COLOMBO, September 5, 2016— Today, the Government of Sri Lanka and the World Bank signed a US$45 million credit to help protect Sri Lanka’s natural habitats and resources from degradation and over -exploitation. The project will assist the government improve the lives and livelihoods of neighboring communities, who suffer the most from natural resources loss and degradation.
The Ecosystem Conservation and Management Project (ESCAMP) will benefit approximately 15,000 residents; 30 percent among them women, with most of them belonging to marginalized groups. It will protect and foster the sustainable use of natural resources by introducing more competitive and compatible livelihood opportunities. Through the Department of Wildlife Conservation and Forest Department, the project will support the management of protected areas. Improved landscape management, better awareness and improved coordination on natural resource management among different stakeholders, and increased quality of nature-based tourism are some of the expected results.
“Sri Lanka is blessed with a rich endowment of eco-systems. Striking a fair balance between economy and ecology is crucial, not only for the preservation of the ecosystem but also for helping people emerge from poverty,” said Idah Pswarayi-Riddihough, World Bank Country Director for Sri Lanka and the Maldives, “Managing this natural heritage is the responsibility of all Sri Lankans. Benefits of well managed eco-systems include, improved national economy as well as addressing challenges such as human wild life conflicts and climate change effects”
A recent World Bank Group assessment, the Systematic Country Diagnostic (SCD) underlined the importance of environmental management and stewardship to preserve Sri Lanka’s natural resources while developing tourism.
“The project will improve responsible planning and management of protected areas and other biologically and ecologically important locations throughout Sri Lanka,” said Darshani De Silva, Senior Environment Specialist and Project Task Team Leader, “It will help to create sustained linkages with communities living adjacent to protected areas to ensure participation in protection of critical ecosystems and benefit sharing, promote compatible developments within and around sensitive ecosystems, raise quality of visitor services and revenue potential of forest and wildlife resources, while developing the capacity of Forest Department and Department of Wildlife Conservation to deliver on their institutional mandates.”
This project also aligns with the government’s policies to expand forest cover in line with Sri Lanka’s environmental action plan, Punarudaya. It will develop human-elephant co-existence mechanisms and protect watersheds to boost agricultural productivity. Over time, the project will reinforce the emerging strategy on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) as well as policies to promote sustainable water, agriculture and energy practices, while supporting social inclusion and resilience to climate and disaster risks.
The credit for this project is provided by the International Development Association (IDA) – the World Bank’s concessionary lending arm –with a maturity of 25 years, including a 5 year grace period. The Ministry of Mahaweli Development and Environment will lead implementation in close partnership with Ministry of Sustainable Development and Wildlife.