Thalangama Wetland Watch is a self-funded, non-profit, community-based initiative of citizens living in lake vicinity, who are highly motivated to protect their natural environment and human health. We feel that all citizens have responsibility and we like to set an example instead of waiting for others do take the first step. We are operating in close collaboration with institutional stakeholders (CEA, Irrigation Dept., NAQDA, SLLDC, KMC, FOGSL, RDA, …) and any other community stakeholders building on our common interest in protecting our inheritance for future generations.
Our core team:
- One coordinator/contact person
- One co-coordinator (vacant due to the passing away of Hema de Silva)
- One legal advisor
- One account (donation) controller
- One webpage manager (www.wetlandwatch.lk)
- One Instagram manager (www.instagram.com/wetlandwatch)
- One paid assistant, four trash collection teams (active every day) and 1-3 regular weekend volunteers to clean the lake with our boats or take part in other activities.
- One liaison staff employed by the Irrigation Department
- Four regular financial supporters from within the local community, and several community members who help with links to local authorities and institutions.
There is a larger Thalangama lake WhatsApp group of which the Wetland Watch is part and where e.g. illegal waste dumping, stakeholder meetings, and other issues concerning the lake are reported and receive instant (re)actions.
Our infrastructure includes waste collection equipment and access to six boats (two inflatable and one hard body kayaks, two small and one larger boat).
About our activities:
- Removing trash from the lake and its surrounding
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We are currently with 5 teams led by Ravi, Sashi, Pay, Kasun, and Shanil monitoring about 4000 meters of streets and water ways (see map) with its central part being cleaned twice every day (7.30-9.30 am; 17:00-18:30 pm). The water surface is being monitored once a week by boat for trash and water hyacinths. Across some inflowing drains we built trash barriers which are daily cleaned.
The daily cleaning around the lake serves awareness creation, and to capture in particular waste like shopping bags which wind and rain will otherwise blow or wash into the lake, where they are more cumbersome to retrieve.
In collaboration with the Kaduwela Municipality, we are separating all metal, glass, PE bottles, etc. and get them weekly collected for recycling.
We also check larger waste bags for their possible owners, to report them to the authorities and/or visit them personally to express our sincere disapproval.
- Removal of invasive plant species
Since we started, we are controlling the spread of water hyacinths on the Thalangama lake. Some time back water hyacinths covered about half of the water surface. With over 200 boat loads of plants removed, the spread is now under control. This floating weed can multiply rapidly and is reducing the already low level of dissolved oxygen, affecting e.g. fish life. The downside of fighting water hyacinths is that once removed other aquatic weeds like Watermoss (Salvinia sp.) and the submerged Coontail (Ceratophyllum demersum) and carnivorous bladderwort (Utricularia sp.) spread.
- Stakeholder dialogue facilitation
Given that the lake has a large number of stakeholders, it happened frequently that new initiatives are only known to some, but not all. In particular, the environmental protection status of the area which limits possible activities by law, is often forgotten. The Thalangama Wetland Watch as a community initiative helps to correct such omissions by facilitating the involvement of all authorities.
- Supporting research and environmental education
With our access to a number of boats and equipment for water quality testing, we are supporting research from local universities and NGOs which serve environmental sciences and the protection of the lake area.
We visit schools, display posters at dumping hot spots, and explain good environmental practices. We also initiate or support clean-up actions for groups at both lakes or in neighboring communities, and offer school children supervised boat rides to help cleaning the lake.
- Reducing dengue and support of environmental flows
Our cleaning of cans, cubs and bottles supports also our efforts to reduce dengue in the area. Many bottles show mosquito larvae. We also remove blockages in drains and streams to avoid stagnant water, and monitor the Northern sleuth gates to maintain a minimum environmental flow for ecosystems health when the gates are closed.
- Flora and Fauna
We are seeking homes for abandoned pets and take care of roadkill and other dead animals. We are also supporting young trees which get easily forgotten once a ‘tree planting day’ is over, through watering and the removal of climbing weeds. For our weekly monitoring of water hyacinths, please see above.
- Removal of invasive plant species