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.