Speaking up on behalf of the environment
Sashini Rodrigo for the Sunday Times
21 அக்டோபர் 2019

Wetlands play a crucial role in the environment and in turn, our lives. Yet, few of us actually realize its true value and the part it plays in preventing global warming.

We spoke to environmentalists Anuradha Nilupul, Chairman of Environmentalists Delthara and Jayantha Wijesingha, Sustainability Consultant for Rainforest Protectors of Sri Lanka who gave us an insight into the growing need to protect these wetlands.

Nilupul has always shared a close bond with nature. As he grew older he observed the ecosystem in his neighborhood, particularly that of Bolgoda. Noticing its deterioration owing to the rapidly growing hotel industry in the area it saddened him but also prompted the fight for its preservation.

Anuradha Nilupul

In 2006 he approached nearly 500 houses in the vicinity with a petition to protect the local ecosystem, which he then handed over to the relevant authorities.

The reason behind Nilupul’s fight for the Bolgoda wetlands, beside it being his home, stems from the fact that wetlands play a crucial role in preventing global warming. Aside from this, the Bolgoda wetland is one of the largest natural freshwater lakes in the country, and is home to different species of birds, reptiles and amphibians.

Jayantha soon joins in our conversation. He tells us wetlands are as important as any other ecosystem in terms of what it provides. He adds that the mangrove ecosystems found in these areas are arguably the best kind of forest in terms of water preservation and security. Wetlands can absorb more carbon, store water, filter toxins and send clean water to the ground water table.

Additionally, wetlands play a vital role as flood and climate regulators. Without the Muthurajawela, Talangama and Bolgoda wetlands, the temperature in Colombo would be at least “2 degrees higher” Jayantha shares, highlighting the importance of these wetlands in keeping the area livable for flora, fauna and folks alike.

As Nilupul and Jayantha both demonstrate in their work, a key aspect in the fight against climate change is to speak up on behalf of the environment. “From environmental impact in your local area to national level policy decisions, it is imperative to speak up and act on it,” Jayantha says. Nilupul’s attempts have helped preserve the environment he grew up in for generations to come. Through the environment, he has also learned more than books can teach. He shares that children too need to be taught the importance of protecting wetlands and also about the creatures that live in it.

Global warming is something we feel, he explains, adding that water is a necessity to mankind and the lack of it would spell the end of everything.

Quoting the famous Sir Arthur C. Clarke, whom he met, Nilupul says “Just be human to all living creatures.” Man has a duty to protect the environment and this is exactly what he believes in.

Jayantha Wijesingha

Nilupul’s efforts also led him to be recognized as a National Volunteer by UN Volunteers in 2015 out of nearly 10,000 applicants. “This was not something I expected because I don’t publicise my work,” he tells us whilst adding that most often green issues are incorporated as a marketing goal.

As opposed to simply planting a tree, Nilupul believes the proper message which needs to be highlighted is to protect what we already have.

Pointing towards the back of his garden, which spans out into lush greenery rife with loud squirrels and birds that nearly drown out his voice, he tells us “This is safe today because of the efforts that were taken to protect it.”

Further, Jayantha’s advice to anyone with the passion to fight climate change is to “act on it, adding that we speak too much and do nothing.” He explains that every individual has a responsibility to conserve the environment. This includes thinking about what we consume, lifestyle changes to reducing waste, and having a smaller water and carbon footprint.

Sashini Rodrigo for the Sunday Times
21 அக்டோபர் 2019
This is article is brought to you in partnership with the Mirror Magazine of the Sunday Times. Log on to www.sundaytimes.lk   

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