(COLOMBO, LANKAPUVATH) – On the 24 and 25 November, United Nations Volunteers (UNV) in Sri Lanka celebrated International Volunteer Day 2017 under the theme “Volunteers Act First. Here. Everywhere,” recognizing volunteers as first responders in times of crises.
The main event took place on the 25 November with a tree planting initiative, which saw nearly 5000 trees planted in ten tanks. Together with UNDP, UNV and the Government with the support of students from the Wayamba University, V-force volunteers, and the local communities totaling about 600 volunteers, planted Kumbuk (Terminalia Arjuna), Karanda (Pongamia Pinnata) and Mee (Madhuca Longifolia) on the riparian buffers of this cascade of tanks in Galgamuwa.
The tree planting initiative was preceded by an awareness workshop on community disaster response. Being one of the many awareness workshops conducted by UNV Sri Lanka this year, this particular session held on the 24 November was on the disaster profile of the Kurunegala District. The workshop also discussed the role of volunteers in disaster preparedness and response through climate change adaptation.
This initiative comes as part of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) funded Climate Change Adaptation Project (CCAP), an initiative implemented by UNDP to restore 10 ancient tanks of Sri Lanka. Kurunegala has been facing drought conditions in the recent past, causing serious effects to the farming community in the region. Hence, the trees planted will not only renovate the Molewa tank cascade but will bring back the natural ecosystem while being drivers for climate change resilience.
Addressing the gathering Ms. Sureka Perera, Programme Analyst of UNDP Sri Lanka stated that “UNDP is pleased to support this initiative through the CCAP to support the farming community in the area. We are confident that through the 10 tanks rehabilitated under this Project, coupled with the 5000 trees planted, we will be able to conserve every drop of water and preserve the ecosystems around the tanks.”
Ms. Sharmalee Jayasinghe, Programme Associate of UNV Sri Lanka echoed these sentiments and emphasized the need for continued voluntary commitment and ownership from all present in their shared goals, to achieve sustainable progress.
This initiative is a starting point to encourage more volunteers around Sri Lanka to combat climate change induced crisis with the spirit of volunteerism at their core.