The PM who personally requested Dr Pilapitiya to take the post of the Director General of the Dept. of Wildlife Conservation, should have attended this lecture, so that he could have got a clear explanation, as to why it is nigh impossible for a person with integrity to take on this post, and carry out his duties, in line with the Statute, the Flora and Fauna Act, which the DWC is duty to bound to enforce!
It was essentially an appeal for the Civil Society to work as one, or separately in taking the leadership of Conservation, which the Govt. has patently failed to carry out in the last 30 years, and do not appear to be willing to do so in the future either.
The lecture was made interesting with anecdotal evidence with video, illustrating the obvious threats to conservation, and the hidebound state the DWC is, in trying to do their job. The irony of it being, that when they try to engage in patrols to catch poachers. They are criticized by Politicians, so that the attitude, is don’t go on patrols against poachers, as that will keep them out of trouble! Pity the animals.
The place was absolutely packed to the gunnels and the notable environmentalists, conservationists, elephant and leopard and montane cloud forest ecosystem specialists littered the audience, and I would challenge that this had the highest concentration of knowledgeable environmentalists of Sri Lanka, ever in one place.
The issue is that all are aware of the problem and Dr. Pilapitiya was preaching to the converted, but with a difference. This is a DO OR DIE MOMENT FOR SRI LANKA. He threw down the gauntlet to the masses here present. Go forth and force your friends, the Company CEO’s the top Politicians, and all those holding the keys to do whatever they can to use the force of numbers, and pressure of numbers and assetsfor change from the status quo. Get Politicians to INSIST on actions rather than hollow promises, to reverse the complete destruction of the BIODIVERSITY hotspot that is Sri Lanka, currently in progress.
All those who left it were determined to do something, but what? Where do you start. The WNPS is the third oldest Conservation NGO in the world, being 123 years old now. It is best to plan for its 125th anniversary now, as a game changer that engages ALL stakeholders to commit to change the status quo, with POLICY decisions, matched with clear guidelines, enacted and enforced, to ensure that we are able to begin a long term path to reforestation, to a guideline of say 33% of the Country, along with clear practices to put Conservation at the top of the agenda.
None of this can be achieved without a direct engagement with the Media, especially the Sinhala Media, none of whom were represented here. It is they who can educate the public gradually to galvanize itself as a pressure group to complement and assist the main NGO’s driven my altruistically minded people, such those present at the WNPS lecture, who hail from the well to do English educated classes, who exchange all these ideas, amongst each other in the English press, through which there is coverage and a call to action.
This is a massive task, and it is difficult to even contemplate where the starting point should be. It is CLEAR that by NOT filling the vacancy of the DG at the DWC, the Government has reneged on its responsibility to the public in Environmental Protection, which it is charged to do by a STATUTE. It is therefore clear, that this leadership, that has been abandoned HAS to be picked up by Civil Society, and if need be by force, be taken over by an ARMY OF VOLUNTEERS as a gesture of patriotism, fight for the Country in its hour of need.
The one word of comfort that came out of this lecture, was that the Govt. was AT LEAST willing to listen to public pressure. When that is seen as a huge voting block, then action WILL BE TAKEN, so any harnessing of CSO’s must include strength in numbers that include local people in areas close to the Parks and Forests. If the politicians are frightened by the strength in numbers which are considered voting blocks, they are MORE willing to do what is right, as currently they are pandering to voting blocks, and if the Conservation Block seems to be the largest by far, the Jeep Drivers Block which is now considered large, and not to be messed with can be of lesser importance. It is all about power play after all!
In the end it is a no brainer, that strength in numbers, using social media, is the ONLY way to go, and to galvanize the youth in the rural areas for a cause they can also relate to, as environmental studies are NOW part of the school curriculum, and Youth are only painfully aware of the impending destruction of the Nation, of unchecked deforestation, that is indirectly a threat to the biodiversity of the Nation, and eventually for the existence of the Human Race in Sri Lanka.
There are examples of real life transformation and reversals that are compatible with sustainable local development in wildlife endangered areas, that we can draw on and emulate as POLICY that is a WIN WIN for all stakeholders, which is seen as the only practical means for winning this battle. Let us put our heads together stop the blame game, and put forward a practical plan of action that achieves these multifaceted objectives, whilst winning the support of the people who live in the vicinity of the affected areas. Only then is victory assured!