Act fast to protect vanishing urban wetlands

The-MuthurajawelaUrban wetlands in the Western Province are one of the important eco-systems in our country but they are in danger of vanishing within our lifetime.

Throughout generations, these wetlands have played a significant role in contributing eco-system services towards fisheries,

The Muthurajawela wetland bears testimony to the fact that Sri Lanka’s urban wetlands are shrinking
agriculture, wildlife, nutrient retention, wastewater treatment and flood-control. The urban wetlands such as Muthurajawela also inspired many famous musicians during 1940s through 1960s to compose beautiful songs which are still pleasing to our ears even after many generations.

As the population and development pressures increased exponentially during the last few decades, the urban wetlands have been rapidly shrinking to a point that most of them — such as the Bellanvila-Attidiya Wetland — are just a tiny fraction of their former range. Being reduced to such a remnant and continued to be filled and destroyed for various reasons, these remaining wetlands may well disappear within our lifetime.

Many studies and publications have been done by scientists highlighting the importance of protecting these urban wetlands for the economic value provided through eco-services. One such publication “Assessment of the Economic Value of Muthurajawela Wetland” by Lucy Emerton and L.D.C.B Kekulandala published in January 2003, available online and at the IUCN Sri Lanka library in Colombo, which provides a comprehensive economic analysis of the eco-system services and an action plan for Muthurajawela wetland.

It is unfortunate that such comprehensive studies and recommendations are not heeded by decision makers and relevant authorities.
With just a third of Muthurajawela wetland officially protected by law, the rest of the wetland is filled and destroyed on a daily basis. Therefore, we urge the authorities to take immediate steps to declare the entire Muthurajawela wetland as a Protected Sanctuary and follow the recommendations made by the afore-mentioned publication. Subsequently, submit Muthurajawela to be listed as a “National Man and Biosphere Reserve ” (MAB) under the “UNESCO World Heritage Programme” to ensure long term sustainability for this vital eco-system.

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