Role of Participatory Approaches in Wetland Management: Evidence from the Bundala Wetland of Southern Sri Lanka

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Commonwealth of Learning (COL)

Wetlands are the most productive and vulnerable ecosystems in the world. Over the decades, they have been degraded and destroyed due to over exploitation of wetland resources and improper development activities. Bundala wetland is one of the wetlands among them which has a threat of being degraded at present. Hence, this study was conducted to ascertain the key aspects of the sustainable wetland management plan with regard to perspectives of stakeholders. Participatory approaches enable people to plan and act in the society facilitating bottom up approach. Data were collected through a focus group discussion with a group of lagoon and marine fishers, farmers, members of village wetland committee and park officers. Resource map, pair-wise ranking and historical profile were the participatory tools used for data collection. Bundala wetland has five natural lagoons and provides a breeding ground for turtles. Lagoon fishing is main livelihood. However, people employ in the salt factory as an alternative income. They stressed that immediate actions should be needed to divert the drainage water which flow from the paddy fields to the lagoons. Further, they highlighted eradication of invasive species which is a threat to the wetland biodiversity. During the last decade, drastic changes were observed in lagoon fishing, marine fishing and agriculture. Lagoon fish (shrimp) harvest drastically reduced, several fish varieties were disappeared. Marine fishers were experienced of a cold water layer in the sea surface. Further expressed their observations on changes in rainfall pattern and its intensity and the high temperature during last four decades. Community has identified that biodiversity, eco-tourism and lagoon fishing are the important aspects for a sustainable wetland management. Findings of this study imply that participatory approaches are advantageous to act on sustainable wetland management as the information has come out from stakeholders of the wetland practicing bottom up approach. // Paper ID 227

Sustainable Development,Biodiversity,Climate Change
Sri Lanka