Wetlands should be considered as a resource and protected in order to reduce the future challenge of preventing floods in Colombo.. - Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena

We must collectively bear the responsibility of protecting urban wetlands..

The Prime Minister mentioned this today (2024.06.17) at the inaugural ceremony of the "Wetland Link International Asia Oceania Conference."

The first conference of the International Wetland Park Association for Australia, New Zealand and Asia is held in the vicinity of Battaramulla Diyasaru Park from 14th to 21st June.

The Prime Minister further commented at the event-

“This conference brings together around 100 wetland experts from over 15 countries to exchange knowledge and experience on wetland management on the theme “Wetlands and Wetland centres for Ecotourism”. This conference is of utmost importance as wetlands are fundamental to the well‐being of the people residing in any major city and our commercial city of Colombo is not an exemption. All of the wetlands, even the most degraded ones, provide a range of benefits which contribute to human wellbeing in the city. Colombo wetland complex falls under six local authorities i.e, Municiple Council of Sri Jayewardenepura Kotte, the Administrative capital, Colombo MC, Kaduwela MC, Kolonnawa UC, Maharagama UC and Dehiwala Mt. Lavinia MC. Urban wetlands falls under these local governing areas have been mainstreamed in the city’s development planning. The 150-year old wetlands have been reclaimed and managed to ensure it will last another 150 years. As the Minister of Local Government, in addition to being the Prime Minister, I take a special interest in this subject.

Climate change impacts are escalating across South Asia, and we see the devastating affects each day on media and also in our own areas. As President Ranil Wickremesinghe said at the Climate Summit, Sri Lanka is extremely concerned over the climate change. Colombo wetlands are becoming an essential resource for reducing future challenges faced by the flood-prone city. During the heavy rainfall, the city’s wetlands store millions of cubic meters of water. Our interventions and investments on green and grey infrastructure such as pumping stations makes the city resilient and is more cost-effective than alternative options.

Colombo city was recognized as a Ramsar Wetland City in 2018 by Ramsar Wetland City Accreditation Scheme in appreciation of the wise use of urban wetlands. Most importantly, Colombo is the first capital city to receive the wetland city recognition. Tourism has become a vital part of the economy and the concept of sustainable tourism has gained significant attention in recent years throughout the world.

Tourism is a key industry that can contribute to achievement of a range of important global goals. Sustainable development, which seeks to balance economic growth, social development and environment protection, has been a major focus since the Rio Earth Summit in 1992. Therefore, the theme of the first Wetland Link International Asia-Oceania Conference “Wetlands and Wetland centres for Eco-tourism” is quite relevant to the mandate and efforts of the government towards sustainable development. And most importantly, wetland parks play a crucial role in promoting eco-tourism in an urban environment.

Diyasaru Park, being the main wetland center in the city of Colombo is an important and a suitable place to gather and implement actions on wetland conservation and wise use through communication, education, participation and awareness of resident Communities. Wetlands act as a sponge for purification of water of pollutants and assist biodiversity by providing breeding grounds for fish, birds, flora and fauna.

This will eventually open new ventures for eco-tourism among both local and foreign tourists. Wetlands near urban centres are under increasing developmental pressure from residential, industrial and commercial facilities. Therefore, each urban wetland fragment is critical, regardless small or large and we collectively bear a responsibility to safeguard them.

There is no doubt about the commonality of problems faced by urban wetlands, and I am sure they are common to all the cities represented here. Hence, I wish to emphasise to the respected experts here on this occasion to look for the commonality of solutions for them.

Therefore, I wish the outcomes of this conference would have an impact on improving the management of urban park networks in the city."

Minister of Urban Development & Housing Prasanna Ranatunga, officials including Secretary to the Ministry of Urban Development & Housing W S Sathyananda, Executive Director of Ramsar Regional Center, Suh Seung Oh and a large gathering including local and foreign experts were present on this occasion.

Prime Minister’s Media