Government Taking Measures Long Overdue Praiseworthy!
The Cabinet of Ministers recently granted approval to a proposal submitted by the Minister of Environment to ban single-use plastic and polythene with effect from 1 January next year.
This move includes prohibiting sachets made of polythene and plastic less 20ml/20g, various inflatable toys made of plastic excluding balloons, balls and floating toys and plastic cotton buds excluding hygiene products, while identifying the use of packages of 100ml/100g or more, plastic toys made of eco-friendly and hygienic raw materials and cotton buds made of biodegradable materials, as alternatives. As part of this move, mandating to indicate the 1-7 codes, internationally recommended to promote the recycling of all plastic products, will also come into effect in the future.
In addition, the Government recently took another commendable step as far as environmental protection is concerned. The Ministry of Environment took a decision to introduce a special container, to be kept in every school, to dispose of empty pens and toothbrushes. These special containers would have a capacity to hold 2,000 pens and 500 toothbrushes. This decision was taken by the Ministry, taking into account the fact that empty carbon pens being dumped into the environment by the school system per year exceeds 29,000 kilogrammes, and with the objective of encouraging children to build an eco-friendly environment in schools.
The Minister of Environment, announcing this move in Parliament, said that a Cabinet Paper will be submitted to make it mandatory for all public and private sector institutions to implement this programme. According to the Minister of Environment, the average daily disposal of empty carbon pens in the school system alone is about 80 kilogrammes. However, no census has been conducted to gauge the amount of Carbon Dioxide emitted daily by public and private institutions and other sectors.
In addition to the aforementioned moves, the present Government recently announced in Parliament another plan aimed at saving the senvironment, i.e., increasing Sri Lanka’s forest cover to 35 per cent, from its present 29 per cent. This project will involve reforesting 65,400 hectares of land to counter the increasing deforestation in Sri Lanka.
According to environmentalists, usually it takes 100 to 500 years for pens and toothbrushes to decompose. Plastic bags, despite being one of the simplest plastic-based products, take around 20 years to decompose. A small country like Sri Lanka needs to take immediate action as losing the natural resources we have can result in severe consequences as far as the future of Sri Lankans is concerned. One can survive without many resources that we depend on a daily basis but, without clean water and food, which are directly affected by environmental destruction, it would not be possible.
Sri Lanka was and is a country that takes pride in its natural resources and biodiversity, and it has always been an inseparable part of Sri Lankans’ lives and culture. Sri Lanka is home to several world famous natural resources such as the Sinharaja Forest Reserve. As a matter of fact, when it comes to tourism, one of Sri Lanka’s main sources of income, Sri Lanka being home to a large number of rare, endemic plants and animals is one of the main reasons why tourists prefer Sri Lanka over other Asian countries.
However, the issue of rapidly increasing deforestation, which has been acknowledged by almost all Governments that came to power in the recent past, is a national issue that affects every citizen alike, in the long run. Even though the past Governments have taken many an action to reduce environmental destruction, their attempts’ success was very limited, due to many reasons. If this Government learns from the mistakes made by past Governments, and implements the aforementioned projects properly, these few projects can make a tangible, long-term difference.