The Sri Lanka Navy facilitated the first ever Environmental Sensitivity Index (ESI) Project for Sri Lanka. The project from Colombo to Negombo was successfully completed with the collaboration of the Sri Lanka Navy, the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and Sri Lankan stakeholders on 23rd August 2017.
ESI maps provide a concise summary of coastal resources that are at risk if an oil spill occurs. When an oil spill occurs, ESI maps can help responders to meet their main response objectives; the reduction of environmental consequences of the spill and the commencement of cleanup efforts.
This ESI project was initiated consequent to the South Asia Regional Oil Spill Response Workshop held in Colombo in November 2014. The Sri Lanka Coast Guard (SLCG) made a formal request to the United States Pacific Command (USPACOM) seeking assistance and the USACE, as the primary US Department of Defense element, was assigned accordingly to partner with Sri Lanka on the project.
The Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) acted as the focal point and facilitator of the project. A series of discussions were held with the representatives of the US Embassy, USACE, SLN, SLCG and other local stakeholders prior to the commencement of the project. The project was started in July 2016 and conducted in three phases. A number of local government organizations assisted the project by providing data for the database. SLN Hydrographers and GIS specialists and the representatives from the Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA), National Aquatic Resources Agency (NARA), Central Environment Authority (CEA), Coast Conservation Department (CCD) and students of Ruhuna and Wayamba Universities assisted the field work in the second phase. Mr. Justin Pummel and Mr. Benton Ching of the USACE provided the technical assistance and training to Sri Lankan field work teams. They also processed the data to develop the atlas and Geo database. The ESI atlas thus prepared was handed over to the Sri Lankan stakeholders in Colombo on 21st August 2017. Subsequently, a training workshop was also held for the technical level officials of the stakeholders to train them in utilizing the ESI Atlas and the database if any oil spill occurs.