The National Unity Government – launching its sustainable all-inclusive and eco-friendly development strategy this year -- is giving high priority to issues relating to climate change and global warming.
On Wednesday, as one of the important events of the ongoing National Reconciliation and Integration Week, President Maithripala Sirirsena launched the Moragahakanda development project, the last phase of the accelerated Mahaveli Development Programme. He said this was the happiest and greatest moment of his two-year executive presidency, happier even than the day he was elected to this high office. On the day when he assumed office his mind was filled with the responsibilities and challenges he faced in restoring good governance, democracy and social justice in Sri Lanka. On Wednesday when water was released to fill the Moragahakanda Resevoir it was his happiest day because of the ocean of benefits it would bring to the people of Polonnaruwa, Anuradhapura and other areas.
The Moragahakanda Reservoir, the fourth largest in the country covers 460,000 acre-feet including the main dam and two other dams. It is the largest reservoir constructed during the past 30 years. This Project, being constructed to preempt recurring water crises in the Districts of Matale, Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and Trincomalee, will cost US$555.7 million. The 103-kilometres long Ihala Elahera canal will be constructed from Moragahakanda to the Mahakanadarawa Tank in Anuradhapura. It will be the longest canal in Sri Lanka. The entire project to be completed in five years will cost Rs.65,000 million.
Also on Wednesday, the Education Ministry in an enlightened move announced it would start environment classes from grade six in all schools. We hope that, like in countries such as Singapore, this will be the first step towards creating green schools. In Singapore these schools have some open air classrooms where they get direct solar and wind power. Of course there are modern instant tents to be put up in times of rain. The schools also have facilities for the recycling of leftover food and water. In this way the students get a practical training, a good vision and goals to rebuild a world which will not face the catastrophe that could arise if the current rate of climate change and global warming continues.
The Health Ministry’s disaster-preparedness unit and other institutions are also finalizing plans to conduct a Youth Climate Summit in Sri Lanka on January 20, 21 and 22. Participating in it will be about a hundred selected university students who have a special interest in environmental issues.
The organizers believe it is essential to train the youth because it is the younger generation which will face grave dangers if climate change issues are not tackled effectively in Sri Lanka and all over the world, though the maverick United States President-elect Donald Trump is still sticking to what most analysts believe is his ridiculous claim that climate change is a hoax made in China.
While Sri Lanka’s youth take creative, innovative and imaginative initiatives to find eco solutions, other people also need to make their contribution in whatever way possible. At present Sri Lanka is facing a major drought largely due to the failure of the North-East monsoon and the Government has been compelled to import rice. Eco friendly citizens need to cooperate in finding a solution by stopping the waste of fresh water. While washing hands or utensils we need to open taps only half way or less instead of fully. We could also cut down on our shower bath times by five minutes. Water could be collected after washing food items or utensils and this could be used for the watering of plants. Families also need to contact the authorities and install the mechanism for rainwater harvesting in their houses. We could also install mechanisms for recycling water from the bathing area to the cisterns. Another practical area is to save electricity obtained from hydro power or thermal power. We need to switch off unnecessary light bulbs and cut down on the use of electrical appliances such as television sets, fans and irons.
Not only the youth but all of us have to remember that we need to come together in curbing climate change or we will face the danger of perishing together.