Under the aegis of the Mangroves for the Future Initiative, a Colloquium was held on 6 November, 2009 at the Hector Kobbekaduwa Agrarian Research & Training Institute (HARTI), Wijerama Mawata, Colombo.
In Sri Lanka, over the past few decades there has been considerable interest in mangrove-related activities. Considerable funding had been provided for numerous mangrove establishment projects, particularly in the aftermath of the 2004 Tsunami, with the expectation of contributing toward improving ecosystems and saving life and property in the event of coastal hazards. In the recent times, IUCN Sri Lanka has had the opportunity to review a number of mangrove initiatives, and has observed uneven progress. These observations have also led to other questions such as the choice of site for replanting, suitability of different species to different localities and conditions, perceived societal values and benefits, effects of newly-planted mangroves on sedimentation and hydrology of the area and the expected benefits to maintaining ecosystem health and productivity and its contribution to biodiversity.
In the light of the above, this colloquium was organized by IUCN to address and critique on the field experiences on mangrove rehabilitation efforts with due consideration to various scientific aspects.
Fifty-one participants, including the Director General of Department of Wildlife Conservation, Director of the Coast Conservation Department, Deputy Conservator of Forests, several Divisional Forest Officers, Scientists and researchers, practitioners, policy makers, and stakeholder agencies discussed and debated on a number of themes, relating to mangrove replanting, their successes and failures, and possible effects on ecosystem health and productivity with a view to develop best practices.
IUCN members in Sri Lanka also participated in the event, and those that showed particular interest were Department of Wildlife Conservation, Forest Department, Wildlife and Nature Protection Society, Environmental Foundation Ltd, Sewalanka Foundation, Green Movement of Sri Lanka and the Small Fishers’ Federation, Sri Lanka.
The practitioners were appreciative of the opportunity to share their experiences with the scientists, as there were hardly any opportunities in the past for such a dialogue. There was a consensus amongst the participants that mangrove planting and restoration should be scientifically based and should consider the resilience of ecosystems to regenerate themselves with minimal interventions after natural disasters. It was agreed that a compendium of best practices should be developed based on the outcomes of the colloquium.
IUCN Sri Lanka, under the Mangroves for the Future Initiative will hold a satellite colloquium in Batticaloa in the Eastern Province on 24 November, 2009, where there has been a considerable effort after the tsunami to restore large areas of mangroves. The satellite colloquium will provide an opportunity for the academia, practitioners and policy makers in that Province to share the experiences to enrich the process of producing the best practices.