World Environment Day (WED) is one of the most widely celebrated global days that inspires the general public towards being environmental conscious. Hence, the United Nations (UN) seeks to focus the world’s attention on the environment and organizes positive environmental action programmes and initiatives on 5th June every year, since 1972. This year’s theme is “Connecting People to Nature”, and it encourages seven billion people to understand and explore nature, appreciating its natural beauty. It provides the message that every person on this earth has an implied responsibility to utilise the limited resources of nature for multifarious purposes with more care, understating the fact that every activity of a person will directly impact Mother Nature either positively or negatively.
"The time has arrived to connect 20 million of people with the nature, extending multifarious awareness program in different level from top to bottom ..."
This year’s WED is more important for Sri Lanka with the recent tragedy of the Meethotamulla Garbage Mountain on April 14, 2017, causing approximately 40 deaths, engulfing 130 houses and 1,100 families. The major reasons for this incident are identification of incorrect dumpsites, improper site management and encroachments to risk/buffer zone area by the general public. A similar incident had taken place on April 24, 2008, followed by the eruption of a large mass of solid waste, which engulfed 100 houses, causing the deaths of three people at the previous dumpsites at Bloemendhal.
Currently, Sri Lanka is experiencing Southwest Monsoon (May-September) rain, causing flooding and landslides in many areas of the island. Predominantly Matara, Galle, Kalutara, Ratnapura, Hambantota, Gampaha, Kegalle and Colombo Districts were badly affected, triggering more than 212 deaths, 79 missing and 93 injured. Total number of affected people are approximately 604,713 while 8,473 houses were damage and 157,177 families displaced as on 04.06.2017. Similar calamity had occurred during the period of April/May 2016 as well.
improper management of solid waste is one of the common causes for both calamities.According to my research (2014), approximately 57% female and 43.3% males were affected by different health issues around the dumpsites. 65.5% children, 75% waste pickers and 70% waste collectors/vehicle drivers have been affected by multiple health issues, due to the direct contact with waste dumpsites and related activities.
The major reason behind this situation is stakeholders failing to connect with nature, discharging their individual fiduciary duties as citizens of this nation towards the environment. Therefore, both hazards have turned into a disaster. Although, the Constitution provides a Provision (Sec.14 of Article 27) to protect, preserve and improve the environment for the benefit of the people, various governments in office since 1977 have been attempting to shift their economic policies to meet ever increasing trend of demand, implementing various development projects, without paying much attention to nature, which supports our own prosperity and well-being. This is very hard to be valued in terms of money.
I believe that improper management of solid waste is one of the common causes for both calamities. Approximately 6,400-7,000 MT of waste per day is generated in Sri Lanka with the annual growth rate of 1.2%. The urban areas are responsible for 80% of it. Out of this, the daily waste collection by local authorities is estimated at 2,500 MT (Central Environmental Authority, 2014). The rest ends up in water bodies, cannels, roads, public places and open burning especially in the village areas.
A cohesive strategy that encourages sustainable use of resources should be implemented towards sustainable consumption and production needed
Approximately 57% female and 43.3% males were affected by different health issues around the dumpsites.
The major reason behind this situation is stakeholders failing to connect with nature
Govts shift economic policies without understanding nature...
Improper management of solid waste is one of the common causes for both calamities.
57% female and 43.3% males were affected by different health issues around the dumpsites.
"65.5% children, 75% waste pickers and 70% waste collectors/vehicle drivers have been affected by multiple health issues... "
Hence, the time has arrived to connect 20 million people with nature, extending multifaceted awareness programme in different levels from top to bottom and strictly implementing existing environmental related laws towards a positive change.
A single body cannot achieve this target alone; rather all stakeholders should gather under one umbrella to make a constructive and sustainable change in the future.
Accordingly, progressing towards sustainability requires changes to individual behaviour and mindsets of general public; but also requires structural changes, such as better choices and even less consumption as well as more efficient green production and consumption. Effective policy instruments can help in shaping these. The Government must have policy instruments to influence the operations or behaviours to achieve complex environmental, social and economic challenges.
In addition, a cohesive strategy that encourages sustainable use of resources should be implemented towards sustainable consumption and production. Private companies should also be encouraged to invest wisely in a new ‘Green Production’, while developing a socially responsible status with its consumers.
"A single body cannot achieve this target alone; all stakeholders should gather under one umbrella to make a constructive and sustainable change ..."
They can implement a code of practice pertaining to green growth and environmental protection to ensure that all their business processes abide by this practice. Civil society can play a significant role by independently monitoring all parties involved, raising awareness on resources consumptions and supporting grassroots initiatives. Further, the Government should take initiatives to extend an islandwide survey to identify the high risk areas for human settlements and to be provided a viable solution for them.
Eventually, behavioural change from the top to bottom towards a better environment should be initiated by the government, integrating all the stakeholders into a centre point and empowering them to formulate necessary policy measures towards a better environment for future generation.
"Behavioural change from the top to bottom towards a better environment should be initiated by the government, integrating all..."