Hidden enemies of a green economy

Real threats lie in so-called developers with zero concern for the environment.
Malaka Rodrigo reports
Sri Lanka’s “green economy” should never be threatened or compromised by industrial, infrastructure or development programmes, says an environment expert.

A green economy embraces anything that contributes to the wellbeing of a country’s environment, Dr. Sunimal Jayathunga, an environment expert, told the Sunday Times. These include the concepts of renewable energy, sustainable agricultural practices, and water management. A green economy can also generate employment opportunities and help reduce poverty. For the most part, Sri Lanka has kept to the principles of a “green economy”, as practised in most rural parts of the country, Dr. Jayathunga said.

Dr. Jayathunga, who is director of the Climate Change Secretariat of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, will be among the Sri Lanka delegates attending the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, to be held in Rio de Janeiro later this month.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa is also expected to attend the conference, along with a group of Ministers, according to Ministry sources. Meanwhile, several non-government organisations representing Sri Lanka are involved in side events linked to the summit. A youth delegation is also expected to attend the event.

According to Hemantha Withanage, head of the Centre for Environmental Justice, many countries, Sri Lanka among them, have “hidden sustainability issues” and that “tools designed for achieving environmental sustainability are not properly functioning” in those countries.

Mr. Withanage, who will be among the delegates heading to Brazil, told the Sunday Times that there have been “many instances of environment assessment reports being manipulated in favour of parties waiting for the green light to go ahead with mega projects at the expense of the environment.”

The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is a regulatory tool of the Central Environment Authority (CEA). Its purpose is to ensure that the country’s natural resources are responsibly managed and utilised without hurting the environment. All agricultural, commercial, industrial and development ventures that involve use of land and other natural resources must be screened against an environmental impact assessment report.

The Rio de Janeiro conference, also known as Rio+20, has its roots in the Earth Summit held in the same city 20 years ago. Attended by world leaders and environment policy makers, the summit was the biggest environmental event ever at the time. Twenty years later, pledges made at the global summit remain unfulfilled, many say. Hence this month’s summit, to be held from June 20 to 22.

The historical 1992 Earth Summit gave birth to many international agreements, such as the Convention of Biological Diversity, UN Framework of Climate Change, and the Convention on Combating Desertification.

Published on SundayTimes on 03.06.2012 – www.sundaytimes.lk/120603/News/nws_13.html

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