Nestled near Colombo, Lake Bolgoda stands as Sri Lanka’s largest natural lake. Its lush surroundings encompass diverse habitats like marshes, mangrove forests, grasslands, scrublands, and peat bogs, a thriving ecosystem with an abundance of wildlife. The lake’s biodiversity includes endemic fish, amphibian and reptile species, and several IUCN Red Listed species, such as the Purple-faced Langur (a primate endemic to Sri Lanka) or the White-bellied sea eagle.
However, this serene haven faces grave threats from direct human pressures and climate change. Deforestation, habitat destruction, mangrove area conversion for aquaculture, urban development, and water pollution are jeopardizing its delicate ecosystem. To expose and combat these threats head-on, a formidable response has emerged – the Bolgoda Lake Youth Brigade, an initiative of a passionate group of young environmentalists in collaboration with EMACE Foundation, local residents and law enforcement officers.
Empowering Bolgoda’s youth guardians
Fifteen passionate and skilled young minds -ten boys and five girls with degrees in environmental management sciences- have come together to form the Bolgoda Lake Youth Brigade. Driven by their civic consciousness and a sense of responsibility towards nature, they have joined forces with the local Marine Police Division to expose environmental crimes and thwart any environmental threats to Bolgoda Lake.
Supported by local communities and law enforcement authorities, they will focus on raising awareness among lakeside residents and fostering environmental consciousness. Through increased awareness, the local community will be able to contribute to preserving the lake and the rich and threatened habitats that surround it.
Acting as informants, community members will report environmental crimes, enabling the youth brigade to expose culprits through social media campaigns while working alongside the Marine Police on legal actions.
The Youth Brigade is part of a wider effort by the EMACE Foundation to protect and restore Bolgoda Lake, one of the precious ecosystems around the world where the Living Lakes Biodiversity & Climate Project is being developed.
The Mission takes flight
The youth brigade recently underwent a transformative two-day orientation and capacity-building program led by the EMACE Foundation. Guided by experts in storytelling, wildlife photography, and video creation, they honed their skills to amplify their message.
Their goal is to start a social media campaign, fueled by compelling stories, photographs, and videos, that will engage a wider audience and garner public support for lake protection. During the two-day event, a boat ride through the mangroves allowed them to closely observe the ecosystem, witnessing both its beauty and degradation. This experience reaffirmed their commitment to safeguarding the environment, underscoring the urgency of their mission.
Safeguarding Bolgoda Lake
To address and mitigate the negative impacts of climate change and other environmental pressures, EMACE Foundation is making a collective effort alongside all state and non-state stakeholders to ensure the long-term health of this vital ecosystem.
As part of the Living Lakes Biodiversity & Climate project, EMACE aims to influence policy decisions while working closely with the government, local government institutions, and communities for wetland conservation.