Wednesday, May 14, 2008

“Creating Homes for Spot-billed Pelicans” – The tree planting campaign

The last activity of the GEF/UNDP and WFN supported pilot project on conservation of Spot-billed Pelicans in Undawalawa area was accomplished last Friday. It was a tree planting campaign at one of the selected fresh water tanks in Udawalawa. The tank was suggested to us by the local government as they were very pleased with our idea of planting 150 Kumbuk trees (Ternimalia arjuna) which is one of the best tree species to be planted at fresh water tank catchments areas. It was full of fun at the campaign and we planted 150 one year old saplings. When we started the nursery it was a challenge for us to maintain it as it was severe drought period but thanks to a local community members and one of our team members Nalinda, who took care of the plants we were successful. At the time we planted them yesterday they were about 3 feet tall saplings.

15 school children from Udawalwa Maha Vidyalaya participated in the campaign with two very enthusiastic teachers along with 15 friends of pelicans. Children who were with white school uniform did not have any hesitation to walk in the flooded freshwater habitat and even they dig the holes and carried the plants in the muddy habitat. Soon after finishing digging the ground we had a short tea break where the tea was provided by a member of farmer’s society in the area who admired our effort in rehabilitating the Pelican habitats. According to him only 2, 3 pelicans were observed in the recent past but there were a lot more before. So we hope to plant native trees like Kumbuk, Mee (Madhuca longifolia), Temarine (Tamarindus indica)which are best trees for nesting and perching habitats for Pelicans and other water birds. Since this would be looking ahead for another 30 years only next generation will see the impact of our effort. We started the campaign after meditating for few minutes where I asked school children to pay their respect to the sapling and plant it with extra care and to generate positive energy from the surrounding to the sapling. They loved that idea as no one had done a tree planting campaign like that before. I also talked about Climate change and effect of planting trees as an individual to help in combating climate change.

The next step would be cleaning these fresh water tanks and its surrounding as those habitats are full of invasive plant species (both aquatic and terrestrial). By cleaning the tanks and improving the quality of the habitats we hope to increase the number of bird species around tank habitats and eventually it will encourage pelicans too. This area is full of free roaming Buffalos. Therefore we had to take extra care in protecting the saplings and we used wooden sticks to make strong fences around the plants. So the first step is over and continuous monitoring and replacing plants if needed (some may die and some may be damaged by Buffalos) will be future activities to make this campaign a success. We all worked very hard and completed the task with a great satisfaction at the end of the day.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

ECO-V wins Kate Stokes Memorial Award for creating “Friends of Nature”

You may remember that ECO-V won the CLP follow up award last month. Again ECO-V was short listed for the Kate Stokes Memorial Award (KSMA). Only 4 CLP award winners in 2008 were nominated for this award. I was asked for another proposal which supports CLP award but with something long term and sustainable that benefits the local communities.

I considered this as a great opportunity to lay the foundation for our long term vision of establishing the ECO-V training centre. Winning this award was also something very close to my heart as I have known Kate since 2002 before she passed away due to tragic accident in 2006. Though I met Kate only few times in my life I think our friendship runs from many previous births as most of us believe as Buddhists. I still could remember how she was waiting for me in Sao Palo airport in Brazil in 2005 with a ticket to internal flight up to Brasilia. She was kind and caring as a friend and she did not even let me travel up to the hotel alone in Brasilia and she dropped me up to the hotel. I also could remember how she helped me to find a bag which I really loved, taking me around Cambridge. I have lot of good memories about her during those short visits to UK in the company of Marianne, Robin and rest of the friends at CLP. (One in the extreme right of the photograph is Kate).

I never forget this dear friend and I cried when I came to know that I won this. I will make sure that this award will have a great impact on ECO-V future. I am planning to discuss my ideas (which are dreams of course) with my friends at CLP in Chattanooga, USA in coming July.

We are very much determined to lay the foundation for training “Friends of Nature” teams. Young village members aged between 15 and 25 will be selected for a 6 day training session about environmental issues and we are hoping to direct them towards attitudinal change by inculcating them with a more holistic approach on environmental conservation.

I am very sorry for not writing the blog last week as we were busy with the work and did not find the time to do it. Week before, I gave a thematic lecture on Pelicans at Field Ornithology Group (FOGSL) for their monthly meeting and conducted the programme for pregnant mothers with Sarvodaya on Sunday. I spent the last Saturday morning with a local TV station where I discussed the colours of life in the eyes of an environmentalist. It was a refreshing experience for me as it was the first time I discussed about my personnel life as an environmentalist. Any way, it was not that easy as I had to spend whole morning under scorching sun in a lovely beach for recording the programme.

You can read more about KSMA award from