Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Pelican Conservation Project (PCP)

I made another visit to Udawalawa PCP today to donate library books to Sri Gunaratana Pirivena (Damma School) as a part of its project activity. We selected this Dhamma school library for the donation as the temple has been very supportive for project activities from the inception. The temple has been house for the “Friends of Pelicans” activities and we are planning to hold the final exhibition of the project in March at the same temple. This will be the final event of PCP activities of the area and it intends to educate the community members in the area and exhibit the findings we have on pelicans of the area. We believe that conservation action should begin with the support of the local community and they should be empowered with correct and accurate knowledge on their environment. All the activities done so far will contribute to achieve this objective and we hope that the community will contribute in a big way in conservation of Spot Billed Pelican in the area.

We also erected the billboard on the bank of the Udawalawe reservoir beside the main road depicting the importance of the conservation of Pelicans. I hope whoever travels on this road will learn its importance and will not pollute the adjoining tank which is a main habitat of the Pelicans in the area. Our local team (Friends of Pelicans) will be the sole representative of the ECO-V PCP in the area at the end of the project and we intend to empower them with necessary support to initiate local conservation actions in the future.
We have already initiated the preliminary activities of conservation of Purple faced leaf langur with Dr. Rudy Rudran from USA and the team and I am looking forward to this new project as it also involves another endemic species which has been threatened due to human action.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Dr. Rudy and ECO-V

It was an exciting week for me. I met Dr. Rudy Rudran a well known scientist from Smithsonian Institute USA. I met him at a meeting at Sarvodaya ,where he and his group was looking for the possibilities of conducting a joint project on threatened Western Purple-faced leaf langur an endemic monkey of Sri Lanka with Sarvodaya. I was delighted to be a part of the project especially on the education programme on the invitation of Dr. Rudy as it too serves the vision and mission of ECO-V. He too wanted to develop awareness programme on Buddhist concepts.
With my experience for past 16 years in the conservation field I have experienced that Sri Lankan Buddhist culture helps in creating awareness easily. People pay respect to the nature and living organisms but they lack awareness and consciousness leading to environmental destruction in village level. Thus we at ECO-V decided to be a partner organisation in conservation of Western purple-faced langur in Sri Lanka.
ECO-V celebrated its 7th anniversary on the 7th of February. We organised a small gathering on the 10th of February to celebrate the successful 7th year of ECO-V. It was recollection of past few years and development and planning for the years ahead. We kept the celebrations to a very low key due to the prevailing situation in the country. Hope our tomorrow will be a better one and we will able to celebrate our 8th anniversary in a peaceful Sri Lanka.

Friday, February 8, 2008

With Udawalawa community members!

I made another visit to Udawalwa Pelican Conservation project after my visit last week. My team had organised a training workshop on making paper bags for 20 selected people (13 women and 7 men). It was a very warm gathering as all the participants were so friendly teasing each other while learning how to make the paper bags from old newspapers as an environmental friendly activity. This was the challenge we had at the beginning of our project as many NGO’s had established negative relationships with the community members at Udawalawa and they didn’t believe us too. But all the credit goes to my team members as they worked very hard to establish a good relationship with the community members.

Our young “Friends of Pelicans” are always there. Though officially, they were supposed to come once a week but now they come everyday and spend time reading, discussing, learning and also working with our permanent staff members at the office. This is very encouraging as these young boys are getting their first hand experience in the conservation field. This may help us to achieve the goal of ECO-V “making an environmental friendly society by creating environmental consciousness among the younger generation”.


Saturday, February 2, 2008

Visit to Udawalawa

After a month I was able to make another field visit to Udawalawa where we are conducting our Pelican conservation project. This was the first visit for year 2008 and the one after I went there with Claire in December 2007. The recent incidents in Monaragala district (Udawalawa belongs to Monaragala) including the claymore mine explosion and killing of another 10 innocent farmers in the area had a great impact on lives of people at Udawalawa too and we could not proceed with our planned activities for January. I really wanted to go there although my colleague Harsha who is stationed at Udawalwa did not want me to visit them before. However I was determined to see the entire team and communities involved in our project. I was so happy to see them and also did able to buy some of the products (eco friendly bags, baskets) they were supposed to make for our project. My payment for their products made a little difference as they are facing many financial problems these days due to collapsed economy of the area due to reduced tourist arrivals. Many community members are depending on tourism and fishing but both activities are temporality stopped due to the prevailing security condition of the area. However we did not able to do our usual community activities for the project area, but I was relieved to visit them and talk at least for few minutes as I know it made them happy. We hope that the condition may improve soon and we would able to function normally in the area to continue the Pelican Conservation project which was funded by UNDP Small grant programme and Whitley Fund for Nature.

We sent 62 school packs this week to school children in Kebithigollawa (North Central Province) with the financial support of our volunteers and well-wishers. Kebithigollawa is the area where we started our Pelican project and also is the area for our Natural Springs Conservation project. Unfortunately we had to terminate our activities from that area soon after the claymore mine killed 70 villagers who were travelling by the bus in 2006. We were shocked as we were conducting the research and awareness activities in the same village at that time and 7 family members of one of our volunteers killed by the incident. After that we were advised not to continue the environmental activities in the same forests where terrorists trespass and obviously people had to struggle for living rather than protecting nature. We have been helping many community members in this area since we started our projects in the area in 2003. Therefore we received many requests for community welfare and we were able to help them with constructing toilets, drinking water wells, three libraries and granting scholarships for school and university students. All these projects were coordinated and supervised by Sri Lanka Army officers who helped us to continue the research work in the area. This time also the request for school bags and books for 62 deserving students came from the school principles and Army officers. Army officers take over the delivery of the items and usually they send us a report and photographs when the items were handed over to schools.
Some of the money for buying the books this year came from selling the greeting cards and bags to some of my friends in UK and we were able to collect 20,000 rupees from well-wishers and friends of ECO-V members. I should specially thank Chaminda Jayaratne as he motivated most of his friends to contibute to this worthy cause. Sarvodaya-Suwasetha also donated some books and clothes for this project. I thank all the generous people and who buy our products enabling us to do many projects. It’s your contribution that made a difference in a life of remote village child.