Photo by Jalitha Hewage

By Mary Appophia

I have been hung up on this introduction piece. Momentarily I had thoughts of pretending that I was taking you on a journey through ecohoods airlines from JKIA to Colombo International Airport. Something akin to “Buckle up, I’ll be your hostess..” You’re probably rolling your eyes at this point. Understandably. I am rolling my eyes at me too.

A more sober thought came to me though, about Sri Lanka. All the places in that country that I would love to visit if I ever got a chance to travel. Sacred sites mostly. Especially temples. Buddhist temples and Hindu temples.

I also thought about Abeesan, our guest and the picture I’d painted in my head about his country from our very first interaction. I had imagined lots of water. Massive trees. Green spaces. And with lots of nice people. So when I conceived the idea for this series, I knew that I had to go there, virtually to learn more about the environmental situation in Sri Lanka. Is it as idealistic as I had painted it in my head?

So absolutely glad to have Abeesan Sivam and his friend shed light about the environmental situation in their country.

What are some of the main environmental challenges that you have seen in the places that you’ve lived in Sri Lanka?

A.S: Deforestation, settlements in forest areas, pollution of water reservoirs for instance adding medical wastes in to sea, lack of proper waste management systems, opening up of massive waste producing factories and unlimited polythene plastic usage.

F: In the process of economical development, Sri Lanka has undergone rapid industrialization which has resulted in many environmental issues. Specifically, industrial projects, agricultural projects, construction of dams and highways are some of the main projects which cause environmental damages.

Some of the major environmental challenges being faced are deforestation, poor waste management, climate change vulnerability and air& water pollution.

Deforestation is largely being driven by the increasing population, development and urbanization.

Industrial development on the other hand is one of the main causes of air and water pollution. Factory waste is often released into nearby water sources. There was even a case of dumping electricity waste to land which mixed with underground water. While that electricity plant was
banned immediately, the effects of that incidence are still in the underground water.

Sri Lanka is also vulnerable to climate change which is largely being driven by deforestation and environmental pollution. Two years ago, some provinces in Sri Lanka, the North and East faced unexpected floods.

What do you think are some good local solutions that can be used to address the environmental issues that you have identified?

A.S: Environmental laws and punishments should be introduced, and environmental impact assessments (EIAs) done on each projects and factories.

F: For the deforestation problem, Authorities should take the necessary actions to stop deforestation from happening. Also, the government and people need to focus on reforestation.

Strict implementation of the existing environmental rules is also necessary. Specifically, factories in the country should follow the existing environmental acts. Some industries like agro chemicals also need to fullfil environmental protection requirements to run their business. Moreover, these factories need to get ISO certifications.

While handling of waste (Collecting and Dumping) is also a major issue in the country, degradable waste and non- degradable waste are collected separately by municipal councils. Recycling enterprises are also promoted by the government, but we have to fill the gap between waste generation and waste recycling. We have to go for expert ideas to identify best models to manage the waste. For instance the concept of turning waste to energy can be used.

The government also has to take the necessary actions to reduce pollution that increases climate change vulnerability.

Are there any local good environmental practices that you’ve seen in your country/community/city that can be replicated elsewhere?

A.S: Seperate Waste segregation under ISO standards in some areas, Solar plants installation, Reusing wastewater for other purposes such as cleaning and plantation.

F: Nowadays most of the companies are going for green concept. They encourage green projects and planting trees all around the country as their CSR.

Finally, any good song or artist from Sri Lanka that we should listen to? 😊

A.S: Pawela kodu akase – Samitha Mudunkotuwa

P.s. Been listening to that song over and over especially when I was putting this interview together, its absolutely amazing do check it out. Embedding a couple YouTube videos below.