Halgolla is a 1,196 ha tea estate managed by Kelani Valley Plantations PLC. It is located in Yatiyanthota in the Sabaragamuwa Province.The Wewalthalawa watershed is a unique and isolated watershed area within Halgolla Estate, and forms the catchment of Olu Oya, which feeds the Kelani River through Wee Oya.
The natural and semi-natural areas of the Wewalthalawa watershed function as an important repository of Sri Lanka’s biodiversity. Many of Sri Lanka’s endemic and threatened species, including faunal species such as the Rhino-horn lizard (Ceratophora stoddartii) and Sri Lanka whistling thrush (Myophonus blighi), and rare floral species such as Vatica lewisiana and Gordonia speciosa, have been recorded in these habitats. Some of these species have been recorded for the very first time in this region, making these natural habitats immensely important for the conservation of Sri Lanka’s biodiversity, overall.
Recognizing the ecological importance and conservation needs of the Wewalthalawa watershed, the management of the estate entered into a partnership with IUCN Sri Lanka. The objective of this initiative was to develop a management plan for the natural areas that lie within the estate premises, and to improve the ecological integrity and watershed services of the property, overall. As such, IUCN Sri Lanka designed and implemented a project to meet these objectives within the overall framework of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM).
<>n As an initial step, the biodiversity and hydrological characteristics of the Wewalthalawa watershed were assessed, with the land-use patterns and streams found in the area being mapped. Based on the preliminary information gathered, the major threats associated with the watershed were also identified. Subsequently, a watershed management action plan, with the solutions to mitigate these threats and issues, was developed. This action plan was implemented by the IUCN team through the undertaking of physical and hydrological interventions, as well as ecological restoration activities.
In addition, Gordonia speciosa – a nationally threatened endemic species with a highly restricted range – was propagated as part of the project, in an effort to conserve this extremely rare species.
A monitoring protocol has also been developed in order to allow the estate management to evaluate the effectiveness of the action plan, and facilitate the improvement of management actions in future. A number of awareness raising programmes targeting key stakeholders, such as estate management, staff and workers, local communities, school children, local government officials and representatives from neighbouring plantations, were also conducted by IUCN. Awareness materials, including booklets, leaflets and posters, were also prepared in the local languages (English, Sinhala and Tamil) for dissemination among key stakeholders. The successful completion of the project has laid the foundation for the application of integrated watershed management practices in the area and its surroundings, and initiated a dialogue between key stakeholders, which will, ultimately, facilitate the long-term sustainable management of the watershed and its natural resources.