A new lease of life for Planet Earth | Daily News
Ecosystem Restoration:

A new lease of life for Planet Earth

Restoration of ecology has received a significant boost on a global scale. The central theme for World Environment Day 2021 on June 5 was ‘Ecosystem Restoration’ which highlights its global relevancy.

The restoration of ecology, in simple terms, is the practice of restoring damaged ecosystems which are mainly disturbed or destroyed by humans.

The Environment Ministry is presently reviewing the National Environmental Act and the Natural Environmental Action Plan with the view to introducing a pragmatic application of Ecological Restoration in Sri Lanka.

Over the decades, fragile ecological areas in the country have been victimized by ad hoc development activities. However, Sri Lanka cannot afford an ecological crisis as an island, as a nation thriving for Sustainable Development and as an economy heavily dependent on Ecotourism prospects. Thus, the government has made Ecological Restoration a top priority for the country.

During a webinar held recently, moderated by the Government Information Department, the Secretary to the Environment Ministry, Dr. Anil Jasinghe said the Government has taken a leap forward with regard to greening the country, banning industries from using agro-chemicals to Green Accounting.

A National Endeavour

Dr. Anil Jasinghe

Faiza Effendi

Dr. Ananda Mallawatantri

Vimlendra Sharan

Dr. Jasinghe observed, “We would like to harmonize between the Environmental Restoration Policy and the National Environmental Action Plan. So, we have two teams, one working on policy and one on action. Then the Policy and the Action Plan would be submitted by the Environment Ministry to the Cabinet of Ministers. When we get it ratified, it will be a national endeavour.  As we know, the environment is overarching, so all the sectors should help the endeavour when the Cabinet ratifies it. Presently we have identified nine thematic areas when it comes to Ecological Restoration in the country and we have appointed consultants for each area.”

Importance of Partnerships

The Country Representative of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in Sri Lanka, Dr. Ananda Mallawatantri speaking on the subject stated that the mismanagement of natural resources aggravates the already worsening environmental problems the world is facing. He noted that this subject is broad and not one which a single entity can work on alone to solve the web of issues it entails. He stressed the importance of partnership approaches, which include state, private and other global organizations coming together for one great purpose.

Cost of Ecological Restoration

The Director of the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization, Vimlendra Sharan speaking on the importance of Ecological Restoration at the webinar, pointed out that there has never been a more urgent time to revise the damaged ecosystems of the world.

FAO Director Sharan observed, “Mahatma Gandhi once said that nature has enough for everybody’s need but not enough for everybody’s greed. Over the decades, the greed of humankind has ravaged this Earth. The harmony has become distorted. Focusing on Ecosystem Restoration has come at just the right time to check the way forward. In my opinion, there has never been a more urgent time to revise the damaged ecosystems of the world. Humanity today is using nearly 1.6 times the amount that Nature can provide sustainably. So, conservation alone cannot help, but we need to restore degraded land, coastal lands and marine systems back to their effective status.”

“The cost of Restoration will be very high. The global Restoration cost nearly US$ 200 billion. Even though this may be a humongous cost, for every dollar spent on this, the return will be US$ 30. So, the return is also very high when it comes to Ecosystem Restoration. It will be a daunting task globally and more difficult to ask from a country like Sri Lanka. However, the plans put forward by this Government show that it is committed to successfully handling this task,” Sharan observed.

Global Ambition, Local Action

The UNDP’s Deputy Resident Representative in Sri Lanka, Faiza Effendi joining the discussion pointed out that the UNDP is fully committed to supporting the Government of Sri Lanka its Ecological Restoration initiatives.

Effendi noted, “We are now in a geological epoch and we are the ones who control the shape of the Earth. So, it is important that humans change its trajectory. Changing trajectory means changing the hearts and the minds of millions of people. The UNDP has identified four transformations to change this trajectory. The first one is putting Nature at the heart of Sustainable Development. This means demonstrating how Nature, especially ecosystems, contribute to Sustainable Development Goals.” 

 “The UNDP has helped Sri Lanka by helping the Climate Change Secretariat in updating its contributions to the country. With our technical assistance Sri Lanka has been able to fulfill the objectives to reduce green gas emission in certain sectors including Power, Industries and Livestock. The UNDP has also supported the Environment Ministry to develop an implementation and monitoring plan to track Ecosystem Restoration initiatives. The UNDP is also helping the Government to develop the National Environment Action Plan. We aim to facilitate policy implementation including in areas such as land, marine and more. It is important to change how the world perceives Nature. We should redirect all business investment entities from Nature negative to Nature positive. Sri Lanka has a rich Ecosystem compared to many other countries. However, only a very limited amount of its GDP is allocated to manage its biodiversity. So, the UNDP is working with private sector organizations to encourage them in Ecosystem Restoration initiatives and expand biodiversity financing. Sri Lanka requires around Rs. 30 billion for Sustainable Biodiversity Management. The UNDP is here to facilitate a global ambition turning into local action,” Effendi said.

Towards Ecological Citizenship

The public is a critically responsible party when it comes to Ecological Restoration planning. We as a nation need to develop empathy towards the biodiversity riches that have been bestowed by Nature to our island and the way we are utilizing them. Party politics and affiliations should be cast aside when the public supports Environmental Protection, Conservation and Ecological Restoration. We should understand that Government policies and citizens’ attitudes towards those policies are extremely important when realizing a costly goal such as Ecological Restoration. Experts as well as hands-on public participation in Ecological Restoration are crucial as a way of re-establishing the human relationship with Nature and creating ecologically engaged citizens in the country.


 


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