Sunday, December 11, 2011

Durban Package serves Corporate interests

After two weeks of painful process “Durban package” was delivered by the COP 17 at 5 am in the 11th December 2011. Last 48 hours of the negotiations was non transparent similar to Copenhagen and Cancun climate negotiations. Many national delegations were not inside some negotiations which were happen in the green rooms. Many decisions have been rushed through in the last minute. Many negotiators were not in the room due to the extension of the COP 17 for an extra day. While many spectators and the civil society still believed the UN multilateral process, it was evident that multilaralisms is not functioning in the UN system.

The so called “Durban Package” has come to a number of controversial decisions around many of the major issues written in the Cancun Agreements, yet many of the elements have been postponed. Countries such as Russia was not sure what was just signed onto, as many of the final decisions involving relatively new texts were rushed through.

India played a major role in bringing equity and Common but differentiated responsibility in to the next commitment period of the Kyoto protocol but lost in the last minute. Final plenary discussions on both the Kyoto Protocol and Long Term Cooperative Action were noisy due to the disagreements on the disputed texts forwarded to the main COP plenary despite objections.

Despite the disagreements, parties were successful in agreeing to a 2nd commitment period to the Kyoto Protocol, which is rather weak and unambitious. Yet, it does not include major polluters such as US, Canada, Japan etc. It was decided that quantifiable emission reductions targets to be decided in May 2012, which will be “an agreed outcome with legal force”. Second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol shall begin on 1 January 2013 and end either on 31 December 2017 or 31 December 2020. However due to the lack of ambition in emission reduction targets the KP second commitment period, it will cover less than 15% of global emissions. According to the  CMP decision “the aggregate emissions of greenhouse gases by Parties included in Annex I are reduced by at least 25-40 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020, and a review to be concluded by 2015.

Many countries felt that unless ambition is increased, KP second commitment period could potentially lock the world onto a pathway of dangerous climate change to 3-3.5 degrees, as opposed to the 2 degrees currently aimed.

One of the serious problems under the KP second commitment period is with monitoring and reducing greenhouse gas emissions from Land Use and Land-Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF), which is a critical structure under the Kyoto Protocol. As it was discussed the LULUCF loopholes in forest management would allow developed countries to increase their emissions by up to 6 gigatonnes by 2020.

One of the most contentious issues in COP 17 is the establishment of the Green Climate Fund (GCF). The private window of the GCF was heavily criticized by the civil society and by Venezuela.  The Fund however was approved without funds as an empty shell. The World Bank will remain as the interim trustee, but and independent board will be formed by March 2012. However, Fund is suppose to produce safeguard, disclosure and accountability mechanisms. The Durban package invites Parties, to submit to the Board expressions of interest for hosting the Green Climate Fund by 15 April 2012. The independent nature of the GCF is therefore uncertain at this stage. Among other disappointment the programme on National Adaptation Plans decision has been postponed until COP18.  

The Durban Package hasn’t delivered much on the need for immediate action and ambitions to cut the GHG emissions in time. While developing country negotiators were struggling to keep the multilateral process, rich countries, had green room discussions to influence selected countries and groupings with bilateral financial packages.

Following the Copenhagen and Cancun processes,  once again the people been let down by the governments in Durban. US, EU and developed nations have won by allowing the polluters to profit from the climate crisis. As pointed out by Sarah Jayne Climate Coordinator of the Friends of the Earth International “It is clear in whose interests this deal has been advanced, and it isn’t the 99% of people around the world. The noise of corporate polluters has drowned out the voices of ordinary people in the ears of our leaders”.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Don't Kill Africa

Hundreds of climate activists form Friends of the Earth International, Greenpeace, and many other civil society movement protested inside the COP 17 venue in Durban for delaying actions and against killing Kyoto Protocol. They sung

Ku lezontaba
Stand strong, stand strong for Africa
Wen u ya baleka
Ku lezontaba
Stand strong, we support Africa..............

Environmental Minister from Maldives join the activists and demanded no kiling of Kyoto Protocol.

Thousands of people rally demanding climate justice

Over 10,000 people join the rally on the 3rd December 2011 for demanding climate justice for the people in the world. Centre for Environmental Jutice/ Friends of the Earth Sri Lanka join the rally together with Friends of the Earth International and others. Thousands of the protesters demanded to LISTEN TO THE PEOPLE NOT THE POLLUTERS. They demanded no corporate window in the proposed Global Climate Fund, No Carbon Markets, No REDD. 

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Coal in the hole; Oil in the Soil; Tar sand in the land- but Nuclear unclear-

Coal and oil are the main fossil fuels responsible for the most Green House Gas emissions. Rich nations burn most of these fuels and responsible for emitting CO2 in to the atmosphere. Oilwatch International demand keep “oil in the soil” and “coal in the hole” and “tar sand in the land”. This solution is simple. What are the alternatives? Earth receives enough solar energy and wind power if the world needs to harness them.

Yet most developed countries plan to build more and more nuclear power. South Africa Government planning to spend 1 trilling Rand for building nuclear power plants. India, Russia, Malaysia are some other countries to build nuclear power. Sri Lanka is also planning to follow the same path.

Germany is the only country to abandon all nuclear power stations. All remaining nuclear power stations should be closed by 2020. Will rest of the world follow Germany?

Greedy Corporate Fund or Green Climate Fund

Green Climate Fund was one of the hopes of the developing countries during the last two climate negotiations. It was agreed in COP 16 held in Cancun and had series of negotiations to shape it. However, two questions remain unresolved. Its interim Trustee the World Bank can become the permanent Trustees and there are no provisions to stop that. It also has created a private window which will benefit the greedy corporations. As civil society pointed out both corporations and the World Bank have no rights to engage in a green climate fund.

In most current examples Bankers, Fund managers, companies and the consultants are the beneficiaries of these public funds and not the poor communities or the developing country governments.

Several developed countries including UK are threatening to turn the Green Climate Fund into a Greedy Corporate Fund that would serve the interests of the corporate and financial sectors, instead of financing activities to save the planet and protect the poor in developing countries.

Let the Fund be green and not to serve the corporate greedy.

COP and COPs

A police constable guarding our hotel in the city of Durban in South Africa where COP 17 is happening told me that local people here wondering whether this is an event organised by them. As you know COP is an acronym for (Police) constables. He asked me what is happening inside the International Convention Centre (ICC) where the world governments are gathering to discuss the future of the climate on the Earth. He told me that local people don’t understand how to react to the climate problem and if they were told they could have done something that would help reduce climate change.

Sunday night downpour killed 13 people in the area of Durban. The same cyclone killed 11 people in Sri Lanka and reported many fishermen are missing. Sri Lankan authorities admitted that they failed to inform the people about the Cyclone on Sunday. This is the story across the world. More cyclones and droughts are common in the World.  According to the IPCC experts it is virtually certain that on a global scale hot days become even hotter and occur more often. For the high emissions scenario, it is likely that the frequency of hot days will increase by a factor of 10 in most regions of the world. Likewise, heavy precipitation will occur more often, and the wind speed of tropical cyclones will increase while their number will likely remain constant or decrease.

Pablo Solon, former chief negotiator of Bolivia said “In Cancun, the developed countries listed their greenhouse gas emission reduction pledges for the 2012-2020 periods. The United States and Canada said they would reduce emissions by 3% based on 1990 levels, the European Union between 20% and 30%, Japan 25%, and Russia from 15% to 25%. Adding up all the reduction pledges of the developed countries, the total reduction in emissions by 2020 would be 13-17%, based on 1990 levels. However, Kyoto targets expect to reduce GHG emission by 30% by 2020 and 80% by 2050. The current pledged are far behind this expectations and it will increase the temperature 5-8 degrees Celsius. Are we ready for this?

It is clear that United State want to kill Kyoto protocol. They are not signatory to it. Russia, Canada and Japan declare that they will never agree to a second commitment of period of the Kyoto Protocol. Will the Kyoto protocol die in Durban?

It is clear that the countries are not going to agree on the earth climate future in Durban. However, South African Government is trying hard to produce a “Durban mandate” as a result of the ongoing negotiations. The “mandate” is nothing else other than agreeing on the EU position. The EU publicly supports a second commitment period as it believes that a single legally-binding instrument would be the best while that it should be the last one before convergence between the Kyoto Protocol and Convention outcomes, and that in any case it should last no longer than 2020. So hopefully Kyoto will survive although it is in great danger in Durban.

Other than the Kyoto protocol is being the only legally binding treaty, it has provision to cover the  principle of “historical responsibility”  and the principle of “common but differentiated responsibility. It is in the opinion of many in the climate justice movement that the world is no longer going to have these principles in any future agreement. Saving Kyoto Protocol therefore is the responsibility of the developing countries.

Many African countries and small Island states are trying hard to save it. G77 and China is also trying its best to stop wrecking the Kyoto ship in Durban harbour. Yet, is not an easy task. Many smaller countries including Sri Lanka has no voice in the climate summits. Unfortunately as one of the most vulnerable island nation, we haven’t played our role in the climate negotiations.

Developing countries should be committed to direct the UNFCC negotiations in line with the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recommendations of greenhouse gas emissions reduction for developed countries (including the EU) of at least -25 to -40% based on 1990 levels by 2020, and -80 to -95% by 2050 to avoid an increase in global temperature of more than 2°C by 2100. However, division in African, Asian and other developing country groupings may decide the survival of the vulnerable communities due to climate change.

Duty of the COP (Constables) is to secure the people. Can COP 17 secure all of us living on the earth?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Arsenic in Rice

Is this the cause for Chronic Kidney Disease in Rajarata?

It is wrong to say that there is no Arsenic [As] in Rice. The studies shows inorganic arsenic and its related organic compounds are available in various items and sources in many countries. Prof. Meharg’s study suggests that rice from the US, France, Italy and Bangladesh has the highest levels of inorganic arsenic tested, with about 30 per cent of American long grain rice samples found to contain levels above the Chinese strict standards. He had suggested that rice from India and Egypt had the lowest levels; with basmati rice is the best type. While Indian, Pakistani, Nepalese, Chinese, Egyptian, Thai suppose to be safer, he suggest avoiding American, Italian, French and Bangladesh rice.

It is not a surprise to me when Prof. Nalin de Silva, Dr. Channa Jayasumana and other researchers found Arsenic in Sri Lankan Rice. They are not the first research team to find Arsenic in Sri Lankan rice. But the question is how the Minister of Agriculture, ITI and the other agencies assure that there is no Arsenic in Sri Lankan rice. Whatever, the controversy once again shows the inadequate and low standard testing facilities in Sri Lanka are a great danger to the health and environment.

The important question is what the primary source of arsenic in rice? One possible explanation could be natural sources. Other source is undoubtedly the industrial products such as pesticides, fungicides animal growth-promoters, preservatives in wooden timbers etc. Therefore, I do not wish to ignore the idea that pesticide is a possible source for Arsenic in rice. But one cannot conclude unless without adequate research assessing all possible causes.

Yet, is this the cause for Chronic Renal Disease unidentified etiology (CKDue)? Some researchers say “No”. Why the Kelaniya and Rajarata research team jump to the conclusion that Arsenic [As] in the pesticides when converted to Calcium Arsenate [Ca3(AsO4)2] with the hard water causes the Kidney disease. They say it is not only rice, but when they consume contaminated rice and hard water (with Calcium Carbonate [CaCO3]) it causes the problem. While the chemistry is correct, is this adequate to prove Arsenic is the reason for the Chronic Renal Failure? If Calcium Arsenate is the problem, why the patients don’t show similar symptoms to the Arsenic contamination in Bangladesh. Their skin shows brown patches and skin cracks but this is not the case in Sri Lanka.

However, as a result Sri Lanka Customs become proactive and already found nine pesticides with Arsenic. Sri Lanka does not allow importation of Arsenic pesticides since 2001. Unfortunately we have learned that Registrar of Pesticides is going to make new specification with a permissible Arsenic level and release the pesticide containers. I will not surprise if this happens. The corporations are very powerful. Whether Arsenic is the missing link to Renal deceases in North Central province or not, importation of pesticides with Arsenic is a wrong act. All citizens have the duty to fight against this.

Let Us live- Don’t Poison us

This is the campaign we launched in July 2011. It is not a new theme. We have been fighting against the Agrochemicals for over 3 decades. We are much aware of the 12 POPs which include 6 pesticides. However, all pesticides, weedicides and fungicides are harmful to the human, other living being and to the ecosystems.

Immediate reason for revamping the Pesticide campaign is the recent controversy on Arsenic in Pesticides. Some researchers from the Universities of Kelaniya and Rajarata claims that they found Arsenic in Pesticides and they believe that is the reason for the unidentified kidney disease in the North Central Province of Sri Lanka. This disease has killed more than 20,000 people already and another 20000 people are suffering from the disease at the moment.

However other researchers say the reason is not the Arsenic in Pesticides but Cadmium in Fertilizer. Others claim it is high Fluoride levels in water. Some others say it is due to the Cyanotoxin which is a result of Cyano-algae found in some reservoirs.

“We do not wish to limit the campaign against pesticide just because it has Arsenic. Pesticide includes Mercury, Cadmium and other heavy metals as well. However the active ingredient itself is highly poisonous” says Hemantha Withanage, Executive Director of the Centre for Environmental Justice/ Friends of the Earth Sri Lanka.

The open Forum held on the 7th July 2011 was organized by the Centre for Environmental Justice, Vikalpanie, Sri Lanka Soba Samuhikaya, MONLAR, New Era, Swarnahansa Padanama, Buddhist Actions on the Nature and number of other organizations. Over 200 farmers, CSO members , environmentalists, Academics and many other professionals joined the event.

We Demand
• complete ban of all harmful agrochemicals
• support organic farming
• ensure right to live and right to health for the people in Rajarata and nearby areas
• bring strict regulations to control all agrochemicals
• stop distribution of low quality fertilizer and
• ensure food and water safety.

Friday, June 10, 2011

CEJ celebrated World Environment Day 2011

Centre for Environmental Justice/ Friends of the Earth Sri Lanka celebrated World Environment Day 2011 in Dehiattakandiya a remote town near Ampara in the Eastern Province. The Event was co -organised by Dehiattakandiya Divisional Secretariat and the social service organisations in the area.

Over 5000 visitors from the different locations in the Eastern Province visited the environment day exhibition held on the 6th june 2011. Center for Environmental justice (CEJ/Friends of Earth (FOE) Sri Lanka and the Dehiattakandiya Division Secretariat have organized an essay completion, art competition and a debate on the themes related to forest protection observing the world environment day. More than 30stalls in the Environment Day exhibition at the Mahaweli ground in Dehiatakandia near Mahiyanganaya exhibited the traditional farming equipments, local seeds, paddy varieties and more.

The UNEP theme for the World Environment Day in 2011 is “Forests: Nature at your service” in complementary to the UN year of Forest which is celebrating in this year. Forest is the home for millions of species. It cleans air and conserves water. It provides food, seeds, timber and many other natural and human needs.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Uma Oya EIA decision- A lost opportunity

Hemantha Withanage
1st May, 2011

I heard that the Uma Oya project has been approved by the authorities on 12th April 2011. The project is a river diversion. It is controversial more than the Upper Kotmale. Yet there is no debate similar to Upper Kothmale.

There is no doubt that the Environmental Impacts Assessment (EIA) law is not the holy Bible, but a tool for development. If one does a correct EIA, developer can reduce the costs, negative impacts while maximize social and economical benefits. Unfortunately in Sri Lanka, the EIA has been looked as a legal tool only. It has been used to stop the project but not to improve them except in very few cases. This is a serious drawback of the current EIA process. This has lead the political leaders and the bureaucrats undermine the EIA and see it as a negative development tool. Thus, many development projects in Sri Lanka do not follow the EIA process anymore. But the EIA for the Uma Oya Hydropower project was published in Ceylon Daily News of 27th December 2010, seeking public comments.

Uma Oya is a river flows down from the central hills to join the Mahaweli River. It passes through Welimada in the Uva province providing water to large extent of rice fields and other agricultural lands. Under the Uma Oya Hydropower project water will be diverted to Kirindi Oya basin which will take water to Hambantota through a more than 19 km long underground tunnel across mountains in Bandarawela by creating a dam at Puhulpola (in Welimada) and a reservoir in Diaraba. The project cost of headwork is USD 529,059,197 which is equivalent to SLR 60,841,807,770. In brief, 85% of the project cost is provided by a loan from Export Development Bank of Iran and the rest 15% is supplied by the Government of Sri Lanka.

According to the EIA, the objective of the project is to divert water to Hambantota development. The EIA states that, “……..Under this initiative, an International Airport, a Harbour and an Oil Refinery have been taken up for development. These mega projects and the urban and industrial development activities that are expected to take place as a result would need considerable quantities of water in addition to the irrigation and domestic water demands of the region. This project initiative is focused on these requirements”.

But when analyzed the predicted benefits of the project, increased yield of water is only 2% and cultivation of other crops in new areas is 11% of the total benefits of the project. 84% of the benefits are from energy generation. But that aspect has not well covered by the EIA. If energy has recognized as main benefit, this may achieve without trans-basin diversion and many other structures of the project which would result major negative environmental and social impacts in the Uma Oya basin.

Cost benefit analysis

An environmental cost-benefit analysis of a proposed project is essential for decision-makers to determine whether the potential benefits of a proposed project outweigh the project’s environmental costs. An environmental cost-benefit analysis is even more essential for a project of this nature, where the Government of Sri Lanka is planning to borrow several hundred million dollars from a foreign government, and will be obliged to repay the loan even if the project’s benefits do not outweigh the project’s environment costs.

A poor decision will bind the Government of Sri Lanka, and its taxpayers and citizens, to repayment a loan for a project that is also damaging to the environment.

Unfortunately, the environmental cost-benefit analysis presented in the EIA is too deeply flawed to serve as a basis for decision-makers in Sri Lanka to make this determination.

Chapter 6 of the EIA presents a cost-benefit analysis of the proposed Uma Oya Multipurpose Development Project in which the benefits of the project are presented in the following headings and in the following amounts:

As is readily apparent, the benefit of energy generation is alleged predominant benefit of the project, amounting to more than 84% of the project’s total alleged benefits of $221 million per year.

However, the EIA grossly overstates the value of the project’s energy yield. In arriving at a value of nearly $187 million per year, the EIA determined the “cost saved in construction and operation of the cheapest alternative facility that could provide power supply of equivalent quality and quantity to the intended beneficiaries” (Page 284).

Environmental costs

Unfortunately the EIA states that “Certain costs and benefits have not been included in the analysis due to unavailability of methodologies and lack of data.” This includes Impacts on flora and fauna, geological impacts, soil erosion, noise pollution, etc, during the construction stage, River pollution and its long term cumulative impacts on aquatic flora, fauna and humans, clearing of forest areas and damages to ecosystems and functions performed by such ecosystems, including fragmentation, impacts on humans forced into involuntary resettlement, Impacts on wildlife, including endangered elephants and other rare/endemic species, Impacts on aquatic fauna, including anadromous and migratory fish species, Impacts on sites of historical, cultural and religious significance. It is highly erroneous to say that these methodologies ate not available. By not including values for these impacts of the proposed project, the EIA does not contain a true environmental cost-benefit analysis of the proposed project.

If the costs of any of these impacts, either individually or separately, are significant, then the project could be a financial as well as an environmental tragedy. For example, if the project were to lead to the extinction of Sri Lanka’s remaining elephant population, would the production of an additional 231 GW-hr of electricity offset the cost of this tragic result?

Therefore, we consider that the environmental costs of the above are very significant aspects which are totally missed in this proposed EIA and therefore developing an Environmental Impact Assessment fades away.


The proposed EIA repeatedly stated the serious impacts to the biodiversity specially the fauna. The project would cause substantial impacts to aquatic life, especially through fragmentation of habitat. The EIA, then, recognize the risk of extinction for migratory species. Among the migratory species who live in the area there are Garra ceylonensis and Garra ceylonensis phillipsi. Both endemic species can run to extinction due to the project . But the impact of the fragmentation of habitats will affect all the species and also the other indigenous species of the area Puntius bimaculatus.

In Section 5.4.7 of Management Actions to Mitigate Impact on Aquatic Inhabitants, it states that “However, these species are available in the other undisturbed tributaries of the country. Therefore, no mitigation is recommended as the fish ladders are very expensive and therefore not practical for this project”.

The EIA categorizes the impact of the project on fauna by stating: “Moderate impact on the animals living associated with Victoria-Randenigala-Rantambe Sanctuary is anticipated. This is due to the diversion of Uma Oya water away from it normal path where this Sanctuary is located. Animals living there can face water scarcity problems especially elephants that are ranging downstream areas of Uma Oya. Similarly other activities that take away wildlife habitats located close proximity to any form of reserve will have an impact on species that are having larger home ranges covering outside areas.”

Especially, the EIA recognize an impact on reaming bears. Sri Lankan Sloth Bear is a subspecies of the Sloth Bear who live in Sri Lanka and who is considered Critically Endangered and its population is considered in decrease by the IUCN. However the EIA states: “Last reaming Bear habitats close proximity to Bogahapttiya area and Slender Loris habitats are also affected.”

The EIA also recognize a strong impact on elephants. Of course there is a current debate whether Sri Lanka has too many elephants that cannot be sustained. The EIA of the Uma Oya project clearly states: “The Uma Oya development project has significant impact on elephants” and “Nearly more than 1500 elephants inhabit the area and majority will be affected covering Hambantota and Moneragala Districts.” According to the recent statistics, this is nearly half of the total elephant population of the country.

Chapter 5.4.4 of the EIA report described the proposed mitigatory measures to minimize human elephant conflict such as extension of Lunugamwehera NP, Yala Block IV, and Manage Elephant Range etc. In the monitoring plan none of the measures have defined for monitoring. Recent incidents clearly revel that relevant authorities fail to translocate the displaced elephants, therefore the mentioned mitigatory measures could not be predicted.


The EIA states the necessity of permanently relocating a total amount of 202 households. Moreover the agricultural lands of 197 families will be acquired for the project and the livelihood of those families will be disrupted. Although in Chapter 5.1.4 states that “Agricultural land holders who lost their lands will be entitled to receive lands in downstream area”, the locations and the distance from households have not mentioned.

Also it states that, around 38% of affected people are farmers, specially vegetable and potatoes which cannot be continued in the proposed resettle areas and they have to shift to a totally different employment of tea. Although 1 acre of land is provided, “it is doubtful” whether they would be able to adapt to the new life.

However, above findings show that the recommendations given in the EIA are not based on the true cost and benefits. It shows that energy benefits have overstated and the environmental cost has underestimated. The recommendations also not based on the adequately considered alternatives and the environmental impacts. I believe the government of Sri Lanka has lost the opportunity to benefit from the EIA process in the case of Uma Oya Diversion.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Longest toilet Queue

Just two days before the fourth South Asian Conference on Sanitation in Sri Lanka (SACOSAN IV, 4-7 April 2011) a coalition of leading civil society groups and international organizations from across South Asia came together to urge their governments to take real steps in addressing life-changing sanitation and hygiene issues. Symbolizing the lack of toilets the representatives joined the longest toilet queue. Centre for Environmental Justice/ Friends of the Earth Sri Lanka was the local host for the event.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

How to achieve better sanitation in Sri Lanka?

2.6 billion People worldwide still do not have access to proper toilet facilities. 1.2 billion People continue open defecation. About 737 million people in the South Asia region still practice open defecation. In Sri Lanka approximately 200,000 people still practice open defecation. In Sri Lanka hundreds of schools do not have proper and adequate toilets including the western province. It was reported that 17 schools in the North Central province doesn’t have a single toilet. Girl students and female teachers especially suffer from this situation. In most cities, public places such as railway stations, bus stands, long distant bus stops have very dirty toilets. Many toilets build in the dry zone are not in operation due to lack of water. They have converted the toilets into an animal shelter. Most plantation workers and families share only one or two toilets for many lines houses. More shockingly, number of tsunami settlements has over flowing toilet pits due to the bad design. Many public toilets release excreta into the lagoons, canal and rivers. These are just few issues highlighted during the preparation of the public perspectives study conducted by the Centre for Environmental Justice in the last few months. The United Nations (UN) Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) aims at achieving a 50% reduction in the number of people without “proper sanitation by 2015”. Further, the year 2008 was declared the ‘International Year of Sanitation’ by the UN General Assembly in 2006 because progress by governments to achieve the MDG goals was so slow. South Asian Conference on Sanitation is an initiative to mobilize achieving MDGs and monitoring its progress. The Fourth South Asia Conference on Sanitation (SACOSAN) IV will be held in 4-7th April 2011. The previous SACOSAN conferences we held in Islamabad, Dhaka and Delhi in 2003, 2006 and 2008 respectively. Third SACOSAN produced the Delhi Declaration and the Road Map to achieve its targets. One of the main objectives of the Road Map was to enable countries to identify gaps and issues, and record the lessons learnt from past experiences. The ROAD MAP identified five factors that each country needs to plan and fulfill to achieve the MDG targets for sanitation by 2015. These are (i) country commitment, (ii) enabling policies, (iii) effective and accountable institutions, (iv) financing and (v) monitoring and sustaining change”. It is expected that participating countries will prepare and share information and knowledge based on these during SACOSAN IV and work towards strategies for the future. Civil Society also plays key role in achieving sanitation target. According to the survey conducted by CEJ approximately 58% of the toilets have been directly provided by the CSOs in Sri Lanka. They engage in onsite sanitations in the rural and Estate sector. They promote eco sanitation and school sanitation too. CSOs play a major role in organizing SACOSAN IV. In planning for this event WaterAid, Freshwater Action Network South Asia (FANSA) and Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) has embarked upon a programme to carry out research in South Asian countries through partner CSOs and synthesize the results to develop a “Peoples’ Perspective” for the region. The research aims at collecting information at the grass roots on people’s ideas and views on how to achieve better sanitation, the success and/or failure of sanitation projects, who will be involved in it and what is the course of action for implementation. It is in the light of this background that the Sri Lanka report has been prepared. As a result of the survey conducted by the Centre for Environmental Justice it was found many obstacles for achieving sanitation targets in Sri Lanka. The following are the recommendations made based on the same. Carryout awareness and education programmes on sanitation and hygiene: Awareness and education programmes on sanitation needs to be carried out along with the implementation of sanitation projects for (i) schools, (ii) estate communities, (iii) household affected by Tsunami and (iv) other beneficiaries of such projects. These programmes should cover a number of aspects including the following: • The correct use of a toilet • The manner and methods of disposing of sanitary towels • The cultivation of good toilet habits • Health infections that can be caused by the use of unclean toilets • Health problems that can arise due to non-urination and/or defecation for long periods • The proper maintenance and cleaning of toilets • Diseases that can be caught and spread through OD, unhygienic sanitation conditions and lack of personal cleanliness Awareness creation of the general public is also essential in relation to; • The responsibility and ethics of using public toilets • Health problems caused by the use of unclean toilets • Health problems arising from non-urination and/or defecation when required • Smoking and other undesirable practices such as graphity in public toilets Sanitation projects must be well planned and designed: To achieve greater success sanitation projects must be well planned and designed taking a number of aspects into account - such as soil and environmental conditions, availability of water and appropriate technology - prior to implementation. Ensure supervision and monitoring: Supervision and monitoring throughout the project cycle is an absolute requirement. Post project support and maintenance in terms of services, advise and funds particularly for the poor is also desirable. Obtain community participation from the beginning: Obtaining community participation from the beginning to end of a project is an absolute necessity. Further, involving the community in construction and maintenance of sanitation projects is important. Urgent attention to be given to the Estate sector: Special and urgent attention must be given to the sanitation and water requirements of the communities in the Estate sector both in terms of funding and education. The government and Estate companies should take the main responsibility in this effort. Fresh evaluation of Tsunami areas required: Re-visiting the Tsunami areas and carrying out an appraisal of the status of existing sanitation projects, and embarking on a course of action to address the problems is essential. In fact, periodic reassessment is recommended. This is particularly so as the objective of sanitation projects soon after the Tsunami were to cater to the immediate situation and not the long term sustainability of it. Drawing up and implementing a comprehensive plan for Schools: A comprehensive plan of action is required for improving the sanitation facilities and conditions in schools which either don’t have facilities or have problems with existing ones. As a practice separate toilets must be maintained for males and females in relation to both students and teachers. The government should take a lead role with the support of parents, teachers, student and past pupils. CSOs can also play a vital role as was the case in the Southern Province where all school toilets in the sample were built by them. Make an assessment and action plan for areas which have no sanitation facilities: An assessment should be made of areas which don’t have sanitation facilities at all and those which have very poor facilities. Draw-up a plan of action and fund raising strategy to provide sanitation facilities in these areas based on the assessment. Establish transparency and accountability mechanisms for funds: Creating mechanisms for transparency and accountability in the channeling and utilization of funds for sanitation projects is required for good governance and successful projects. Nationally, it could be seen as a pre-requisite for achieving good sanitation in the country. It will lead to minimizing political interference and the wrongful use of funds by the various stakeholders and actors. Make water supply mandatory for sanitation projects: Sanitation projects must be built together with water supply projects for it to be successful. Experience shows that implementing sanitation projects without planning for the supply of water sets the stage for failure. Local Authority and Provincial Council officers and the public must supervise public toilets: In relation to public toilets built by Local Authorities and Provincial Councils both public participation and continued supervision by officers of these agencies vis-à-vis the functioning and maintenance of the system (including the supply of water and electricity) must be ensured. It is noted that the absence of this results in a host of problems including the wastage of funds. Provide individual water taps in public toilets: Providing separate water taps for each toilet will help to keep the public toilets clean. Usually people do not like to use common water tanks and buckets for washing. Placing clean disposal bins in female toilets with instructions for the disposal of sanitary towels is essential. Bins should be operable by foot as women hesitate to open the lids of bins particularly when they are unclean. This results in sanitary towels being thrown on the ground or dumped into flush toilets. Often flush toilets get blocked due to this. Government and CSOs should play a key role in the implementation of projects: It was evident in the study that the CSO’s played a major role in the provision of sanitation and water projects in all provinces. CSOs have been able to operate quite well at the ground level. Hence, it is important for the government to support and engage CSOs in this effort. The government should play a greater role in improving sanitation in the government schools. More attention can also be given to joint ventures with CSOs. Local Authorities and Provincial Councils must introduce solid waste management programmes: The Local Authorities and Provincial Councils with the assistance of CSOs must introduce solid waste management programmes in their respective areas. Solid waste can be turned into a source of income generation. People must be encouraged to separate waste at source. Separated organic waste can be composted while the paper, polythene and glass can be sold for recycling. Carryout awareness and education programmes on solid waste disposal and management: There is an urgent need to conduct awareness and education programmes (with special attention to housewives) in all locations on a number of common issues such as the following: • Composition of solid waste • Environmentally sound methods of solid waste disposal • Health impacts related to various practices of solid waste disposal • The need for waste separation • Composting, re-use and recycling • Establishment of community waste management methods • Working towards zero waste management Sanitation is not just a government business. All the citizens and every agency should pay a vital role in achieving sanitation targets. As a middle income country Sri Lanka cannot continue open defecation and maintain dirty school and public toilets. We hope SACOSA IV will open the eyes of all to achieve sanitation targets early.

Friday, January 21, 2011

A Red sandalwood tree to become a monk

Red sandalwood tree in the Badulla town ( about 134 km from Colombo city) in the Uva province is more than 400 years old. According to some people this is oldest red sandalwood tree in Asia. This has auctioned by the government authorities for 30 million Rupees. People and the Buddhist monks in the area, ordinate the tree( make a monk) on January 2011 to protect it. The tree now will be treated as a Buddhist monk.

This is the second time in the Sri Lankan history that a tree was converted to a monk. It was first done in a village called Nawalakanda along Matugama Rathnapura Road to protect a “Bulu” (Terminalia bellirica) tree from cutting down for “Kukulu Ganga” Development Project.

Road construction in the Badulla town has cut down many trees already. It is the usual practice of the Road Development Authority (RDA) to cut down trees for road development.

Red sandalwood is famous in Indian cosmetic industry and for religious purposes.