IUCN Sri Lanka, under the Mangroves for the Future Initiative, supported the University of Ruhuna to undertake a rapid biodiversity assessment in the Gulf of Mannar (GoM) and Palk Bay from February to March 2010, which will be used as background material for formulating a proposal to nominate the Sri Lankan side of the Gulf of Mannar as a Biosphere Reserve under the Man & the Biosphere Programme of UNESCO by the National Science Foundation (NSF).
Subsequently, with funds from the Bay of Bengal Large Marine Ecosystem (BOBLME) Project of the Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO), IUCN conducted a rapid socio-economic survey during September and October 2010 to provide additional information on the GoM, which will be useful for future work, in particular for management actions. The main objective of the rapid survey was to understand the interactions of the coastal population (defined by the coastal DS Divisions) with ecological systems in the Gulf of Mannar. Although IUCN is cognizant of the fact that these interactions will go well beyond the coastal DS Divisions, IUCN concentrated on interactions within coastal DS Divisions for the purpose of the study. One of the major activities under this programme is to disseminate information on the natural richness of the Gulf of Mannar and the threats posed to the resources as well as the interactions between people and the environment.
The first of the series of dissemination workshops was held on 11 November, 2010 at the Mannar District Secretariat which was chaired by the District Secretary, Mr A. Nicholaspillai, and included representatives from the Naval bases in Thalaimannar, Silavatturai and Mannar, the Divisional Secretaries of the four coastal DS divisions of Mannar, representatives from the Fisheries, Coast Conservation, Irrigation, Agriculture, Wildlife and Education Departments, Central Environmental Authority and District Planning Unit.
The findings of this collaborative work between the University of Ruhuna and IUCN Sri Lanka were presented by resource persons from the two institutions. The recommendations to overcome the issues identified from both studies were discussed at length and the strategy to disseminate the findings to a wider audience in the Mannar District, including school children was also finalized.