ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, February 04, 2007
Vol. 41 - No 36

Environment, focus of first public forum

By Isuri Kaviratne

The Goethe Institute, Sri Lanka and Social Policy Analysis and the Research Centre (SPARC) of Colombo University held the inaugural meeting of their Public Forum, aimed at creating a social space where concerned citizens can discuss social issues .
The first public forum held last Tuesday, focussed on environmental issues.

Panel of speakers

Prof. S.W. Kotagama speaking at the forum said, "The environment consists of three elements; natural, built and theoretical. But our attempts to pull these elements away from each other have caused the present environment crisis and resulted in people who cannot put their bare foot on the soil."

Though in 1972 it was stated that poverty was the cause for environmental degradation, in 2002 it was said that environmental degradation was the cause of poverty.

"That's why today, we have environmental refugees as we predicted when the Mahaweli project was launched nearly 20 years ago," he added.

Offering a solution, Prof. Kotagama said we have to put back the three elements of the environment, which we have torn apart. "Attitudinal change is the most important. Then comes legal solutions," he said.

Dr. Ajantha Perera of the National Programme on Recycling of Solid Waste said people’s survival would be ensured only if environment development occurred parallel to industrial development. She added that the environmental licence which every industry had to renew every year, had been extended to three years by politicians. "This allows industries to do what they like regardless of whether their actions pollute the environment or not, for three years.

Focusing mainly on garbage, Dr. Perera said that 700 tons of garbage are dumped at the Bloemendhal garbage dump per day and around 800 families who live near by are being affected by it.

Dr. Sirimal Abeyratne of the University of Colombo, looking at both the economical and environmental angles said that the development process would be much easier if small villages in suburbs moved to the nearest city.

"We talk about protecting wild life. To protect it, we should expand jungles. And it's quite easy to develop 100 cities than 14,000 small villages. So, moving the villages into cities will be a good solution," he said.

Director of The National Cleaner Production Centre Sena Peiris made the point that people should be educated about not buying products that pollute the environment.

"Garbage is something we have bought sometime before and which then had a value. Resources are being used to produce the garbage as well. So, to reduce garbage and environmental pollution, buy only what you want,” he advised.

Richard Lang, Director of the Goethe Institute and Prof. S. T. Hettige of the University of Colombo explained the purpose and the necessity for the public forum. A question session followed.

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