Plantation Companies make significant headway in biodiversity integration
Improvements in many indicators relating to the environment, including chemical usage reduction
Regional Plantation Companies (RPCs) are now making concerted efforts to protect the environment and preserve biodiversity in RPC-managed estates, while several pioneering plantation companies have gone as far as to integrate biodiversity management to their business operations.
While many RPCs have already subscribed to global standards such as Rainforest Alliance and Forest Stewardship Council certification, some have even gone significantly beyond the requirements of these standards, demonstrating their commitment to the environment and biodiversity conservation.
Accordingly, many RPCs have embarked on initiatives such as inventory of biodiversity in estates, recording of animal sightings, raising awareness among members of the estate community, establishment of no chemical and buffer zones around water bodies, periodical checking of water quality, reduction of chemical usage to even below stipulated standards, detailed inventory of agrochemical usage, special training of agrochemical handlers and introduction of integrated waste management and sustainable environment management.
However, going beyond these initiatives, several pioneers have made even greater and more systematic efforts to preserve the environment and biodiversity. Finlays Tea Estates Lanka (Pvt) Ltd for instance (which manages Hapugastenne and Udapussellawa Plantations PLC) is employing Geographical Information System (GIS) and Global Positioning System (GPS) technology to identify areas with potential for further improvement in biodiversity while Kelani Valley Plantations PLC (KVPL) has focused on developing its Halgolla Estate as a privately-owned nature reserve.
Plantation companies have dedicated themselves to improving the protection of the environment and biodiversity despite the fact that these improvements have at times come at a significant cost to the companies. Finlays abandoned 200 hectares of land in Bibile which previously served as rubber plantations to allow for regeneration of the forest. Similarly, KVPL also abandoned 46 hectares of cardamom plantation to create an animal corridor between Kithulgala forest reserve and Amanawala, Ampana nature reserve.
“While RPCs have been making substantial efforts in the past too to reduce environmental impact of plantation activities and preserve biodiversity, efforts have become more streamlined and coordinated over the last few years,” Roshan Rajadurai, Chairman of the Planters’ Association of Ceylon – which represents 22 Regional Plantation Companies (RPCs) said. “It is evident that RPCs are taking biodiversity integration
seriously. Considering that members of the Planters’ Association collectively manage nearly 156,000 hectares of land in the country, this can significantly boost national efforts aimed at biodiversity protection.”
While RPCs maintain protected areas including stream reservations and natural forests, certain actions taken even in cultivated areas have supported growth in biodiversity. For instance, increase of tree canopy and crop diversification at estates owned by Finlays is considered to have led to the growth of different types of habitats conducive for different species.
Individually, RPCs have made significant progress in improvement of environment and biodiversity protection measures.
Despite managing a total land area of 6,500 hectares, (over 16,000 acres) Talawakelle Tea Estates PLC did not use any insecticides in 2014, while in 2013 only 120 litres of insecticides were used by the company in all its estates. A number of other plantation companies have also recorded similar achievements.
Similarly, vast improvements have also been achieved in areas such as integrated waste management. For instance, Talawakelle Tea Estates recycled nearly 4,700kg more of waste in 2014, than it did in 2013. The company’s integrated waste management system covers all its estates.
Significant improvements have also been achieved by RPCs in other related areas such as energy conservation – reflected particularly in the achievements of Watawala Plantations PLC. The company estimates that its efforts to conserve energy resulted in the saving of 12,700 trees annually, which would have otherwise been cut down for fuel.
These achievements are particularly significant since several estate areas have been identified as ecologically sensitive and of high ecological value. For instance, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Sri Lanka findings, the Halgolla Estate has as many as 199 flowering plant species, of which 167 are indigenous and 23 are endemic to Sri Lanka.
A research study also found 76 faunal species in the ‘Dammeria A’ estate of Finlays. The Mattakelle Estate of Talawakelle Tea Estates was also found to be home to 152 faunal species of which 13 were found to be critically endangered or endangered. Similarly, rare and endangered plants and wildlife are found in many other private estates as well.
Released in December 2014