Archive for the ‘Sustainable Development’ Category

Toxic waste water disposal goes on unchecked

March 26, 2017
World Water Day falls on 22nd of March. This article was published on SundayTimes on 17.03.2017http://www.sundaytimes.lk/170319/news/toxic-waste-water-disposal-goes-on-unchecked-233273.html

A canal brings pollutants into the Kelani River. Note the difference in colour of the water

Industrial waste water and municipal sewage released untreated poses a danger to Sri Lanka’s environment, experts warn on the eve of World Water Day, which falls on Wednesday  (March 22).

The theme this year is “waste water” with the campaign focusing on reducing and reusing waste water.

Globally, over 80 per cent of the waste water generated by society flows back into the ecosystem without being treated or reused, says a United Nation’s report. This has been the case even locally, water experts in Sri Lanka say.

“Most collected waste water in Sri Lanka is released to surface water bodies and eventually the ocean without any treatment. Even Colombo has so far only a sea outfall for its waste water,” says Pay Drechsel researcher at International Water Management Institute (IWMI).

A recent study by the Ministry of Environment in partnership with UNICEF and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) reveals that pollution in the Kelani River basin is severe and industrial waste water as well as domestic waste water aggravates the pollution.

A separate study by the Environmental Foundation Limited to identify industries located along the river mapped facilities that discharge waste water to the river.

Service stations are another major waste water generating source, but the discharge goes directly to natural water sources.

These polluting industries and service stations should not be allowed on river and stream banks, says Kusum Athukorala of Sri Lanka Water Partnership. She suggests zoning laws that restrict these into industrial zones.

Apart from industrial polluters, there are also households which discharge their effluents into rivers and water bodies.

The World Health Organisation says in a 2014 report that 1.8 billion people use a source of drinking water contaminated with faeces, putting them at risk of contracting cholera, dysentery, typhoid, and polio. Unsafe water, poor sanitation and hygiene cause around 842,000 deaths each year.

“Too many toilets pits in business premises and houses in wayside communities such as Gampola and Pilimatalawa seem to lead directly into streams and rivers. “Trucks transporting sewage are often seen dumping loads into main rivers such as the Kelani in places such as Sedawatta,” said Kusum Athukorala, chairperson of Sri Lanka Water Partnership.

Most households rely on septic tanks or pit latrines. However, there are only very few treatment plants for human waste collected from these pits or septic tanks, once they fill up. Only 1 per cent of the excreta (fecal sludge) are treated. Due to the lack of dumping/treatment sites, illegal dumping in landfills is common, and surface and groundwater can get heavily polluted, points out IWMI researcher Drechsel.

Due to population growth, accelerated urbanisation and economic development, the waste water volumes and pollution are increasing globally.

This will be an issue for the proposed megapolis development, and experts say waste water management should not be neglected.

But there are ways to make use of waste water. Safely managed waste water is an affordable and sustainable source of water, energy, nutrients and other recoverable materials. There are many treatment processes and operational systems that will allow cities to use waste water to meet the growing water demand, support sustainable agriculture, and enhance energy production and industrial development.

Experts say treated waste water can be used safely for agriculture or service stations etc.

Waste water has its uses

Every time we use water, we produce waste water. According to UN Water, 80 per cent of all our waste water just flows back to nature untreated. Households should to try to reduce waste water, said Kusum Athukorala of Sri Lanka Water Partnership. And the waste water that is generated can be used for watering of plants and washing cars.  

20 Ways to Conserve Water at Home

Sea cucumber hatchery to give momentum to industry while saving species

February 26, 2017

The construction of a new sea cucumber hatchery was initiated in Mannar yesterday at a cost of Rs 180 million rupees, says Nimal Chandraratne, the director general of National Aquaculture Development Authority of Sri Lanka.

Once completed this year, the hatchery will produce a million juvenile sea cucumbers annually, Chandraratne assured.
Sea cucumbers are bottom-dwelling primitive marine invertebrates closely related to starfish and sea urchin. They have elongated soft bodies resembling the shape of a cucumber or a sausage, giving rise to its common English name. In Sinhala they are called ‘muhudu kudella’ (sea leach). East Asian countries regard sea cucumbers as a delicacy where it is commonly known as bêche-de-mer (literally “sea-spade”) in French, creating a lucrative market.

Sea cucumbers seen at Mannar . Pic courtesy Kumudini Ekaratne, IUCN

Sea cucumbers seen at Mannar . Pic courtesy Kumudini Ekaratne, IUCN

The sea cucumber is a slow-moving animal that allows easy collection, so it was soon over-harvested in many areas. On average, a hectare of sea bottom should have a population of about 30 individuals, but a survey by the National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency, a decade ago, revealed the number has dropped to one or two individuals in some areas, according to senior scientist Ajith Kumara.It is stated that the sea cucumber industry in Sri Lanka is quite old, having been introduced by the Chinese. Some old records mention that processed sea cucumbers appear to be one of the commodities taken to China during the last 1,000 years when trade existed via the silk route. But the demand has arisen sharply with a high price tag, so the industry surged in 1980s in coastal areas. They are dried and the entire processed harvest has been exported to countries like Singapore, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan bringing much needed foreign exchange.

In Sri Lanka, 27 different species of sea cucumbers are found, but the high value species are mainly confined to north, east and north-western coastal areas. The war had deterred over-exploitation with restrictions on maritime operations, but the post-war scenario seems to be detrimental to sea cucumbers.

A study funded by the Mangroves for the Future, carried out for six months between October 2013 and June 2014 by the University of Jaffna, found that the population is depleted in the Jaffna Lagoon. According to the study of 29 sites in the Jaffna Lagoon only10 locations had any sea cucumbers. The total in the 10 sites was only 360 individuals. But another survey between 1980 and 1981 recorded 20-160 individuals of high-value sea cucumber species per square metre.

The sea cucumber species called sandfish (holothuria scabra) that has higher value in the market is now categorized as ‘endangered’ by the IUCN Red List of threatened fauna. So the industry is doomed to collapse without intervention.

Against this backdrop, the sea cucumber farms are being introduced in Sri Lanka. A number of farms are already operating and the Mannar hatchery will help produce juveniles for farms.

Chandraratne of NAQDA said that holothuria scabra, that has a high demand, will be bred in the hatchery. The creatures will be artificially bred. At present there is a privately-owned hatchery and another operated by NARA.

Chandraratne said there are plans to establish a sea cucumber farm in Nainathivu and more hatcheries later.
NARA’s inland aquaculture and aquatic resources division researched to develop technology for breeding sea cucumbers since 2011 at their Kalpitiya field station independently.

Scientist Kumara said it was difficult to distinguish male and female sea cucumbers, so about 50 individuals are put into a tank and given a thermal shock by increasing the temperature of the water in the container and cooling it down quickly. This results in the male sea cucumber releasing sperm. Then the female starts to release eggs.

One female releases several million eggs, but very few hatch, Kumara explained.
Kumara said they are working closely with the community to protect the sea cucumber fishery by releasing some of the hatched juveniles into the natural environment.

Fisheries expert Dr Steve Creech, emphasized the importance of having a management strategy for Sri Lanka’s sea cucumber fishery to save the free living population. He recognizes the issue of open access for Sri Lankan sea cucumber fisheries that will further deplete the natural living species. So he suggests there should be harvest control strategies based on annual assessment of the status of the stocks. Dr Creech thinks that sea cucumber farming is a good development with low impact on the environment and ecosystem and fishing.

Published on SundayTimes on 26.02.2017 http://www.sundaytimes.lk/170226/news/sea-cucumber-hatchery-to-give-momentum-to-industry-230528.html

FISHERMEN, 302 SEA CUCUMBERS SEIZED
Fourteen fishermen were arrested by the navy on February 20 for illegally gathering sea cucumber. They were arrested in the Keeramunal area and 302 sea cucumbers, a dinghy, and diving gear were seized. They were handed over to the fisheries inspector at Kilinochchi the navy said. The navy has often intercepted smugglers bringing sea cucumbers from India, mostly in dried form. Due to over-harvesting, India banned gathering of sea cucumbers from the wild, so racketeers are not allowed to export the sea cucumbers through India. It is believed they are selling their stocks to Sri Lankans who can re-export taking advantage of loopholes in regulations.

Sea cucumbers seized by Navy in Northern seas

Sea cucumbers seized by Navy in Northern seas

Budget allocates Rs 4,000 million to Environment sector

December 1, 2015

budget

Budget 2016 has an allocation of Rs 4,000 million for the environment sector for three years, to resolve the human-elephant conflict and conserve Sri Lanka’s rich biodiversity.

The Sunday Times learns that the Government will seek these additional funds through a World Bank project interest-free loan of US$ 30 million, which did not materialise during the previous regime.

This 5-year initiative called ‘Eco-system Conservation & Management Project’ is to improve the management and stewardship of Sri Lanka’s sensitive ecosystems in selected locations.

Expectations among environmentalists are high that it will enhance conservation and bring benefits to the people.

A large portion of the project’s funding is to initiate innovative programmes that would reduce human-wildlife conflict through co-existence, while enhancing the management of Protected Areas for both conservation as well as nature-based tourism,

Another important component of the project is to strengthen the institutional capacity of the Forest Dept and Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC).

Currently, more than half of DWC’s budget goes to mitigate human-elephant conflict (HEC), which environmentalists insist is also important, while action is also being taken to protect other threatened species as well, an area the project also expects to shed some light on.

Environmentalists had high hopes for this project in 2011 when, at its final stages, the then Finance Ministry Secretary P.B. Jayasundara reportedly wanted drastic changes to the project which would have affected the project’s sustainability in the long run.

The World Bank felt it would compromise the project’s very aims of finding lasting solutions to conservation issues, and withdrew the project. Several key conservation groups wrote to the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa to intervene and prevent unnecessary influence on the project, but to no avail.

The Sunday Times learns that the new Government had, had several rounds of talks with the World Bank to revive this project, and a few weeks back had submitted an official request seeking same.

Reliable sources indicate the signs are positive and the inclusion of a Rs 4,000 million commitment for the Environmental Sector is a sign that the Government is confident of securing this project, whose budget has now increased to US$ 40 million.

Published on SundayTimes on 22.11.2015 http://www.sundaytimes.lk/151122/news/eco-friendly-budget-allocates-wb-aided-rs-4000-million-to-environment-sector-172527.html 

Sri Lanka to set up Secretariat to monitor development goals

October 4, 2015

Published on SundayTimes on 04.10.2015 http://www.sundaytimes.lk/151004/news/sri-lanka-to-set-up-secretariat-to-monitor-development-goals-166676.html

The Ministry of Wildlife and Sustainable Development is to set up a Sustainable Development Secretariat, in keeping with President Maithripala Sirisena’s pledge at the UN Sustainable Development Summit.

The initial task of the Secretariat would be to raise awareness on how Sri Lanka can develop sustainably, a spokesman for the Ministry of Wildlife and Sustainable Development said.

Addressing the Summit, President Sirisena pledged that, the Government of Sri Lanka fully supports the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda in pursuance of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) to be completed by 2030.

President Sirisena addressing the UN’s Sustainable Development Summit

“While emphasising the protection of natural resources, we will also formulate a State policy on resource consumption, based on the sustainable capacity of the environment.

We will strive to ensure that the relevant policy framework is implemented within an institutional structure, based on the principles of good governance adopted by my Government,” the President further stated.

Former Vice Chairman- UN Framework on Climate Change, Prof Mohan Munasinghe, says the SGDs will be a good framework to carry forward Sri Lanka’s development in a sustainable manner. It is also important to look at them collectively to achieve better results.

He calls the previous set of goals known as Millenium Development Goals (MDG) set up in 2000 for 15 years, and expiring this year, as an abbreviated version of the real requirement, and says the SDGs would provide a better platform.

In many aspects of the MDGs, Sri Lanka led in South Asia. This is especially true in the Health sector, where indicators on child and maternal mortality rates show Sri Lanka benefiting from a well-developed public Healthcare system in which, almost 100% of births are attended by properly trained health professionals.

Likewise, in the Education sector, almost all children of primary school age are in school and 98% of youths are literate. However, Sri Lanka has not done well in Environmental Sustainability.

Likewise, on SDGs, we could have a head start on some of them and achieve more. “However, Sri Lanka should also prioritise on achieving goals that are more relevant,” advises Prof Munasinghe who is also a UN expert on Sustainable Development.

Special attention should be focused on Poverty Alleviation (SDG 1), Food Security (SDG 2), Energy (SDG 7), Education (SDG 4), minimizing Income Disparity (SDG 10) and Urban Development (SDG 11) he recommends.

President Sirisena stated that Sri Lanka will also be fully committed to dealing with SDG 13 relating to Climatic Change. “Regarding Climate Change, Sri Lanka should be more focused on Climate Adaptation and Vulnerability Reductions of Impacts of Climate change,” Prof Munasinghe emphasised.

Former Chairman of Tourist Board, Renton de Alwis, an advocate of Sustainability, says, if the President is keen on achieving sustainability, he should make if the central policy where all other policies and implementations fall around it. Mr de Alwis opposes it being called ‘Sustainable Development’, and says it should called ‘Sustainable Economy’.

“Sri Lanka should avoid following the development paths of countries such as USA or China that consumed lots of resources. Instead, follow countries such as Switzerland and Sweden which followed sustainable economies” he stated.

“Big roads, cars aplenty, big airports that no airplane lands or large conference halls where conferences are not held, should not be our priorities,” he pointed out. “Meritocracy, to govern with people selected according to merit, is also key to sustainability,” he added.

The SDGs will be effective from 2016. But, if they are not genuinely pursued, they will become mere words on paper, like how many other ambitious projects ended up in the past.

As the world pushes towards the point of no return, with many important living systems on the verge of collapse, this could perhaps be one of the last major opportunities to get our act right. Perhaps, we should start with ourselves in achieving the SDGs, and set the example for others to follow.

Published on SundayTimes on 04.10.2015 http://www.sundaytimes.lk/151004/news/sri-lanka-to-set-up-secretariat-to-monitor-development-goals-166676.html

The goals1. End poverty in all its forms everywhere

2. End hunger, achieve food security, improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture

3. Ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all ages

4. Ensure inclusive, equitable and quality education, promote lifelong learning opportunities for all

5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

6. Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all

7. Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all

8. Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all

9. Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation

10. Reduce inequality within and among countries

11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

12. Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns

13. Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

14. Conserve and use the oceans and marine resources for sustainable development

15. Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss

16. Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all, and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels

17. Strengthen means of implementing revitalisation of global partnerships for sustainable development
As of August 2015, there were 169 proposed targets for these goals and 304 proposed indicators to show compliance