Vankalai Sanctuary was declared as the 4th Ramsar site in Sri Lanka on 12/07/10. It is situated in Mannar District. The extent of 4,839 ha; 08º56’N 079º55’E. This Ramsar site consists of several ecosystems which range from arid-zone thorn scrubland, arid-zone pastures and maritime grasslands, sand dunes, mangroves, salt marshes, lagoons, tidal flats, sea-grass beds and shallow marine areas. Due to the integrated nature of shallow wetland and terrestrial coastal habitats, this sanctuary is highly productive, supporting high ecosystem and species diversity. The site provides excellent feeding and living habitats for a large number of water bird species, including annual migrants, which also use this area on arrival and during their exit from Sri Lanka. It harbours more than 20,000 water birds during the migratory season.
The project established a community based conservation model to contribute for the long term conservation of the Vankalai coastal wet land in Mannar district. As Mannar district is now in post conflict rehabilitation, introducing a model management system that will be a precautionary effort of conserving Vankalai coastal wetland. The project had two outputs. The first outcome was a Community driven conservation mechanism to conserve Vankalai coastal wetland is established and functional and the second was Income of buffer zone communities is increased. The community driven conservation mechanism that was established with the participation of five youth groups and income generation activities was implemented through fisheries cooperative societies and Women Rural Development Societies of three villages in the buffer zone of the Vankalai coastal wetland. Awareness and knowledge as well capacity to act against negative anthropogenic activities were the focal areas.
The GMSL understood that the key contributor to the success of this project were the communities living in and around the Ramsar site and as such, in its pre-project planning phase, conducted significant consultations with these communities before formulating the final strategy required for a high quality, environment friendly, climate smart and sustainable exercise that holistically intervened on a number of fronts for the benefit of the communities, the state and the environment.