The 98th Session of the Monthly Lecture Series of the National Trust – Sri Lanka will be held at the HNB Auditorium, 22nd Floor, HNB Towers, T.B. Jayah Mawatha, Colombo 10 at 6.30 pm on August 31.

Conservation is an outcome of trade-offs between development, setting aside resources for future and for today, ecocentrism and anthropocentrism of humans and good governance. Increasing human populations, improved quality of life and simultaneously dwindling resources, are key drivers that put pressure to meaningful conservation efforts of any country. Though, ensuring welfare of living beings, conservation and simple life style had once been hallmarks of Sri Lankan culture, we are fast diverting from them, and as a result, conservation also requires new approaches and commitments.

Current protected area network of Sri Lanka, managed mainly by the Departments of Wildlife Conservation and Forest, is a fragmented set of ecosystems. Hence, at present we have protected ecosystems harbouring important biodiversity and freely supporting the services we enjoy, but are alarmingly getting fragmented and deteriorated. In order to make a visible change, we need to have a bird’s eye view, and one option for that is adopting the river basin approach. Sri Lankan landscape can be conveniently segmented into river basins and linked with the sea, which harbours important ecosystems supporting coastal biodiversity and the communities that depend on them.

To illustrate this concept, Kala Oya basin is taken as an example. Kala Oya basin has three important protected areas namely, Kahalle-Pallekele Sanctuary, Wilpattu National Park and Bar reef Sanctuary. The river itself that connects the sub basins is affected by multiple threats including disruption to flow, invasive species, sand extraction and pollution. Land grab, hunting, weak governance and lack of institutional corporation are common issues in the protected areas.

Ignoring the importance of research for decision making and lack of precautionary approaches are another dimension of the problem. However, amidst these issues, ecosystem approach to management with river continuum taken as the backbone of the basin, offers hope for bringing in ecological and human wellbeing to Kala Oya basin. The wish list includes setting aside ‘left aside for restoration zones’ in sea, protecting both natural and man-made biodiversity outside protected areas and changing the way we look at rivers; from a mere flow of water from mountains to sea to a living, breathing system!
Dr. Sevvandi Jayakody is a Senior Lecture at the Wayamba University of Sri Lanka and an Honorary Director of Environmental Foundation Limited. She started her career as an Assistant Director of Department of Wildlife Conservation. Her research interests are wildlife management, aquatic systems and their dynamics, coastal ecosystems with special reference to sea urchins, invasive species and responses of ecosystems and species to human disturbance.

A recipient of Commonwealth of the UK Endeavour of Australia and IDRC of Canada post-doctoral awards, she has been further studying about pollutants and invasives. She obtained her PhD from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, UK on a Study on the impacts of human disturbance on Habitat use, behaviour and diet composition of Red deer (Cervuselaphus). She also has a Post Graduate Diploma from the Wildlife Institute of India, on Wildlife Management and Conservation. She obtained her BSc in Zoology at the Kelaniya University.