Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Reporting back to Melbourne….

Giving a presentation at Department of Sustainability and Environment

I had a very successful official visit to Melbourne from 24th November to 4th December 2011. The purpose of the visit was to present the success of the river journey (Kelani Nadee Yatra) to Journeys for  Climate Justice (JCJ) . It was very nice to meet all the advisory board members including former Governor of Victoria Prof. David De Kretser who was very happy to hear about the success of the journey. I had so many meetings with people who are into energy sector, finance sector, land care and Climate Change areas. All meetings gave many ideas, contacts and networking opportunities to develop JCJ and also to support youth projects started in Sri Lanka after the river journey. I also had the opportunity to talk to Australian media along with Jim Crosthwaite who is the co founder of JCJ. I had interviews with SBS TV news and Channel 31 too.  Sri Lankan community living in Melbourne had organized us a very nice meeting where I presented about our work and also showed the documentary made on Kelani Nadee Yathra. I should thank our friend Manjith and friends for arranging this excellent meeting for Sri Lankan community. There were 3 more main public talks organized at Westgarth where we lived last year, Geelong and in Glen Weverly. 

Giving a talk at Sri Lankan event in Glen Weverly

It was a very short visit with many presentations, meetings and public talks and also catching up with our old friends very briefly. After 9 days in Melbourne I am in New Zealand now, attending the 25th International Congress on Conservation Biology. I have to give a presentation on our Pelican research we did for ECO-V.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Training on Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation- Sweden

This is one of the best trainings I have ever followed - Climate Change mitigation and adaptation; sponsored by SIDA and conducted by Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute (SMHI) in Norrokoping, Sweden.  When  I recall the other trainings I have had during my carrier I can rate this on par with the  training on endangered species management at Durrell, Jersey UK and training of trainers at Waheningan in Netherlands. All these trainings gave me skills and lot of confidence to continue my career as a conservationist. Since Climate Change issues are addressed at broader level now, this training is very important for me. One month in Sweden with 22 other middle level managers who are actors of climate change in their countries coming from various backgrounds was very helpful for us to share experience and learn from each other. 

Course content was not only restricted to theory but more practical exposure too given to us. Visiting many Swedish initiatives like wind and solar power stations, sustainably designed cities, exposure to bio gas production for transportation in Stockholm, bio energy production out of garbage and sewage for National electricity grid, are great experience we came across. It was very interesting to learn more about climate change scenarios, assessing vulnerability, modeling, protocols with the legal background, initiatives in Voluntary Carbon Market (VCM), Cleaner Development Mechanism (CDM), and Payment for Environmental Services (PES), Reducing Emission from Avoiding  Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) etc. 
Trainees in Stockholm

During one month of staying in Sweden, I questioned myself why can’t we do it in our country? what make us prevent initiating?…why??…and always what?…and how?..So now I am ready to go back to Sri Lanka to try my best to continue my mission as a campaigner, communicator, leader and a citizen to do my best to convince stakeholders, direct them to do what they can do and let them think about what they should do. I am not sure how far I can go but at least I know I have 21 youth ambassadors already trained to some extent (Thanks to Kelani Nadee Yathra) to be ready to go forward and always with young energy. So let’s go for it…with like minded people, politicians and policy makers …because its “our country our future”.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Short visit to London in September soon after Kelani Nadee Yatra

September was a really busy month for me. Soon after I finished the final celebrations of Kelani Nadee yatra I went to London. It was on an invitation from Conservation leadership Programme (CLP) to give a presentation at a ceremony they have organized.
With Catherine Isherwood
It was a short but a very nice visit where I was able to meet some of my old friends whom I have met through my conservation work. I also met my  dear friend Catherine Isherwood. She was a member of Sinharaja 97 expedition which came to Sri Lanka in 1997. This expedition which came after winning a CLP award was the turning point of my conservation career. Catherine is a Geologist in Sterling now after finishing her PhD. Even after 14 years , we are a good team as Julia Jones and Claire Ferry are also with me whenever I need any assistance for our conservation work. In fact very recently Claire had a walk around Northern Ireland to raise funds for three conservation organization including ECO-V(

Dr. Mark Rose in the middle
Three of past CLP award winners were invited for this event they have organized at BP head office in London .We had to share our success after winning CLP awards with the BP officials. This event gave me the opportunity to meet Dr. Mark Rose the head of Fauna and Flora International (FFI) whom I have met during Whitley awards interviews in 2002. CLP had also organized another meeting for me at FFI Cambridge which gave me the opportunity to show the video of Kelani Nadee Yatra and talk about the river journey. Thanks to Robyn Dalzen and Stuart Paterson of CLP for inviting me for the event.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Final celebrations of Kelani Nadee Yatra

Invitees lighting oil lamp

Kelani Nadee yatra..the journey along Kelani river is over…We had a grand final event on the 15th of September 2011. Thanks to Western province ministry of Environment for organizing such a wonderful final event for us. All the Yathrees (travelers) were felicitated by the ministry by giving a certificate and an award. Senior minister Hon.  A.H.M Fauzi was the chief guest along with the western Province Environmental Minister Hon. Udaya Gammanpila and some other invitees. It was held at the beautiful Beire lake premises and many school children, press, government officers, Cooperate sector, and ECO-V members were among the invitees. They all were there to share the information about the journey. Imala Aberatne from Sabaragamuwa Province was awarded as the best Yathree. All the yathrees came back to Colombo. Thanks to kind permission from Commissioner General of Rehabilitation Maj. Gen Chandana Rajaguru who personally participated in the event we had both Selva and Newton from North back to Colombo for the event. All Yathrees were with full of energy and some of them have already started their projects which was very encouraging. All were delighted to watch the 15 minute documentary film we made about Kelani Nadee Yatra- a river journey for climate justice. We missed Jim and Pat from Journeys for Climate Justice in Melbourne but we knew that their blessings were with us on that day. 
Hon.Minister Gammanpila Addressing the gathering

Well... thank you for everybody who supported us in many ways to have our journey a success. It was not just a journey along Kelani River but a journey of Youth in their lives with a positive behavioral change.  Also it is a beginning of another journey with a message we take across the country and to the region in coming months! Let’s have our own journeys towards positive attitudinal change to save our Mother Earth from Climate Change crisis. 
Western Province Ministry felicitated ECO-V 
Yathrees and school children sharing experience
Happy Yathrees
Staff of WP environmental ministry & Yathrees

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Invitation for final celebrations of Kelani Nadee Yatra...

All youth have gone back to their local areas.  Still calling us and sharing their experience with us at ECO-V. Also they all are really looking forward to come back on the 15th to Colombo to celebrate the 12 day journey at the final event. We at ECO-V didn't have a break as such as we started working for the next event since 29th. Had several meetings with Minister Gammanpila and his staff, sent letters for organizing, getting permission and making so many other arrangements. Pat has gone back to Melbourne and have started his work. Jim is getting ready to leave tomorrow. He helped us a lot in making the report. Narada Bakmewewa is very busy with making the video for the journey obviously quite challenging limiting it for 13 minutes with 12 days of great filming.
Well we are really looking forward to meet the Yetrees again next week and share some more thoughts. Please come and join us on the 15th of September at Beire Lake, Kala Duwa in Colombo from 9am to 5pm. There will be a video, photographs, poems, and art to share with you all. - Kanchana

Monday, August 29, 2011

Farewell to our Yathrees and the Journey of a Lifetime…

Yesterday was our last day of this Journey for Climate Justice. We didn’t stop smiling and laughing for a second,  but in the back of our minds there was also great sadness that this experience of our lifetime was about to come to an end.
We made our way to the stunning International Training Centre of Vishua Niketan, where we were to complete our final day of training. Jim Crosthwaite kicked off the session leading us in an informative discussion of Climate Change. I then took the chance to give a presentation of the results of our water quality study of the Kelani River, and discuss some key issues and potential solutions. We then gave the Yathrees the chance to formally evaluate their trip, which they have described as “life-changing”, and “the best experience of our lives”! We interviewed each of the Yathrees separately, asking them to reflect on their Journey.
After a presentation by Kanchana on Sustainable Development we split the group up to discuss conservation projects that they are interested in implementing after the Journey, and any challenges or uncertainties that they expecting to face. We were very impressed at the ambitious but achievable projects that were proposed, including a nation-wide plastic-free campaign (including introducing home-made reusable cloth shopping bags), construction of an eco-friendly village, introduction of eco-friendly education programs in rehabilitation programs and in Universities, and many more.

After a final workshop on the Eco-Handprint concept, and many tips for ‘greening’ one’s lifestyle, we begun creating our ‘mural of healing hands’. The idea is that by using our handprint (as opposed to our footprint) we can compensate for the damage that we are doing for the environment, and make the world a better place for all Living Beings. The Yathrees made a pledge to protect Mother Nature, before planting a personalised painted handprint on the mural. This was a beautiful way to end our training session.
We returned back to Savodaya for an evening of celebration, singing, speeches and dramas. This cultural celebration was truly a night to remember, and was a great lighthearted note to end the trip on.

We said many sad goodbyes to our great friends and companions this morning, who will be travelling back to their homes, but will be joining us again for the final ceremony on the 15th, which should be an incredible event, look forward to keeping you posted!

Thank you so much to all who have sponsored and supported us on this Journey, we will never forget your kindness. You have helped us to run a program not only to change the lives of these Yathrees, but one that will have ripple effects throughout Sri Lankan and International communities.

For a better environment – Pat

P.S. there will be much more to come! Keep watching this blog for updates on the final ceremony, the much anticipated documentary, and updates on the Yathrees activities in their own conservation projects