Support for national park and buffer zone management in Wilpattu National Park

Project description

Project title: Support for national park and buffer zone management in Wilpattu in Sri Lanka
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Sri Lanka
Lead executing agency: Ministry of National Policies and Economic Affairs, Ministry of Sustainable Development and Wildlife (MSDW)
Overall term: 2016 - 2018

Context

Located in the north-west of Sri Lanka, Wilpattu National Park was the frontline between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the Sri Lankan military at times during the 26-year civil war. As a result, local infrastructure was destroyed; this damage is still visible today. Park residents and neighbours fled, were displaced or resettled. The wildlife population was decimated. The population shifts caused by the war have created a complex constellation of ethnicities among neighbours and residents with unclear lines of conflict. People living in and around the National Park have limited income and employment opportunities.

The Sri Lankan Government has identified Wilpattu as a priority region for nature conservation and rural development with strong potential for sustainable tourism. At a size of well over 130,000 hectares, the park is one of the country’s largest, oldest and resource-richest national parks. Wilpattu is world-renowned for its leopard population. Following demining activities, the park reopened to visitors in 2009 after the war ended. People living in and around the park are dependent on natural resources and are generally subsistence farmers.

Management plans have already been drawn up for many of Sri Lanka’s national parks, but not for Wilpattu National Park, mainly because of its location in the former war zone. There is also a lack of participatory dialogue processes between Sri Lankan government institutions, neighbouring communities, civil society and the private sector to discuss the strategic development of the park and the areas that influence it.

Wilpattu National Park has potential to be established as a symbol for reconciliation in the public arena given its role during the civil war. Since the park is a shared point of attention for people from different ethnic backgrounds, it can help to create identity. A variety of ethnic-cultural groups can work together to protect the park. An opportunity also exists to establish a park management system in Wilpattu National Park that combines biodiversity conservation and economic development potential with one another in a suitable manner.

Objective

The conditions have been created for socially inclusive and sustainable management of Wilpattu National Park and the areas influencing it.

Approach

The project supports the responsible authorities in improving the general conditions for enhancing biodiversity conservation. A management plan for the park is drawn up for this purpose. The park administration and nature conservation authorities take part in training to acquire the expertise to implement the management plan and to better protect the park’s flora and fauna. The park’s ecosystem services are stabilised as a result. At the same time, the project makes a contribution towards climate change adaptation.

The project creates the basis for economic development in the area influencing the park, which helps to improve the employment situation in the region in future and to alleviate poverty among the population.

In the medium term, the project’s peacebuilding measures contribute towards a reduction in ethnic and religious prejudices and towards reconciliation and coming to terms with the past. This work will decrease vulnerability to political mobilisation along ethnic and religious identities in the neighbouring communities. The project includes women in particular in all activities, thereby fostering the elimination of structural obstacles to social integration and equality in and around the park.