ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, March 25, 2007
Vol. 41 - No 43
Financial Times  

Holcim Lanka takes strides in becoming environmentally friendly

Holcim Lanka, in an effort to become more environmentally friendly, has teamed up with the World Conservation Union (IUCN) to develop new eco-system conservation standards for the Holcim Group.

The organizations entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) earlier this month in addition to the signing of the three-year co-operation agreement last month between Holcim Lanka's parent company, Holcim Ltd and the IUCN in Switzerland. The estimated investment for the initial 5-year programme is approximately US$1 million with close to 70% from Holcim Lanka and the balance to be funded by the IUCN Sri Lanka.

Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Holcim Lanka, Peter Spirig addressed the gathering at the signing of the MoU and highlighted the fact that the company, one of the worlds leading suppliers of cement, is hoping the environmental impact of its operations is minimized by producing cement in an 'environmentally friendly way.'

Spirig added that by adopting these practices, the impact on the environment will be minimized and hopes that their duty is 'to do it in a responsible way.' Vice President of AFR for Holcim, George Nicole said it is not common for the private sector to join with environmental organizations but that they do have areas of common interest. Similarly, Country Representative for the IUCN, Shiranee Yasaratne said the private sector is increasingly committed to biodiversity conservation.

Among the policy components currently carried out by Holcim Group companies, including Holcim Lanka, are improved quarry management and quarry rehabilitation, protection of endangered species and critical ecosystems, development of sustainable livelihoods, decreased use of fossil energy and recycling of waste.

The partnership is expected to further enhance Holcim Lanka's environmental performance by way of biodiversity conservation.The first of four projects for the five year period, commencing in 2007 is biodiversity conservation at Holcim Lanka's limestone quarry in Aruwakkalu, about 25 kilometers north of Puttalam town. Its mining and rehabilitation activities proceed on the basis of an Environmental Protection License and rehabilitation of the quarried areas is a solid element of the company's Environmental Management System.

The project aims to further accelerate the restoration of biodiversity and landscape values to an optimum pace in the rehabilitated areas where the limestone has been extracted. The rehabilitation of mined coral reefs along the southwestern coast of Sri Lanka is the focus of the second project.

Coral reefs in this area have long been exploited for lime production and the resulting destructing of the reef foundations has eliminated coral re-growth. Although sea coral mining is now banned, threats to corals still exist in various forms, one being illegal mining. Widespread use of Holcim Pedereru cement, which does not require lime for masonry construction will contribute to save the remaining coral stands to a certain extent.

The project further seeks to establish artificial reefs which will pave the way for coral growth and long term livelihood for local fishermen. The third project aims to add value to the development of bio-fuel by actively seeking to replace its non-renewable fossil fuel energy resources by more sustainable ones.

Holcim Lanka will initially develop fuel wood plantations to supply its power plant project and will take measures to eventually replace its kiln fuel by bio fuels. The company has begun fuel wood plantations within the Puttalam plant premises and will expand the cultivation to outside the plant premises and create livelihood support for the surrounding communities.

The final project is the improvement of the Puttalam environment by addressing the growing problem of solid waste. In creating a solution, the IUCN in Sri Lanka has developed a model which separates solid waste at the source into compostable and non-compostable fractions. The compostable part is used for making compost for home gardening while the non-compostable part is dumped at locations designated by the relevant local authority.

Furthermore, the partnership between Holcim Lanka and the IUCN has also identified three more future projects which include the project on conservation management at Bar reef Puttalam in order to conserve marine biodiversity through protection of valuable bar reef sanctuary. Similarly, a project on conservation management at Rumassala reef in Galle has been designed to conserve marine biodiversity through the protection of the Rumassala marine sanctuary. In addition, the project on biodiversity conservation in Sri Lanka's marine environment is another such endeavor to raise public awareness levels on marine ecosystems and their value.

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Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.