Most of the statistics provided by the state do not relate to the activities in which those statistics are based and therefore the actual situation is far from what is announced and propagated, it was revealed at a seminar on ‘Knowledge Economy and Urban Growth: Prospects for Colombo’ held in Colombo recently.
It was organized by the National Academy of Sciences of Sri Lanka and the keynote speaker was Dr Francis C Duffy, a former President, Royal Institute of British Architects .
The issue raised above was well demonstrated by Dr U. Pethiyagoda, a former Ambassador and retired civil servant, who pointed out during question time that while the problem of air pollution by vehicle emissions was discussed what only happened is the introduction of the system of ‘Vehicle Emission’ control.
He said that in practice what happens is the private vehicle owners are subjected to undergo the most inconvenient and expensive emission test to obtain their annual revenue licenses while buses and lorries and other heavy vehicles continue to emit huge amount of fumes and there is no attempt to control or restrict them.
In addition to the entirely unnecessary testing of privately owned vehicles this procedure also makes inroads to a huge degree of corruption and it is the experience of several motorists that they have to provide illegal gratifications to get their vehicles passed, thus the statistics do not portray the actual situation. The seminar contributed by various experts discussed various aspects of the inflow of commuters to the city of Colombo, the energy costs, traffic congestion, environmental pollution and the health implications of city dwellers . It also discussed how city dwellers problems could be reduced with the help of Information and Communication Technology (ICT)
Prof A.D.V. De S Indraratna, spoke on ‘Knowledge Economy, Economic Development: A Nexus. Dr Lochana Gunaratne spoke on ‘A Background to Colombo Growth’. Prof Saman Bandara spoke of ‘Commuters in Colombo – Present Trend’. Ms J Dilrukshi Kotinkumbura deputizing for Dr D. S. Jayaweera spoke on ‘Energy Consumed by Commuters entering and Leaving Colombo’. Prof Ranjith Mahanama spoke of ‘Air Quality in Colombo’ and Prof Manouri Senanayake spoke on ‘Impact of Air Pollution on the Health of Children in Colombo’.
Prof Saman Bandara, Professor of Transportation, Civil Engineering Department, University of Moratuwa said that there are several approaches to the Colombo City and three bridges available from the North. He said while two of those approaches are heavily congested, the Mattakkuliya approach bridge (a new bridge) is almost abandoned with only a very few motorists using it. Prof Ranjith Mahanama speaking on the air quality in Colombo said that in the Sri Lankan Air Quality Index hardly anything is happening. Most of the pollutant industries are located around the Colombo harbour and the measuring instruments installed in the Fort Railway premises would not indicate the proper situation of air pollution in Colombo.
He said that some of the air pollution measuring apparatus are either not functioning at all or are malfunctioning and the pollutant levels are very high in the city.
He said that in most Colombo schools the nursery and kindergarten classes are located near the entrance of the schools where the area is most polluted and the pollutants are inhaled by the children.
Prof Manouri Sennayake speaking on ‘Impact of Air Pollution on the Health of Children in Colombo’ indicated that an alarming number of asthma cases are reported from Colombo and children are the most vulnerable. She said that inside the household air is more polluted than outside them.
Dr Kingsley A de Silva, a consultant Agronomist commented that the discussions and presentation should have covered the entire country instead of only Colombo.