movement committed to the re-creation of a ‘pure tomorrow’ outlined its vision and aims at a well-attended meeting held at the BMICH on Tuesday. Among those in the audience were at least two Cabinet Ministers, UNP Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe and members of other political parties, but residing at the head table were professionals in various fields.
The movement led by the Ven. Athuraliye Rathana Thera wants national policy makers to give priority to tackling issues such as the dangerous levels of food poisoning, air pollution and water pollution. The movement wants highly-qualified professionals to come in to politics and play a major role in addressing these issues.
During the past few decades the excessive use of imported chemical fertilizers, weedicides, pesticides and toxic preservatives has led to a crisis where most people are eating a little poison with their meals every day. Health action groups and people-friendly nutritionists have given numerous awareness programmes and many people are aware of this but there is little they could do about it. Issues such as these need urgent and effective Government action because a healthy and happy people are the foundation of any sustainable development programme. Super-highways and skyscrapers, new international airports and ports are largely showpieces. Just as a company or shop cannot run only with a showcase, so is it with the country.
Despite widespread protests, huge amounts of imported agro-chemicals, some of them toxic, continue to be used in agriculture. They do produce bigger harvests, though most of the farmers are still in a mud hole because middlemen backed by politicians or officials are making big money. Worse still, millions of people are forced to eat poisoned rice and other staple foods, vegetables and fruits. In addition, the ground water, mainly in the North Central Province and other areas, has been polluted with hundreds of farmers and their family members suffering kidney failure. President Mahinda Rajapaksa ordered a ban on the import of this agro-chemical, but some vested interests apparently persuaded the Agriculture Ministry to intervene, and the ban has been suspended. Another secret and deceptive move in the field of agriculture is the Seed Act. These genetically-modified seeds produce a huge first harvest, tempting farmers like the forbidden apple. But these seeds do not germinate, and the farmers will have to buy fresh seeds from the TNCs for every cultivation and may soon end up as paupers or slaves of the TNCs. Minister Wimal Weerawansa’s National Freedom Front came out strongly against the proposed Seed Act, and its withdrawal was one of the 12 proposals presented by the NFF at a meeting with the President recently.
Air pollution is another major issue. The effects of global warming are now being directly felt with millions of Sri Lankans recently sweating through some of the hottest days in our history, while weather patterns have changed and do not coincide with cultivation periods. In addition, we are continuing to breathe polluted or poisoned air along with dust, and that may be the reason why 60 to 70 percent of the people, including children, are suffering from respiratory ailments.
We congratulate the Ven. Athuraliya Rathana Thera for taking this initiative with the movement scheduled to meet every week. We hope Government leaders and policy makers will also be able to see and support this vision of a pure tomorrow.