Nature tourism could be made top forex earner: SLNG

7 June 2013 03:01 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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The country’s top authority entrusted to promote and develop tourism, the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) should devise a meaningful strategic plan to promote the country’s biodiversity without merely focusing on mega projects, an environment conservationist notes.

“Sri Lanka is a country rich in its bio-diversity compared to others, and this is a competitive advantage in attracting tourists and promoting nature tourism,” Sri Lanka Nature Group (SLNG) Director, Sajeewa Chamikara said.“At present, authorities are only concerned about bringing in the big names in leisure & tourism sector and neglect the foreign revenue the country could raise by establishing a proper plan to promote the country’s bio-diversity.“What happens is that we build mega hotels destroying the country’s bio-diversity and then spend substantial amounts of money to rectify the damage caused by it,” he noted.

Chamikara made these observations at a discussion themed ‘Awareness raising on the impact of food loss and waste’ held to coincide with World Environment Day at the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce (CCC).

Plant diversity and endemism in Sri Lanka are quite high. Of 3,210 flowering plants belonging to 1,052 genera, 916 species and 18 genera are endemic. Over 55 dipterocarp (Hora) is unique to Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka’s amphibian diversity is only becoming known now. According to experts, Sri Lanka may be home to as many as 140 species of amphibians. More than 50 known freshwater crabs are also confined to Sri Lanka.

“We look at all the mega hotels overseas and try to attract them here without considering its impact on the environment.

 In turn we destroy the country’s rich bio-diversity,” Chamikara said. Speaking of the Serendib Scops owl (Otus thilohoffmanni) as an example, formally described as a species new to science in 2004, Chamikara pointed out that when this owl was identified many bird scientists and watchers visited Sri Lanka. “Sri Lanka is home to many more endemic species such as this. We can earn so much foreign revenue by promoting these species,” he said.

SLNG is a network of 30 member organizations working in different parts of Sri Lanka towards the harmonious co-existence of the land, its flora, fauna and people and to ensure its preservation through sustainable mechanisms.

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