Hamilton couple help Sri Lanka's environment

Dr Bruce Clarkson (Waikato University) and wife Bev Clarkson (Landcare Research) have been working with Dilmah tea to ...
Bruce Mercer/Fairfax NZ

Dr Bruce Clarkson (Waikato University) and wife Bev Clarkson (Landcare Research) have been working with Dilmah tea to increase environmental sustainability in Sri Lanka.

A Hamilton couple are using their environmental prowess to help a world-renowned Sri Lankan company conserve its own country's environment.

Professor Bruce Clarkson was surprised to get an email from Dilhan Fernando, the son of Dilmah Tea founder Merrill J. Fernando, seeking advice.

Clarkson, dean of Faculty of Science and Engineering at Waikato University, had led a research programme looking at the best methods to restore indigenous biodiversity in New Zealand cities.

He had been working closely with businesses in the Waikato region, looking at enhancing and restoring the land where they operate.

Fernando contacted Clarkson asking for information  and for him to come to Sri Lanka to speak.

"He wanted to know examples of businesses that make a profit but still contribute, basically still looking after nature. So businesses that are in the sustainability area," Clarkson said.

Fernando, who heads the Dilmah Conservation Trust, said together with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and Ceylon Chamber, the platform was to build a broad coalition of business for biodiversity and sustainability in Sri Lanka.

Clarkson suggested his wife, Dr Bev Clarkson, leader of the New Zealand Wetlands Research programme join him on the trip, as Fernando was interested in that area also.

Dr Clarkson works at Landcare Research and is leading a government-funded, research programme on wetland functioning and restoration.

In May, the couple travelled to Sri Lanka and spent six days visiting a number of projects.

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Clarkson was impressed with the work being done in Sri Lanka and noticed similarities with New Zealand.

"They've developed a lot of their country in recent times. In the last 100 years or so they've done a lot of conversion of native forest to agriculture of various sorts. The rate of clearance is very similar to New Zealand, so the issues are very similar," he said.

Clarkson said "issues such as reduction of habitat, extinction of species, and needing to look after the remains of land were discussed".

"We simply gave insight and advice from the way we would approach the problem in New Zealand."

Clarkson plans to return to Sri Lanka after attending a workshop for the National Parks Singapore and speaking at the Green Urban Scape Asia Congress in Asia in November.

A number of university students in Sri Lanka had also recently contacted Bruce Clarkson, wanting to complete research studies under him at the University of Waikato, something he was keen on doing.

"I think it's very good because these comparisons are very valuable because we learn off each other. I've learnt a lot of stuff in Sri Lanka and they can see what we've been doing and see how it might be adapted to suit their needs.

"It's that learning that comes from people working together and doing comparative research."

 - Stuff

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