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20th anniversary of the World’s first Biodiversity Cell

Biodiversity, Cultural and National Heritage Protection Branch of Sri Lanka Customs commemorated its 20th anniversary on 17th July 2013. It is worth noting the service rendered and the milestones reached by this unique cell over past 20 years because it is recognized as the world’s first specialized cell formed within a Customs administration in order to safeguard environmental and cultural heritage of a country and by large the world.

Sri Lanka Customs being the forefront law enforcement agency regulating the trans-boundary movement of travelers and merchandises took initiative to establish a specialized unit called the Biodiversity Protection Unit (BPU) in year 1993. BPU is currently recognized as the Biodiversity, Cultural and National Heritage Protection Branch (BCNP) and is functioning under the Social Protection Directorate in the Enforcement Cluster of Sri Lanka Customs. The division functions towards achieving the broad objective of social and environmental protection by enforcement of law in order to protect biodiversity, cultural and national heritage and assure due revenue while facilitating the legitimate trade.

BCNP and its officers commitment towards environment protection was recognized in many occasions including Environment Success Story award. The main initiator of the BPU Mr. R.S. Gunasekara who is presently the head of the BCNP received President’s Environmental Award - 2004 for the outstanding contribution in the environmental sector.

BCNP in parallel with its 20th anniversary celebration had organized a forum of gap analysis of the existing legislation comprising all line institutions including Customs, Forest, Wildlife, Quarantine, Fisheries and Archaeology etc. to discuss the practical issues arising at the time of import and export of biodiversity and archaeologically important articles. The Practical forum was well attended and important decisions were made to streamline the existing legal gaps to effectively combat trans-boundary wildlife and archaeological crimes.

Apart from it, the Biodiversity Protection Task Force was re-launched at this occasion with the aim of maintaining a pool of interested Custom Officers also as a remedy for the shortage of skilled and interested Officers on the subject matter in biodiversity protection aspect for the participation of future initiatives of the branch. In addition, BCNP is committed in conducting officer training, research, publication and public awareness to prevent environmental crimes and facilitate and guide legitimate traders. Furthermore, a huge repository of artefacts comprised of wildlife products and archaeologically important articles seized over past 20 years is maintained by the BCNP branch and some of those archaeological specimens are unique and not even available in the National Museum of Srilanka. The unique collection of confiscated items will be put in public display in the Customs Museum which is scheduled to be open shortly.

Field Training Program at Sinharaja

The 3 day practical training program jointly organized by the Human Resource Development Directorate and BCNP Division was successfully held on 5th, 6th & 7th October at Sinharaja forest. Eminent experts in different fields took part in this program as resource personnels on the invitation of Mr. Samantha Gunasekara DDC (Biodiversity, Cultural and National Heritage Protection Division) The three day event included nature trails for flora & fauna identification in natural habitats, plant identification, bird watching, reptile handling etc., which was attended by the officers of the department from all levels.

Launching of BPU Theme Cap for the year 2009

Director General of Sri Lanka Customs receiving the first cap from the Head of Biodiversity Protection Unit
With the aim of broadening the interest in Fauna and Flora among the Customs Officers, Biodiversity Protection Unit designed and launched a Cap under the WCO's theme of the year 2009, "Customs and the Environmnet; Protecting our Natural Heritage". Here we see some highlights of the Launching ceremony where the Director General of Sri Lanka Customs received the first cap from the Head of Biodiversity Protection Unit. Many Directors, Deputy Directors, Assistant Directors, Superintendents and Assistant Superintendents had witnessed the occation.

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