The government of Sri Lanka has launched the Western Region Megapolis Planning Project (WRMPP), for which a dedicated Ministry has been created in September 2015 – The Ministry of Megapolis and Western Development. The general objective of the WRMPP is to create a guidance framework to all future developments, which will help transform the Western Region into a sustainable metropolis, meeting the highest international standards. The region concentrates 28% of the population, currently responsible for 45% of the country’s GDP and expected to amount to 8,5 million people by 2013. However, structural problems tamper with the urban tissue. The vision for the Megapolis is to make it the most vibrant and liveable cosmopolitan Smart City Region in South Asia.
The Western Region Megapolis is Sri Lanka’s urban and economic center. Three districts compose the region: Colombo, Kalutara and Gampaha. They are the most urbanized areas in the country, with rapid and unplanned urban growth. Sri Lanka’s biodiversity is rich and high, and still exists in the megapolis region. However, with current chaotic urban development, it is under threat. The remaining natural areas, such as forest, wetlands and inland waterways, are regularly polluted. Waste water is discharged after little or no treatment, free land used as land fields or construction sites. The Government, with the creation of the Ministry for the development of the Western Region Megapolis, aims to protect the existing ecosystems before they disappear. Economic and urban development has to be compatible with the protection of biodiversity. Three different types of eco-zones have been identified, enhancing each other’s existence:
- Eco-zones 1 (EZ1) are the protected areas, parks and natural reserves, where biodiversity thrives.
- Eco-zones 2 (EZ2); are the buffer zones, protecting the eco-zones 1 from urban developments. They include forests and wetlands.
- Eco-zones 3 (EZ3); are the remaining low-lying areas of the regions.
Social and economic development is partially allowed in the EZ 2.
Opportunities are immense to value these sites for the community, creating economic activities respectful of the present biodiversity. When valued, the buffer zones will put a stop to unwanted and polluting activities, such as unsustainable agriculture, constructions or illegal mining and waste dumping.
Concept: Overview EZ-Pilot
This project targets the development and implementation of a pilot wetland restoration program within a representative buffer zone (EZ2), closely associating the local community and local stakeholders. With a clear social and economic value, the wetland areas will be preserved from uncontrolled urban growth, thereby protecting the even more sensitive natural reserves (EZ1).
The proposed EZ-Pilot serves to attain and develop viable and efficient, socially sound tools that can help to ensure the regeneration and conservation of the wetland ecosystems within and throughout the WRMPP development.
The emphasis will thus be on the method by which the EZ design is dovetailed with, and made adaptable to both the bottom-up and top-down stakeholder requirements within the overall WRMPP environmental and sustainability objectives in general, and in terms of the wetland ecosystems and their water-management specifically.
The project aims to be transversal with regard to the WRMPP objectives and actors, and to showcase the added value of integrating them within one pilot – generating synergies and mutually beneficial results for the participants/stakeholders and the environment.
This EZ-Pilot will consist out of a fact-finding, inventory and data-gathering phase, a design phase, an implementation phase and a monitoring and evaluation phase.
As such, the EZ-Pilot project can serve as a springboard, making the design approach, the implementation of the method and technology, and monitoring praxes applicable throughout all of the WRMPP development. It can also function as a showcase and a toolkit for both private initiatives and policy making inherent to the larger WRMPP development.
The project is based on the cooperation between both the Dutch participants and the Sri Lankan participants (‘the collective’).
Content: Objectives & Approach
Within the EZ-Pilot project a number of participative and inclusive activities will be developed, that enhance at once the environmental integrity of the EZ-Pilot area as a buffer to the protected area and contribute to the sustainable development of the social-economic and socio-environmental status of the EZ-Pilot area, increasing the resilience of its local communities.
This is done through:
- The planting, managing, harvesting and local processing of regenerative and productive species such as: Native bamboo, Evergreen trees, Acacias, Grasslands, Vetiver, Donax, Jute and Cocos; combined for bioplugs as a remediation method for embankment erosion
- Non-invasive ecotourism projects such as:Eco-villas, Food production, Wetlands walks
- Creating new livelihoods through the generation of PSE, notably
- Regeneration and conservation of both the EZ-areas and the protected areas’ ecosystemic integrity, quality and biodiversity;
- Planting and maintenance of floating gardens to remediate pollution of waterbodies;
- Fostering of organic agriculture and local marketing of products
- Introducing social-environmental technologies
Below diagram gives an overview of the proposed technologies and methodologies set-off against the metabolic loops to be closed: