Sri Lanka Telecom (SLT), the national ICT solutions provider and a responsible corporate citizen, adjudged as being amongst the top ten corporate citizens in Sri Lanka, launched its much awaited calendar and complimentary items for the year 2015 under the theme “Corals of Sri Lanka”. This follows the arts, culture and environmental/biological diversity themes which have been brought to life on an annual basis since 2003.
The main aim of this year’s calendar and complimentary items project, conducted under the company’s ongoing CSR initiative “preserving heritage for tomorrow” is to raise awareness amongst the public about the importance of coral reefs to Sri Lanka which goes far beyond beauty and aesthetics, to ensuring a balanced ecosystem, preventing coastal erosion and even to the extent of providing important medicinal compounds. One of the other most important aspects of coral reefs is also contributing to food security. Thus, ensuring the continuity of these species for the wellbeing of future generations is crucial.
Coral reefs are one of the most biologically rich and economically valuable ecosystems found on earth, and habitation to thousands of different species where a single reef can be inhabited by over 3000 different species. In Sri Lanka, coral reefs are valuable resources especially for coastal communities where fishing has been one of the main forms of livelihood for years. Thus, coral reefs also support industries such as fisheries as well as tourism. Apart from this, coral reefs also support thousands of other organisms that both live and feed on the reefs, some of which possess medicinally important compounds. Furthermore, coral reefs help to confront natural disasters such as tsunamis. This was researched and proven to be true after the Tsunami of 2004, where studies showed that areas where the coral reefs were damaged experienced much higher waves and greater damage inland than areas where the coral reefs were intact.
Unfortunately today, coral reefs are becoming increasingly endangered due to various causes. These include natural factors including predators such as the crown of thorns starfish which feed on corals; as well as climate change since corals are sensitive to temperature and salinity of the water, growing best in shallow water with plenty of sunlight, stable temperature and salinity. Reef building corals are especially sensitive since they contain photosynthetic microalgae that live within the tissue of the coral, providing it with most of its energy requirements through photosynthesis. These microalgae are sensitive to temperature and salinity of the seawater, and when stressed, the microalgae are destroyed and reef building corals lose their source of food and colour. This condition is known as coral bleaching. The large scale coral bleaching event that occurred in the Indian Ocean in 1998, due to global warming destroyed many reefs in the region including coral reefs in Sri Lanka.
Apart from natural causes, coral reefs are increasingly being destroyed today as a result of impacts caused due to human activities such as over harvesting, destructive fishing activities, coastal development, pollution as well as tourist activities. According to research undertaken throughout the world, it has been predicted that by 2030s, 90% of coral reefs will be in danger of extinction while by the 2050s, it is expected that all coral reefs will be endangered. Even though it is possible that some coral reefs will survive due to their ability to adapt with evolution, still the need to protect and conserve the coral reefs of Sri Lanka becomes highly significant.
Today, corals are protected in Sri Lanka under the Fauna and Flora Protection Act. Furthermore, four marine protected areas have been established in Sri Lanka to conserve coral reefs, out of which the Hikkaduwa Marine Sanctuary established in 1979, was the first. The largest is the Bar Reef Marine Sanctuary in Kalpitiya. However, it is important to continue to raise awareness amongst the public about the importance of coral reefs as well as the threats that they are exposed to and SLT strongly believes that the first step to preservation and conservation is education. Thus, SLT came forward to support the cause of conserving corals of Sri Lanka by increasing awareness through its 2015 calendar, with the support of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Sri Lanka. The resource person for the 2015 SLT Calendar was Mr.Arjan Rajasuriya, Coordinator - Marine & Coastal Thematic Area at the IUCN Sri Lanka country office.
Commenting on this, Group CEO of SLT, Mr. Lalith de Silva said “The main goal of SLT’s “preserving heritage for tomorrow” initiative is to educate the public about the importance of protecting and preserving the rich cultural as well as biological heritage that Sri Lanka has been endowed with, to ensure that it is preserved for the future generations. We strongly advocate the need for corporates and organizations to lead the way in taking the initiative to support and foster such programs. Over a period of time, SLT calendar and complimentary items have become well known and cherished pieces of art as well as items that provide rich educational value”.
Under the main theme of “preserving heritage for tomorrow”, sub themes are selected each year, that alternate between arts and culture as well as environmental / biological diversity of the country. These themes are selected after much research and study into the subject areas and calendars are produced with the help of key resource persons in the related fields that ensure credibility of the information provided by these calendars. This is yet another CSR project of SLT through which the company seeks to align with and contribute towards sustainability of local industries as well as environment protection..