Our island nation has long been known to be a treasure trove of many precious natural resources and one of 34 global hotspots for biodiversity that spans across our rich plant and animal kingdoms, including 350 endemic species. However, in the last several years that status has significantly changed to one crisis. We are on the brink of losing much of biodiversity forever if we continue to overexploit our natural resources and habitats to do what we have been doing in the name of development and progress without fully understanding or acknowledging the great destruction that we are causing to our essential ecosystems through harmful human activity.
In a bid to change things around, to raise more awareness and act now to safeguard our biodiversity, HEMAS Holdings has teamed up with the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society (WNPS), becoming the first corporate to make a long-term commitment to protect and conserve the island’s critically endangered endemic species through necessary actions and interventions.
Launching the Group Environmental Agenda 2030, ‘Haritha Mehewara’ at the Galle Face Hotel, last week, Hemas Holdings pledged to help conserve our endemic species identified by experts. Speaking at the event, Group CEO of Hemas Holdings PLC, Kasturi Chellaraja Wilson said, “Hemas being a truly Sri Lankan company, we live our purpose in this manner – which is making helpful living happen. The term helpful living is how we interact with our customers, with society and also how we interact with the environment. And why we do that is because we feel that every family deserves a better tomorrow.”
She further stated that Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) is a big part of their company’s strategy and is not just a tick-box of outcome. Thus, this special initiative which is part of their wider environmental focus that tackles a range of other imperative concerns from a business standpoint, such as responsibly using natural resources, limiting the impact of their operations and reducing the use of plastic that are harmful to the environment, they seek to have an urgent intervention to make meaningful change that will preserve species that are unique to our land.
Speaking on the partnership with Hemas, President of WNPS, Jehan CanagaRetna said, “The future of our world’s wildlife and conservation will depend on us humans. Sri Lanka is no better. With global warming and severe climate change all over the world, it is important to protect what we have. Hemas in partnership with WNPS is taking a bold initiative to protect our critically endangered endemics. This is a huge step in the direction we should be heading, and it is heartening to see a large Corporate such as Hemas take the extra step to provide a future for the next generations. I hope others see this as a stepping stone to protect our world.”
Reiterating the same, Professor in Zoology – Department of Zoology and Environment Sciences, Faculty of Science, University of Colombo, Prof. Sampath Seneviratne educated the gathering briefly on how urgently action is needed to recuperate the ever-deteriorating state of our critically endangered species which is at 50 now.
Given that only 17 to 20 per cent of the country is protected, there is much work needed to be done to protect the remaining large areas under threat. He noted, a few priority regions, Sinharaja and small forest patches in several areas around the country, including some 27 forest patches in the Colombo District which they are looking to urgently take action on, to begin the conservation process. “Over 800 species have regionally gone extinct over the last 400 years, and in a place like Sri Lanka when we study a species and go back to that place, sometimes, the trace is gone. So there is a sense of urgency,” he exclaimed, putting into perspective of how immediate our actions need to be.
Hopefully, this interesting partnership encourages other brands too, to get onboard and endorse the nature maintenance work being done through this Agenda as it would ensure a shared responsibility that can successfully fast-track these conservation efforts to safeguard what this land possess, for the use of the generations to come.
(Pix by Laksiri Rukman)
By Dilshani Palugaswewa