The recently concluded World Environment Day 2021 marked the advent of the ‘decade of restoration,’ where the United Nations calls States to take urgent action to revive our damaged ecosystems. It is an attempt to halt the exploitation of sensitive ecosystems and turn towards healing our environment. In its efforts to foster respect for the environment and encourage harmonious coexistence of man and nature, Dilmah initiated through Dilmah Conservation, a Nature Corridor on Endana Estate, in the Sabaragamuwa Province. The initiative focuses on the restoration and revitalisation of a habitat, by connecting two isolated forest patches located in the vicinity of the Sinharaja Rain Forest.

Located on the border of the globally significant Sinharaja Forest Complex, Endana Estate is endowed with many species, both fauna and flora. The estate lies in a part of the land that has separated Iharakanda and Walankanda Forest Reserves by tea plantations and human settlements for over 100 years. The nature corridor was strategically established to connect the two forest reserves so that fauna and flora can migrate freely between the two locations leading to greater genetic diversity. In 2018, Dilmah Founder Merrill J. Fernando uprooted tea plants at the Endana Tea Estate as a symbol of the project’s initiation.

Dilmah ensures to continue monitoring and restoring the habitat, as an initial baseline survey revealed that, it is home to a high level of fauna diversity including 34 endemic species and 20 threatened species, while many birds and mammals use the estate as a route to migrate between the forest reserves. Furthermore, to ensure sustainability, the threatened endemic plant species selected for the restoration were based on micro and macro elements, such as, species distribution patterns in Sinharaja tropical lowland rainforest, and the conservation status of species according to the IUCN Redlist.

“We have conducted several field studies in Endana Nature Corridor since 2018. I would like to highlight our recent estimates of the total ecosystem services of the Endana Nature Corridor. In a mere extent of 60 ha, this corridor generates an annual ecological wealth of US$ 382,362 (approximately 76.3 million rupees). Our estimates are discounted for the secondary forest patches within the corridor and home gardens in comparison to high-valued virgin rainforests in the vicinity. These estimates are vital and should be considered for conservation and development-related decision making in the wet zone forests” says Dr. Nalaka Geekiyanage, the principal scientist. Dilmah is committed to strengthening the habitat through the plant nursery established to house saplings which will soon be planted in the nature corridor and by constant monitoring of climate change impacts to the selected area.

“The environment is central to Dilmah’s business, and Dilmah Conservation was established as an affirmation of this core commitment to environmental sustainability. As Dilmah has grown, I have not forgotten my pledge, and revenue from the sale of Dilmah funds the work of the MJF Charitable Foundation. Our Foundation – I say ‘our’ because every Dilmah tea drinker is a part of the MJF Foundation – has changed the lives of thousands. Its humanitarian service will continue to grow alongside Dilmah,” says the Founder, Merrill J. Fernando.

The nature corridor is situated in a mosaic that bring together local communities, tea estates and forest reserves with rich biodiversity. Engaging local communities is an integral part of the project, that ensure its success and sustainability. From the inception of the project, Dilmah has worked with the local communities; educating, creating awareness, and strengthening livelihoods by providing beekeeping education and the necessary infrastructure, including market alignment for the finished products.

The United Nations Environmental Programme emphasises that commitment to green recovery through reimagining, recreating, and restoring ecosystems is vital. It would allow minimal global temperature rise, ensure food security for a growing population and slow the rate of species extinctions. In addition to the Endana Nature Corridor, Dilmah Conservation has established several other projects under its green recovery programme. These include the Hunuwella pilot project which aims to restore degraded tea lands through a Kandyan Home Garden and eco-agroforestry concept.

This article was taken from The Island

This article was also published in The Sunday Times

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