INSEE Cement, Sri Lanka’s only fully integrated manufacturer of cement, reaffirmed its commitment towards ‘a restored nation’, answering the global call for urgent action to revive damaged ecosystems on World Environment Day 2021. Continuing its mandate to steer Sri Lanka’s construction industry towards ambitious, globally set climate targets, INSEE Cement marked the launch of the ‘UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration’ by doubling down on its commitment to the conservation of Sri Lanka’s diverse ecosystems spread across the island.
Speaking on World Environment Day, Chandana Wijayanama, Organisation & Human Resources Director at INSEE Cement – Sri Lanka said, “Our efforts towards conservation stem from understanding the urgency to act in order to prevent, halt and reverse the degradation of ecosystems. As a business that is intrinsically and irrevocably connected to natural resources, INSEE Cement has from the onset worked towards mitigating the environmental impact through sustainable manufacturing and responsible business practices. We are strengthening our commitment this World Environment Day to do our part in healing our ecosystems, improving natural habitats, protecting our soils and water resources, and supporting our communities in tackling climate change.”
INSEE Cement has heavily invested in restoration, conservation and rehabilitation projects in Sri Lanka over the years, collaborating with environmental authorities and organizations to create greater impact across four key local ecosystems; quarry land, mangrove habitats, rainforests, and coral reefs. INSEE continues to minimize the long-term ecological impact of quarrying activities in one of Sri Lanka’s largest limestone mines at Aruwakkalu through an assisted regeneration programme. Initiated in 1999 as a reforestation project, INSEE Cement joined hands with the IUCN for advanced biodiversity conservation of the quarry in 2007. An Animal Rescue and Release programme was initiated in 2008, followed by the development of a restoration monitoring protocol in partnership with the IUCN in 2009. Today, over 20,493 of animals have been safely rescued and released, over 126,000 trees have been planted and 311.64 acres of forest have been restored.
In 2019, together with Wildlife and Ocean Resource Conservation and the Central Environment Authority, INSEE Cement began mangrove habitat restoration on Thalathuduwa and Kuruluduwa islands in the Koggala lake, located closer to INSEE’s Galle and Ruhunu Cement Plants. Since conducting the pilot project with a team of INSEE volunteers, students from the Habaraduwa Technical College and environmentalists, over 4,500 mangrove plants have been restored to strengthen Sri Lanka’s wetland ecosystems to date.
Another significant undertaking by INSEE Cement is the Unawatuna Coral Reef Restoration project, which has seen the introduction of artificial structures to reinforce the southern coral bed and encourage coral propagation. Launched in 2009, the project has since enabled the natural establishment of at least 25 new coral colonies. In 2019, in partnership with the Rotaract Club of the University of Moratuwa and the Sri Lanka Navy, coated steel structures were introduced to reinforce coral beds and promote coral propagation in a more sustainable manner.
INSEE Cement also partnered with Biodiversity Sri Lanka and a coalition of other responsible corporate citizens in 2018 to undertake the restoration of a degraded area of the Kanneliya Forest buffer zone. Despite many challenges including the COVID-19 pandemic, 15,000 plants have been introduced to the habitat with a fire-belt to mitigate the risk of forest fire. An onsite nursery has also been commissioned to expedite the reforestation effort. The success of the project is attested to by the return of many birds including emerald doves (nesting), brown shrikes (sightings) and jerdon’s nightjar (permanent population established).
“INSEE Cement has never shied away from responsibility and commitment, especially when urgent action is called for at a global scale,” commented Gustavo Navarro, Chief Executive Officer at INSEE Cement – Sri Lanka. “While the nature of our business has always called for compliance with the highest, most stringent environmental standards, we have also utilized our resources and influence to create a more long-term, greater impact to restore and conserve our fragile ecosystems. This year, as we mark the beginning of UN’s Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, INSEE Cement reaffirms our commitment to counteract climate change, stop the collapse of biodiversity and in turn enhance the lives and livelihoods within our most fundamental ecosystem; the communities in which we operate”