Peter Shadie, World Heritage and Protected Areas specialist attached to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), presented ‘Connectivity Conservation – linking landscapes, nature and people’ at a lecture hosted by Dilmah Conservation in June this year. The presentation was co-hosted by IUCN, International Union for the Conservation of Nature, the world’s largest conservation organisation as part of a bioregional initiative with Dilmah Conservation.
Peter’s presentation began with an overall look at the conservation challenges in Asia where he discussed some of Asia’s current problems related to land use, water, population etc. He described the situation in Asia as “the perfect storm of the highest concentrations of humanity and biodiversity” where he explained that while the pressures of population increase continues to dominate Asia’s woes, the rich biodiversity found across 24 countries also continues to slowly suffer.
The presentation highlighted that since the 1980’s the total acreage dedicated to protected areas across the world has risen dramatically. Today the world’s protected areas stand at around 18,000,000 km3 in contrast to the 7,000,000 km3 declared in the 1980’s. Incidentally, nearly 12 per cent of Asia has been declared as protected areas according to statistics.
However an increase in declared protected areas is not clearly the answer to the problems related to loss of biodiversity. The answer lies in how well managed these protected areas are and how connected they are to each other. In other words, the term connectivity conservation comes into use when a protected areas network in a country is connected through other mechanisms as wildlife corridors, declared forest complexes, well managed conservation plans and the involvement of the communities that benefit from its ecosystem goods and services in its protection. Connectivity conservation is where people, conservation and development have to come together and where a holistic approach is applied in carrying out conservation. It is identified as graduating from an Island approach where conservation takes place isolated from each other to a Network approach where the dots are connected, Peter explained.
Peter mentioned that many years ago, when areas were declared as protected, humans were considered as a threat and discouraged from being associated. This thinking gradually changed overtime and now humans are considered as integral for the survival of protected areas and where conservation projects with strong people involvement are knows as Integrated Conservation and Development Projects or ICDP’s, Peter explained.
Speaking of Connectivity conservation in an Asian context, Peter explained that already several Asian countries have integrated projects dealing with connectivity within the protected areas network and this is something that Sri Lanka too can benefit in the future. Countries as Thailand, Bhutan, India and South Korea are already exploring the opportunities, while the legal instruments necessary for connectivity conservation have been already put in place in these countries.
He explained that the private sector has a remarkable role to play in conservation and that the accrued benefits can be shared by all, the government, the private sector, the people and nature. “There are many opportunities for working together with the government sector and an organisation like Dilmah can influence and benefit from being involved,” he stated. Peter identified the plantations as being areas where rich biodiversity is harboured and is a valuable resource to be nurtured.
Dilmah Conservation is an extension of Dilmah’s humanitarian efforts throughout the island. The work of Dilmah Conservation is supported by the strength of its resource partners, which includes the IUCN. Peter Shadie will be working with Dilmah Conservation and IUCN Sri Lanka to explore the opportunities for creating connectivity conservation in Sri Lanka through the use of tea plantations as the basis for the preliminary work.
Dilhan C. Fernando, Marketing Director and son of Dilmah Founder Merrill J. Fernando took the opportunity to thank Peter Shadie for his presentation and his work in Sri Lanka and explained that Dilmah Conservation is trying to address the conservation needs of the country in their own way and that the magnitude of the work maybe small at this point but that Dilmah Conservation was doing its part to create knowledge and understanding that conservation is integral to human survival.
The presentation was followed by a question and answer session.
Dilmah is the world’s first truly ethical tea that ensures that a portion of its earnings are channeled back to those who are less fortunate and for taking care of the environment. Dilmah Conservation was established in 2007 as part of Dilmah Founder Merrill J. Fernando’s philosophy of making business a matter of human service.