Conservation takes a back seat….

WB calls off US $30 million loan for Sri Lanka

The Daily Mirror

Thursday, 24 March 2011 00:00

Sri Lanka’s ‘environmental sustainability’, the 7th in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) agenda hangs in balance, as the country lost a US $ 30 million ‘environmental credit line’ from the World Bank, for diverting from government’s development priorities, Mirror Business learns. Even though Sri Lanka is ranked as a global biodiversity hot spot, it has been observed that the country is confronted with serious degradation of its ecosystems and the biodiversity they host. According to the United Nations 2007 MDG Monitor, Sri Lanka may be able to achieve MDG 7, provided some changes in course are made. Thereafter, the World Bank along with the Department of Wildlife designed a US $30 million project called Ecosystem Management and Conservation Project (ESCAMP), that could address most of these environmental issues and also assist the country in achieving the MDG 7.



It is learnt that the preparations for this project commenced in mid 2009, and necessary approvals from relevant government authorities for a donor-funded project were obtained accordingly. Subsequently, the World Bank invited the government for negotiations on February 21-22, 2011. ”However, three days before the proposed negotiations, the Ministry of Finance informed us that this project did not address the development priorities of the government and suggested modifications to the project design and the inclusion of additional activities,” the World Bank office responding to a Mirror Business email said. It also said the activities suggested by the Finance Ministry could be within the government’s development priorities, but the inclusion of such activities under this project would have transformed the project from an environmental conservation project to a rural infrastructure development project. ”Therefore the World Bank felt that a conservation project was not the vehicle to undertake rural infrastructure development, and it would be impossible for the project to achieve its development objectives which are conservation-focused. Under these circumstances, we felt the best course of action would be to cancel the project”, the email noted.


According to the Project Information Document (PID), the EASCAMP project was scheduled to be engaged in preparation of strategic conservation landscape plans, improving the management of selected protected areas, deforestation and forest degradation, and the developing a national master plan for mitigation of the human elephant conflict.