Implementation of Environmentally Sensitive Areas policy to begin towards year-end

  • 200 areas earmarked as environmentally sensitive

By Pamodi Waravita

The National Policy on Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESAs) will be implemented by the end of this year, whilst the ESAs scale-up project has so far recognised over 200 environmentally sensitive areas, the Environment Ministry stated yesterday (2).

Speaking at a webinar held yesterday, Environment Ministry Secretary Dr. Anil Jasinghe assured that the National Policy on ESAs would be operationalised by the end of this year after it has gained the approval of the Cabinet of Ministers.

“The Policy would take a co-management approach. Approximately one-fourth of the country comprises environmentally protected areas under various legislations, including national parks. However, many ESAs do not fall within these protected areas, and these areas are important, not just environmentally and ecologically, but also socially and economically. The need to recognise the resilience of communities living in these areas and to support sustainable development was identified, as we realised that ESAs often fall victim to degradation, fragmentation, and ecological imbalances. Therefore, the discussion on the National Policy for ESAs centres on area-based economic models, and the wise use of national capital to envision a win-win situation for both the communities and the environment,” explained Dr. Jasinghe.

He added that the public is also welcome to approach the National Steering Committee on ESAs to raise awareness on areas they believe should be protected or conserved.

According to Wayamba University Senior Lecturer Dr. Sevvandi Jayakody, who spoke at the same event, ESAs fall under three main umbrellas.

“First, we consider the biodiversity and the ecosystem-based richness of the area. The second aspect concerns the environmental services provided in that area, for example, water. The third factor is the sensitivity of the lands of this country for disaster reduction and climate change. The mammoth task after gaining approval for the Policy is to ensure that it is integrated into our national legislation,” she noted.

She explained that the mandate of the authorities such as the Urban Development Authority (UDA) will also be strengthened with the information provided by the National Policy on ESAs.

Dr. Jayakody also emphasised the importance of establishing green cells in each development sector to ensure that the natural resources needed for development are maintained.