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Dry Zone Botanic Gardens - Mirijjawila

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Dry Zone Botanic Gardens - Mirijjawila
The rationale, value and benefits of conservation have long been expressed. But in terms of the Dry Zone of Sri Lanka the facts are plain; it represents a substantial portion (almost one third) of Sri Lankan forest ecosystem, and 95% has been lost in the last 20 years alone. There is also ample evidence of climate change in the area as a direct result of habitat losses. Human activity relies on a good climate and our dependency on dry zone habitat is clearly rationale for its conservation.

A dry zone botanic garden has significant conservation benefits. Sri Lanka is one of 25 biodiversity hotspots in the world; it has high endemism and there are several threats to habitats. Much of this biodiversity lies within Sri Lanka’s forests and much of the forest is secondary, and lies within the dry zone.
Experience of running the national botanic gardens of Peradeniya and Hakgala has demonstrated the business case for tourism, with both gardens being profitable and a major feature on the tourist trail. The new Dry Zone Garden will follow this established, and tried and tested pattern. Its location on the Colombo-Kataragama main road will also attract a large number of local visitors.

The new garden will not only support and encourage tourism locally; it will also encourage the development of other tourist services such as accommodation, travel and product sales. The National Census of Population and Housing in Sri Lanka (2001) provides a benchmark of current tourist support industries in the area, with level of employment figures provided for 2001. A comparison with figures for future years should indicate increased economic growth within tourism. Figures for 2001 indicate that 906 people in the Hambantota area were employed in bars, restaurants and canteens; and 850 people employed in Hotels and other accommodation facilities ( a total of 1756 people employed in these activities local to the new Garden).

The last botanic garden in Sri Lanka was established at Henarathgoda, Gampaha by the British in 1876. This garden together with the Royal Botanic Garden at Peradeniya and Hakgala Botanic Gardens are internationally acclaimed botanical institutions engaged in ex situ conservation of plants. The national botanic gardens are profitable state organizations earning around 100 million rupees a year.

The main objective of establishing the new botanic garden is the ex-situ conservation dry and arid zone plants. The garden will also provide opportunities for ecotourism and economic development in this area and to model dry zone landscape improvement. These objectives will be achieved when the garden opens officially to the public.

In the longer term, within the first 3-5 years, the garden will feature those plants that are lesser known and under utilized in the dry zone; promote the herbal industry; and provide education and training on botany and floriculture in the dry zone.

 In summary, there are 6 main objectives:
1.Ex-situ Conservation of dry and arid zone
 flora;
  
2.Studies on lesser known and under utilized
 plants in the dry zone;
  
3.Specialty in Dry zone landscape
 improvement;
  
4.Herbal Industry Promotion;
  
5.Education and training on botany and
 floriculture
  
6.Eco tourism promotion
  
Biological diversity is known to have declined at an unprecedented rate due to of habitat loss, fragmentation, invasive alien species, over-exploitations/over-harvesting, pollution of soil, water and atmosphere, desertification, global warming and climate change, industrialization and economic development.

The benefits of conserving dry zone habitat and its distinctive vegetation are largely long term, though no less significant for that. The rich agro-biodiversity in the Island’s farming systems is experiencing many threats due to unplanned land use, pollution, fragmentation and alteration of farming systems. The garden can play a role in ex-situ conservation of some of the more important components of agrobiodiversity found in the dry zone.
 

 

According to the government policy the Southern Sri Lanka has been earmarked as a development zone for tourism, and a Botanic Garden presents an attractive visitor location both for domestic and foreign tourists.

Any new public amenity creates direct and indirect economic benefits at local level. Local employment and training opportunities will be created at a local level. The demand for both products and services will increase, some to meet the needs of a growing garden amenity and others as a result of the increased public traffic created by the garden over time.

Government policy also emphasizes conservation of biodiversity and sustainable policy for environment conservation which are directly related to this project.

A field office has been established at the site and an Officer in Charge has already been appointed. The development activities on the site are monitored by that officer. Regular meetings are held at the department and ministry level to asses the progress of the activities included in the development plan.
 
 
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