The teardrop island is spearheading change influencing Southeast Asia’s responsible tourism movement.
BANDARAWELA, THE ECO-TOURISM CAPITAL
Tucked away in a lush hilltop, Bandarawela is best expressed, as a harbour of sustainable wellness. This small, high-altitude tropical town swooning with colonial history and Ceylon tea trails makes a perfect getaway for those seeking a physical, mental and spiritual balance. It’s also the 2nd-largest town of Badulla that has carved a niche amongst visitors as a centre of eco-tourism. While I was here, on a warm afternoon, I drove to Bandarawela’s rural countryside to catch up with the esteemed members of Badulla Buddhist Association, Forest Ministry and Sri Lanka Tourism Board. Together, we were readying to boost the first-of-its-kind eco-tourism initiative curated-to wholeheartedly support responsible tourism development. As I drove towards the rural neighbourhood of the Alugolla Hill, the colonial influenced urban centre began to fade away in the backdrop, revealing dense forestry against an astonishing sunlit landscape. It was a spectacle that ‘totally’ complimented the forefront initiative of re-plantation.
BADULLA RE-PLANTATION PROGRAMME
At an altitude of roughly 2,230 ft above sea level, the backdrop was nothing short of a stunning display of vast forestation, periodically dotted with tiny concrete homes. Upon arrival, I met with participating media, ministry and a bunch of school students from “Parisara Niyamuwo Environmental Society,” each exhilarated to bed out this inspiring initiative. Children are ‘essentially’ closer to nature, therefore, most schools in Sri Lanka help students foster an earthly connection during their early years. Besides, this was Sri Lanka’s “FIRST,” at curating a nature-concerning destination program, and I too, as a stakeholder was about to inaugurate a new life, unlike anything I have experienced before. As they say, “Anything that is first is always special.” Although, this programme was categorically meant to draw special attention towards the relentless dropping of a natural bilge that handles the region’s rainfall. While other, impacting factors are the overgrowing development projects and the unwanted fire forests.
Apart from BBA and SLTB, this event was also chaperoned, by Badulla’s Army officials, PLC (People’s Leasing Company), BDSO (Badulla Divisional Secretarial Office) and a few corporate partners. That being so, launching a “plant a tree initiative,” at this time seemed like an ideal resolution to shielding nature. By planting just one sapling, I was about to significantly contribute towards reducing the impressions of carbon dioxide, while, proactively nurturing a healthy environment for many. By the end of the day, around two hundred trees were planted, at Alugolla Hills to mark the success of the first “Destination Promotional Familiarisation Tour,” with Nature Concern initiative. A programme designed, to dramatically influence, the expanse reigned by soil erosion and landslides. And as an eco-tourist, I was honoured, to be here and to be getting a chance to contribute to nature’s engendering. Participating in this sustainable tourism program truly changed my perception of eco-tourism.
A few years back, I had enrolled in a PG diploma in disaster management at IGNOU out of sheer curiosity for environmental conservation. However, only after planting a sapling at Alugolla Hill today, is when I grasped the real impact of responsible tourism and how it extemporises the quality of life for the locals. The Alugolla Hill will now see a collective increase in a chain of plants in the future. As, a matter of fact, to recapitulate awareness on environmental protection, the Buddhist Society plans on planting over 1,000 trees in diverse ranges of Badulla. A lot goes into centring on socially responsible travel, and environmental sustainability. Not only, do responsible ecotourism programs focalise on depreciating the adverse aspects of traditional tourism on the environment, but also, end up magnifying the cultural uprightness of the local residents. It’s time we all plant trees to not only, help restore national treasures, but also, to boost eco-tourism to give back to nature.
After successfully planting a bauhinia sapling into the moist soil of Alugolla Hills; I spoke to Chaminda Munasinghe, the Assistant Director of SLTB, who fondly remarked, “While we tend to use all the elements of mother nature, it is a great feeling to give something back today. I am greatly happy to be a part of such a nature caring project and look forward to returning back, with loved ones, to see the trees they have planted in Badulla.” Further, a conversation with one of the members of the Badulla Buddhist Association unveiled the farsightedness of this Sustainable Tourism Programme. To enhance and mark the economic, social and environmental sustainability of this site, Badulla Buddhist Association is also building a Buddhist temple here. This comes with an intent to impact people, planet and profits.
Badulla’s sustainable tourism programme plans on intensifying the development impacts of this site by 2030; by expanding and sizing up practices that support the effective use of natural resources. The focus remains on producing limited waste while haranguing the trials of biodiversity. The activity concluded with a motivational speech remitted by the members of the Buddhist Badulla Buddhist Association to inspire responsible tourism in the region through its experiences. Whilst leisure and entertainment display an extensive transition following the trend of posthaste tourist frequenting; Sri Lanka government is consciously investing in the development of eco-tourism to conserve the natural environment that provides for amenities and resources in the rural areas. This initiative sure left everyone at the helm of great enthusiasm and Badulla being a host of sustainable experiences looks forward to welcoming everyone who loves nature and earth. While here, make sure to explore the lush tea trails on your back to Bandarawela.