Thursday, August 28, 2008

Human Elephant Conflict in Sri Lanka:

W.A.S Lakmali

Except for a small remnant population in the Peak Wilderness area, elephants are restricted to the lowlands, especially in the Dry Zone. Over the past 200 years, human land-use has forced the elephants from the wet and fertile regions of the south-west of the island to much drier regions. Between 3,160 and 4,405 elephants are estimated to be present in Sri Lanka (Kemf & Santiapillai, 2000) of which between 2,000 and 2,870 occur largely in the protected areas. The Department of Wildlife Conservation carried out a survey of elephants in much of the safe areas of the island in June 1993, and arrived at a minimum of 2,000 elephants in the wild in the five regions. They are North-western, Mahaweli, Central, Eastern and Southern areas. Almost all estimates are very approximate and these estimates may turn out to be underestimates, given the difficulty in counting elephants in the scrub. Each animal needs hundreds of square kilometers of territory as their home range. While Sri Lanka's forest cover is shrinking because its human population is expanding rapidly. Farmers are encroaching on jungle which was once the sole domain of the elephant. The result is injuries and deaths on both sides of the conflict.

Due to population pressures on elephant habitat, there is a severe toll both on elephants and rural communities from Human-Elephant Conflict. This conflict is at the heart of environmental conflict. With the reduction of the habitats, elephant populations have broken up and some herds have got pocketed in to small patches of jungle. many people are poor and landless, so they clear natural forest for agricultural use. In other parts, quickly expanding farms of such agricultural crops as sugar cane, rubber, and palm oil have replaced most of the forests that once supported wild elephant populations. These land uses increasingly displace wild elephants from their habitats and home ranges, which they travel through in search of food. Frequently, these elephants turn to farmer's crops to supplement their diets. Sri Lanka’s wild elephant population has been increasing over the last 10 years.

Conflict has become serious. These include Kotavehera, Kalegama, Navagattegama, Galgamuwa, Giribawa, Kahalle-Pallekele, Galewela, Pibidunugama, Galkiriyagama and Karuwalagaswewa in the northwest, Heen Ganga to Dumbara valley in the vicinity of Wasgomuwa National Park; Sigiriya-Habarana area in the Mahaweli area, and Ritigala-Kalawewa area.and Haldummulla, Uma Oya; the area between Lunungamvehera, Udawalawe and Bundala; Haltota-Haldummulla area north of Udawalawe National Park in the south. Elephants killed by humans as well as vise versa could be happening frequently in those areas.

Poaching for ivory or meat, Poisoned, cattle born disease, Electrocution and hit by trains are the main reasons for death of elephants. Asian elephants face almost certain extinction in almost every place they exist in the modern world. So conservation of wild elephants as well as protection of cultivations and property of the poor people is essential. In order to that mitigation of human –elephant conflict would be mitigating by adopting many techniques. Electric fencing, establishment of new national parks, habitat enrichment, establishment of Elephant Corridors, increasing the extent of conservation areas, translocation of elephants and elephant drives and integrating elephant conservation with economic development are some of them.

Management Plan of Wild Elephants is essential for Sri Lanka. Little information about available true number of elephants in the wild, the extent of suitable wild lands for the conservation of these endangered populations is needed. GIS and GPS can be used as a new technology for this purpose. The satellite GPS collars used in Myanmar and Sri Lanka to track the geographic location of the collared elephants.

Economic activities that would enable the local communities to derive some tangible benefits from the presence of elephants in their neighbourhood. e.g. manufacture of paper from elephant dung, organic farming using elephant dung, production of biogas using a combination of elephant and cattle dung. Conservation GIS Laboratory will develop a satellite-based early warning system that will demonstrate where rapid habitat loss is occurring.

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Valuation of Parks using Travel Cost Method

R. A Jayasinghe

The travel cost method is used to estimate the value of recreational benefits generated by ecosystems. It assumes that the value of the site or its recreational services is reflected in how much people are willing to pay to get there. It is referred to as a “revealed preference” method, because it uses actual behavior and choices to infer values.

The basic premise of the travel cost method is that the time and travel cost expenses that people incur to visit a site represent the “price” of access to the site. Thus, peoples’ willingness to pay to visit the site can be estimated based on the number of trips that people make at different travel costs. This is analogous to estimating peoples’ willingness to pay for a marketed good based on the quantity demanded at different prices.

The travel cost method is relatively uncontroversial, because it is modeled on standard economic techniques for measuring value, and it uses information on actual behavior rather than verbal responses to hypothetical scenarios. It is based on the simple and well-founded assumption that travel costs reflect recreational value. It is often relatively inexpensive to apply.

This method has some limitations as well. The travel cost method assumes that people perceive and respond to changes in travel costs the same way that they would respond to changes in admission price. The simplest models assume that individuals take a trip for a single purpose – to visit a specific recreational site. Thus, if a trip has more than one purpose, the value of the site may be overestimated.

Defining and measuring the opportunity cost of time, or the value of time spent traveling, can be problematic. Because the time spent traveling could have been used in other ways, it has an "opportunity cost." This should be added to the travel cost, or the value of the site will be underestimated. In addition, if people enjoy the travel itself, then travel time becomes a benefit, not a cost, and the value of the site will be overestimated.

The availability of substitute sites will affect values. For example, if two people travel the same distance, they are assumed to have the same value. However, if one person has several substitutes available but travels to this site because it is preferred, this person’s value is actually higher. Some of the more complicated models account for the availability of substitutes.

The travel cost method is limited in its scope of application because it requires user participation. It cannot be used to assign values to on-site environmental features and functions that users of the site do not find valuable. It cannot be used to value off-site values supported by the site. Most importantly, it cannot be used to measure non-use values. Thus, sites that have unique qualities that are valued by non-users will be undervalued.

However, due to its own merits or a lack or alternatives–it is one of the most significant tools we have for the estimation of user value for non-market assets.


Randika Jayasinghe

Floods in Colombo! A not so-familiar incident until a few years ago has become an all-too familiar occurrence whenever there is a heavy downpour. Several areas in the Western Province were submerged following the torrential rains on 3rd and 4th May that flooded much of the city of Colombo.

Heavy rains received on 03rd and 04th May resulted in severe flash floods which displaced a total of over 145,000 island wide. More than 50,000 were affected or displaced in the Colombo area.15 people lost their lives which included 3 deaths form Colombo due to drowning and electrocution. The flooding combined at times with high winds, resulted in destroyed homes and many been highly damaged.

People's park, Maradana, Reid Avenue, Ward Place, the National Hospital…….areas not normally known as 'flood-prone' sites, were under water for several hours, disrupting the smooth flow of life and causing chaos all around. Heavy showers also damaged the roof of the country's Parliament, while parts of the main Galle Road in Colombo were washed out Schools in Colombo were closed on Thursday and Friday as approach roads to the capital were submerged.

The main causes for floods are blocked drains and canals, unauthorized constructions and the century-old drainage system in the Colombo city which fails to absorb the present high volume of water or carry the water to the sea. The city's drainage lines were clogged by garbage, septic sludge, and the debris and dirt that had collected on roads and had been swept or washed on to the drains. These drains had not been cleaned or properly maintained. The other main cause for this havoc is the filling up of flood retention areas, which were identified some years ago.

However several measures have been taken to solve the problem. A coordinated effort with the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC), Sri Lanka Land Reclamation and Development Corporation (SLLRDC), Road Development Authority (RDA) and other state agencies and institutions have been taken to have a sound flood retention system implemented soon in the city.

Habitat Mapping

Randika Jayasinghe

With the start of a new programme to conserve Sri Lanka’s wildlife and manage its protected areas, a much need boost will be given to wildlife conservation in this country. At the request of the government of Sri Lanka, the Asian Development Bank has agreed to fund the Protected Area Management & Wildlife Conservation Project, which covers a wide spectrum of wildlife conservation activities.

The project, which started off in September 2001, will support efforts to conserve the country’s valuable natural resources and preserve wildlife biodiversity for the well being of current and future generations. Sri Lanka is considered a global biodiversity hot spot because of the large variety of biological species in this small island. Half of these species are endemic. Many migrant species also find a temporary home here where the habitat is critical for these internationally mobile species. If their unique habitats are lost, a number of species will be lost forever.

It is envisaged that the new project will identify the problems, especially in conservation terms, in seven protected areas (PAs) that have been selected under the project. The selected protected areas are Wasgamuwa, Minneriya, Uda Walawe and Horton Plains National Parks, together with the Ritigala Strict Natural Reserve and the Peak Wilderness area.

Preparations of habitat maps for these areas are one of the major activities carried out under component C of the project. Habitats are an integrated reflection of abiotic and biotic factors that shape the environment of a given land area. For this reason habitat mapping plays a vital role in providing relevant information for conservation management purposes.

From a biodiversity point of view the lack of consistent and up-to-date information on type, location, size and quality of natural habitats in PAs in Sri Lanka has been identified as a major constraint for the implementation of the management plans. Therefore the use of habitat maps based on vegetation, soils, geology and slope might be critical when developing management strategies.

Habitat maps play a vital role of providing relevant information for conservation management purposes. They are widely used as a proxy for the biodiversity that exists in different habitat types. They are tools for the development of effective PA management plans and to define various management zones and identification of important conservation goals. Also habitat mapping provides valuable ecological information and to comply with operational tasks such as accurate delineation of protection zones and implementation of statutory measures for conservation.

Development of the Pantry cupboard Industry in Sri Lanka

Randika Jayasinghe

The pantry cupboard industry has become a new trend in the Sri Lankan society. It is one of the most requested features in many of the middle and high income homes today. The pantry cupboard industry can be seen as a small scale industry such as self-employed carpenters and medium scale and large scale such as export oriented companies such as Damro and Singer. Works of self-employed carpenters are very popular among individual households and ready-made pantry shelves are popular in apartments and hotels.

Teak, Nadun, Jak and Mahogany are some of the widely accepted timber for pantry cupboards by local carpenters because these species have a good texture and an appearance. However due to high price and lack of availability of those species, Pine wood and Rubber wood is highly used for pantry cupboards in the local market today. Wood preservation and seasoning techniques should be carried out for these species in order to increase the quality of the final products.
There is a good market for wooden pantry cupboards locally and internationally compared to metal and plastics. Also there is a good demand for pantry cupboards in the domestic sector (for houses, apartments etc.) and in the commercial sector. (Hotels, Restaurants etc.) Availability of suitable timber species in Sri Lanka, availability of workers, high price that could be obtained for the work and high demand from customers due to maximum utilization of space compared to cupboards, drawers are some of the opportunities of the industry.

Fewer facilities for most small scale carpenters and craftsmen, failure to create new designs and develop new products, uses of out dated machinery are some of the drawbacks of the industry. However there is a growing demand for pantry cupboards in all levels of the society and a good demand for new products and designs. Therefore it is important to improve the product quality to meet the customer requirements.

A proper development plan should be adopted for the improvement of the industry. Introducing innovative designs, use of different accessories and colour schemes to capture the customer’s heart, introducing new market places and improving advertising and promotion about the products are some of the steps that should be carried out. Use of alternative low priced timber species instead of high priced timber, reduction of import duties on accessories and fittings, introducing new loan schemes for small and medium scale industries and introducing attractive prices for different designs and new products are also important in regulating the price of the products.

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