Once more on development
and developmentalists are in a never-ending struggle. While
environmentalists challenge most development, developmentalists
say environmental concerns would delay development. The truth is
that development should not be at the expense of environment.
The recent World Summit on environment highlighted the
dangers of climate change, particularly the ill effects of
global warming. The melting of polar ice threatens to lift ocean
temperatures and raise sea levels. Island nations are
particularly vulnerable. Some islands such as the Maldives may
be totally submerged. Even the British Isles and Sri Lanka may
face submergence of coastal areas in the next few decades.
Global warming has also affected the Himalayas or the Third
Pole as it is referred to by some. It threatens floods and
destruction of crops both from floods and dry weather.
It is now apparent that the development model followed by
countries has been the reason for many of these ills. The
over-exploitation of non-renewable sources of energy pose a
severe problem for life on earth. The desertification as a
result of deforestation and other human activities would make
water so scarce that it could be source of future wars between
Sri Lanka is on the threshold of a new development drive. As
stated earlier in this column the main impediment to the
country’s development, the war has ended. Hence, we have to take
into account the environmental concerns when chartering the new
path of development. Obviously the model followed hitherto by
many countries is now obsolete. It is replete with environmental
Clearly we have to go for renewable eco-friendly energy
sources for development. These include bio-energy, solar energy,
wind power and hydropower. Sri Lanka being a tropical island the
prospects for the use of solar energy are immense.
Sri Lanka is also rich in bio-diversity. We have to preserve
it. Bio-diversity is important for sustenance of life on earth.
There is also the question of environmental pollution.
Industrial pollution endangers the ozone layer, pollutes the
rivers and waterways endangering the life of humans as well as
We have also to re-think whether we should go for mega
projects involving large use of non-renewable fuels or whether
we have to opt for small and medium scale projects that could
use renewable eco-friendly energy.
The present generation should not exhaust all resources of
the earth. Hence, there is a need to ensure that exploitation of
non-renewable sources should not exceed their rates of
regeneration. Similarly rates of pollution emission should not
exceed the rate at which the environment could harmlessly absorb
them. We need not look outside for models of development. Our
ancient civilization provides us with a good example of
harmonious living with nature. Man’s most common and vital
necessities such as land, water, air, forests were held and
utilised in common, under the hydraulic civilization that
characterised early Sri Lanka.
Eastern culture, especially religions such as Jainism and
Buddhism advocated loving kindness to all, man and nature- flora
Productivity should be assessed with reference to
sustainability too. For example it is time to question the
productivity of gasoline driven cars. As one writer put it “it
would be hard to imagine any technology less efficient than a
large structure built of steel, rubber, and hundreds of other
materials, weighing 2,000 Pounds, to carry a single passenger
weighing 150 Pounds while burning enormous quantities of
gasoline to do so.” The danger of the automobile is not only
that. It contributes to fog, acid rain, noise pollution, lead
poisoning, ozone depletion etc.
The automobile is only one example. The dangers of the modern
development style should be analyzed and taken into account in
developing a new model of development for Sri Lanka.
It cannot be the Singapore model or the Chinese model for the
situations and circumstances are different. It should be a truly
native and independent model.