lanka’s rich natural heritage by galvanizing policymakers, scientists, activists, nature lovers and the public; to preserve nature and wildlife through sustained conservation activities built on science, legislation, education and citizen mobilization. For the last 127 years WNPS has been working with many stakeholders including the government, scientists, policy makers, conservationists, educators, activists and the private sector, to protect Sri Lanka’s rich natural heritage of flora and fauna, for our future generations.
If you would like to find out more about the ANRM project, please visit www.wnpssl.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Sri Lanka still ‘under test’ before it can receive crucial second tranche from IMF
by Sanath Nanayakkare
International Monetary Fund (IMF) staff concluding their visit to Sri Lanka yesterday reaffirmed their support to Sri Lanka to move out of the ongoing economic crisis, but did not specify an exact timeline for releasing the second tranche of its Extended Fund Faculty (EFF) arrangement to Sri Lanka.
The IMF mission team led by Peter Breuer and Katsiaryna Svirydzenka that visited Colombo from September 14 to 27, is yet to be convinced that it has received a robust programme from the Sri Lankan authorities where they indicate how they would be addressing the persistent revenue shortfall besides outlining progress in foreign debt restructuring which would give Sri Lanka a breather to balance its financing requirements as it starts to repay its foreign debt.
“We had constructive and productive discussions with the Sri Lankan authorities on economic performance and policies underpinning the first review under the IMF Extended Fund Facility (EFF) arrangement. The people of Sri Lanka have shown remarkable resilience and the authorities have made significant progress on important reforms. The discussions will continue towards reaching a staff-level agreement in the near term that will maintain the reform momentum needed to allow Sri Lanka to emerge from its deep economic crisis, Peter Breuer said.
“The objectives of the IMF-supported program will continue to focus on restoring macroeconomic stability and debt sustainability, while protecting the poor and vulnerable, safeguarding financial stability and stepping up structural reforms to address corruption vulnerabilities and unlock Sri Lanka’s growth potential, he said.
However, the press briefing given by the IMF team yesterday signaled that they needed to see more economic and financial policies to support the approval of the First Review of the program under the EFF arrangement.
“Sri Lanka has made commendable progress in implementing difficult but much-needed reforms. These efforts are bearing fruit as the economy is showing tentative signs of stabilization. Inflation is down from a peak of 70 percent in September 2022 to below 2 percent in September 2023, gross international reserves increased by $1.5 billion during March-June this year, and shortages of essentials have eased. Despite early signs of stabilization, full economic recovery is not yet assured. Growth momentum remains subdued, with real GDP contracting by 3.1 percent in the second quarter on a year-on-year basis and high-frequency economic indicators continuing to provide mixed signals. Reserve accumulation has slowed in recent months, he said.
Speaking further Peter Breuer said: “Sustaining the reform momentum is critical to put the economy on a path towards lasting recovery and stable and inclusive economic growth. The authorities have met the program’s primary balance targets and remain committed to this important pillar of the program so as to support their efforts to restore debt sustainability. However, revenue mobilization gains – while improved relative to last year – are expected to fall short of initial projections by nearly 15 percent by year end, in part due to economic factors.
“The onus of fiscal adjustment would fall on public expenditure if there were no efforts to recoup this shortfall. This could weaken the government’s ability to provide essential public services and undermine the path to debt sustainability. To increase revenues and signal better governance, it is important to strengthen tax administration, remove tax exemptions, and actively eliminate tax evasion.
“Against continued uncertainty, it also remains important to rebuild external buffers through strong reserves accumulation. Building on the Central Bank of Sri Lanka’s success in controlling inflation, refraining from monetary financing will help keep inflation in check. Other challenges include maintaining cost recovery in electricity pricing.
“The government has made steady progress on structural reforms. Key legislations passed in Parliament, including the new Central Bank Act and the Anti-Corruption Act, could improve governance if implemented effectively. The IMF Governance Diagnostic report would inform future reform measures to strengthen governance when published.
“A new welfare benefit payment scheme was enacted with new eligibility criteria that aims to improve targeting, adequacy, and coverage of social safety nets. To ensure financial stability, steps were taken on conducting bank diagnostics, developing a roadmap for addressing banking system capital and liquidity shortfalls and improving the bank resolution framework.
“The authorities have also made headway on regaining debt sustainability through the execution of the domestic debt restructuring and advancing discussions with external creditors. As Sri Lanka is restructuring its public debt which is in arrears.
“Executive Board approval of the first program review requires the completion of financing assurances reviews. These financing assurances reviews will focus on whether adequate progress has been made with debt restructuring to give confidence that it will be concluded in a timely manner and in line with the program’s debt targets.
“Discussions are on-going, and the authorities are continuing to make progress on their plans for revenue mobilization targets, anti-corruption efforts, and other important structural reforms.”
The IMF team held meetings with President and Finance Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Central Bank of Sri Lanka Governor Dr. P. Nandalal Weerasinghe, State Minister Shehan Semasinghe, Chief of Staff to the President Sagala Ratnayaka, Secretary to the Treasury K M Mahinda Siriwardana, and other senior government and CBSL officials, during the visit. The IMF team also met with parliamentarians, representatives from the private sector, civil society organizations, and development partners.
‘Imposing minimum room rates on five star hotels could ruin tourism sector’
By Hiran H.Senewiratne
The imposing of a minimum room rate on five star hotels on the basis of a recent gazette notification is actually killing the industry. Room rates, accordingly, could henceforth rise to between 80 percent and 100 percent, top travel and tourism industry expert Chandana Amaradasa said.
“The minimum room rate of a five star hotel currently comes to about US $ 65 but with the new gazette notification it would go up to US $ 170 per day. But our competitors, such as, Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam are maintaining a minimum room rate of US$ 80 to US$ 85, Amaradasa told The Island Financial Review.
Amaradasa said that the tourism industry is just picking- up and ‘this type of move is detrimental to the entire sector because these room rates are normally determined by demand and supply and not by gazette notifications.
Amaradasa added: ‘At present, Colombo five star hotels are mainly patronized by Indian tourists, corporate clients and MICE tourists. This will not only impact hotel revenue but the outside supply chain as well. Nowhere in the world is the tourism industry regulated in this manner and this would enable our competitors, such as, Vietnam and Thailand to attract tourists.
“As a long term consequence, some of the airlines could also pull out of Sri Lanka and hotels will halt recruiting new staff and training them with the limiting of their revenue sources.’
ADL’s journey continues: Unveiling new offices in Indonesia and Malaysia for tech excellence
Axiata Digital Labs (ADL), the renowned technology hub of Axiata Group Berhad, is proud to announce the grand opening of two new offices in Indonesia and Malaysia. These strategic expansions, respectively, mark significant milestones in the company’s journey since it’s inception in 2019. This signifies ADL’s unwavering commitment to revolutionizing the telecommunications industry and propelling the global rate of digital transformation.
The inauguration of these state-of-the-art offices exemplifies the dedication ADL has towards expanding its footprint and harnessing the power of innovation across Southeast Asia. As the first CMMI 2.0 Level 3 IT organization in Sri Lanka and an ISO-certified company, ADL is well-positioned to lead the charge in transforming traditional telcos into techcos through its groundbreaking Axonect Product Suite.
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