GAC Sri Lanka, the premier ship agency and logistics service provider in Sri Lanka celebrated the World Maritime Day this year with a contribution to nature protection in Sri Lanka.
GAC Sri Lanka continued with their last year’s efforts in creating awareness on the prevention of marine environment pollution.
This year, they have expanded the scope and implemented a community-based project to rehabilitate and conserve the mangrove ecosystem in Upparu, South of Trincomalee with technical support from the Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA) and Green World Trust (GWT).
The main objectives of this project are to educate the local community on the importance of marine environment protection, conserving the natural mangroves habitat in the area and to tap on the restored eco-system for economic gain.
The first of two programmes that were organised was an awareness seminar held at the Vivekananda College Trincomalee. 300 school children and teachers of the college, as well as pupils from Sinhala Central College and Muslim College of Trincomalee took part in the activity. The Project Chairman, Navin Perera, General Manager of GAC Marine Services Pvt Ltd shared the objectives of the project in his opening speech.
This was followed by presentations by Dr. Kalinga Padmalal, Senior Lecturer of the Open University of Sri Lanka, who is also the Chairman of the Green World Trust, and a senior officer from the Marine Environmental Protection Authority (MEPA). Dinesh Jayawardane, Group Managing Director of McLarens Group, Mahesh Kurukulasuriya, Managing Director of GAC Sri Lanka, along with other GAC employees, the principals of the respective institutions, Resident Manager - Sri Lanka Ports Authority, Director - District Forest Office, Zonal Director – Education and dignitaries from the area were also present at the event.
The second event involved the rehabilitation of the degraded mangroves ecosystem conducted at the mangrove area located adjoining the Central College, Muttur. Around 100 school children, local personnels, police officers, the staff of GAC Sri Lanka and the members of Green World Trust took part in this event.
GAC staff and the villagers of the area conducted a ‘Sramadana’ (a gift of labour) to clear the garbage in the area a day prior to the main event on 28 September. During the main event, an awareness session was conducted to provide fundamental insights into the biological and economical aspects of a mangrove ecosystem. Thereafter, the participants planted some mangrove saplings at one of the degraded sites to mark the start of the pilot project.
Upparu mangrove ecosystem is one of the very few sites in eastern Sri Lanka where natural habitats for mangrove are still being preserved. However, vegetation clearance, marsh landfills, waste dumping and sand mining have caused the depletion of the mangroves. “It is sad to see our natural habitats being destroyed by human intervention,” said Navin. “At the rate our mangroves are being depleted, the mangrove ecosystem will be completely destroyed in 10 to 20 years from now, if no action is being taken. We at GAC Sri Lanka feel we could do our part in protecting this environment that is somewhat connected to the maritime community that we operate in.”
The project will be carried out in three phases over a period of 3 to 5 years. Besides funding the project, the staff of GAC Sri Lanka will also partake in activities to raise awareness of the importance of mangrove ecosystem conservation, as well as replanting the uncovered areas and in creating awareness on protection of the marine environment around the Island.