Supporting Wilpattu National Park and Influence Zone Management in Sri Lanka

Project description

Project title: Supporting Wilpattu National Park and Influence Zone Management 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, Wildlife and Regional Development
Overall term: 2016 - 2019

Context

Wilpattu National Park located in the Northwest of Sri Lanka was at the frontline of the conflict for many years, After demining operations the park was reopened to visitors in 2009, Encompassing almost 130,000 hectares, it is among the country's largest and oldest national parks. Wilpattu is well known for its Leopard population.

People around the national park depend largely on the available natural resources and are generally engaged in subsistence agriculture. Employment opportunities are still insufficient in the region. Illegal fishing practices, encroachment, and poaching lead to high pressure on the park’s natural resources. Decreasing migration corridors for wildlife cause more encounters between humans and elephants which regularly results in loss of crop or life. Limited access to clean drinking water negatively affects health of local communities.

Up to now, there has not been a coherent strategy for the development of the park and its influence zones. Minimal participatory dialogue takes place between the Sri Lankan government institutions, neighbouring communities, civil society and the private sector.

Situated at the northern border of the historical 'cultural triangle' formed between the cities of Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and Kandy, Wilpattu National Park has huge potential to become a centre for eco-sensitive tourism. Wilpattu National Park can also be managed with a compatible combination of biodiversity conservation and economic development. At the same time due to its role during the civil war, it can also be promoted as a public symbol of reconciliation. Since different ethnic and cultural groups have a common interest in the park, it can help foster a sense of identity by bringing these people together for its protection.

Objective

The necessary conditions have been met for a socially inclusive and sustainable management of Wilpattu National Park and its influence zones.

Approach

The project engages in three fields of activity:

Drafting of a management plan
Through a participatory approach equally involving all stakeholders (park administration, local population, representatives of ethnic groups) a management plan will be developed. This will initiate a dialogue amongst stakeholders fostering mutual trust.

Besides discussions in the established local planning committee and in addition to the consultations with various stakeholders the management plan will be built on a comprehensive set of analyses such as a socio-economic survey, gender-based use of natural resources and biological data of the park. Gathering information on social, ecological and economic framework conditions is needed for a future sustainable and conflict-sensitive park management.

Developing stakeholder capacities
By use of a detailed training plan, stakeholders will be prepared to implement the measures of the management plan, likewise building on personal knowledge and experience. Work relations with other national parks from the region will ensure that best practices can be applied by Wilpattu administration from an early stage.

Improve socio-economic conditions of the population
Improving the conditions of life of local village communities in the influence zones will build trusting relationship with the local population and demonstrate the concrete benefits the project entails. Addressing the Human-Elephant Conflict which is chronic around Wilpattu, the project will introduce new fencing technology in 2 communities.

In order to improve livelihoods of people in the influence zones the project will closely work with the Vocational Training in the North and East of Sri Lanka project and the developing Sri Lanka’s SME Sector project implemented by GIZ. The joint measures include improving the existing eco-friendly tourism infrastructure, bringing together wildlife authorities and hospitality companies, supporting a vocational training centre for hospitality, and providing technical trainings on honey production.

To improve access to clean drinking water purification systems shall be installed together with Sri Lankan authorities.

Results

  • A comprehensive consultation process with people in the park’s influence zone has been completed and all results have been fed into the development of the management plan.
  • In order to get a better understanding of gender-specific use of natural resources consultations with women in the influence zones have been concluded.
  • A socio-economic analysis has been concluded providing essential data for the management plan.
  • To enhance Human-Elephant coexistence the project together with Sri Lankan scientists have identified a new fencing design which will be introduced in two pilot sites.
  • In four villages water purification systems have been set up to address the issue of chronic kidney disease which affects many people around Wilpattu.
  • A study trip to India has familiarized the Department of Wildlife Conservation staff with the format of the later management plan.
  • Three corridors have been identified for wildlife migration to ensure an ecological connectivity between Wilpattu National Park and other protected areas.