n the aftermath of Nepal’s Himalayan earthquake, which has left up to 2,500 people dead with millions displaced or injured, we need to deeply reflect and take effective steps – collectively and individually to curb the self-destructive climate change.
Nepal had been warned about such a catastrophe but no one expected it to be so devastating with more than 30 aftershocks and another major earthquake occurring even yesterday. Sri Lanka has joined the international community in sending medical and food aid to the shattered Nepal.
Wednesday, April 22 was the 45th Earth Day, and the meaningful theme for the people was, ‘It’s Our Turn to Lead.’ According to the Earth Day official website, this year could be the most important and exciting year in environmental history.
Hopefully, this could be the year in which economic growth, social justice and sustainability blend together; the year in which hitherto obstinate world leaders finally pass a binding climate change treaty; the year in which citizens and movements divest from fossil fuels and put their money into renewable energy solutions.
Earth Day activists say these are tough issues but we know what’s at stake in the future of planet Earth and the survival of all forms of life – human beings, animals, trees, the mighty seas, rivers and other facets of nature.
In this special year for climate change, the people need to take a stand so that together, we could show the world a new direction, a paradigm shift or change of perception. It is our turn to lead so our world leaders could follow by example.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) air pollution is the biggest environment-related health-threat to billions of people, mainly children and a risk factor for both acute and chronic respiratory diseases.
Urban air pollution is estimated to cause 1.3 million deaths worldwide a year. Children are particularly at risk due to the immaturity of their respiratory organ systems. Those living in middle and low income countries – such as Sri Lanka - disproportionately experience this burden.
Exposure to air pollutants is largely beyond the control of individuals and requires action by public authorities at the national, regional and even international levells, the WHO warns. Our neighbour India’s capital New Delhi is reported to be one of the most polluted cities in the world, largely because up to 1,400 new vehicles are put on the road every day.
Sri Lanka is not much better off. In January this year, up to 50,000 new vehicles – including 33,000 motorcycles, 7,000 three-wheelers and 10,000 other vehicles – were imported. This defeated the whole purpose of the massive reduction in fuel prices and instead has left our cities more polluted and congested.
Sri Lanka’s people need to give the lead in curbing air-pollution by measuring and reducing our carbon footprints. Whenever we use public transport instead of private transport, we reduce our carbon footprints.
It is enlightened patriotism. Whenever we use the famous Babi Achchi’s bicycle instead of a motorcycle, we are helping to curb carbon emission. In addition, saving and preventing the wastage of freshwater and electricity, is also part of the contribution we could make towards national and international efforts to curb pollution. Raising our voices against large scale deforestation and abuse of Mother Earth through the excessive use of agrochemicals would be among the other ways in which we could consolidate our freedom and rights by behaving as responsible and civic-conscious citizens. Our friend, the wind is talking to us. Let us listen.