How ‘Green Economy impacts development must be studied’
World Environment Day, which falls today, is
being celebrated under the theme ‘Green Economy: does it include you?’.
The Daily News interviewed Environment Minister Anura Priyadarshana Yapa
on the initiatives taken for the ‘Greening of Sri Lanka’.
Some extracts from the interview:
Q: What are the events scheduled for the celebration of World
Environment Day this year?
A: We have already conducted essay, photographic and art
competitions for the World Environment Day for schoolchildren and the
public. A cycle parade was also held to spread awareness on environment.
In Bingiriya DSD, several environmental and social activities have been
organized by the affiliated institutions of the ministry such as tree
planting, river bank conservation in Deduru Oya, renovation of school
buildings, awarding of medals for students who involved in environmental
pioneer brigade programme, environmental workshop for teachers, solid
waste management, workshop for industrial sector on Environmental
Protection License and Environmental Impact Assessment etc.
Environment Minister Anura Priyadarshana Yapa
Q: The theme of this year’s World Environment Day focuses on
the Green Economy. How beneficial is this concept for Sri Lanka?
A: Green Economy is fairly a new concept introduced by the UN.
But still we are unaware how this concept would be put into practice.
Conceptually it is praiseworthy, but we have some uncertainties over its
impact upon Sri Lanka. We have sent local experts to participate in the
discussions taking place in the international platform on this concept.
We must study how it affects the development process and trade of the
country. We have doubts as to whether this caters to promote Western
We agree to the concept of the Green Economy, but at the same time we
are watchful whether it is used as a tactic to hinder the progress of
the developing nations. This topic should be broadly discussed in the
international arena. We expect that it would become a hot topic in the
Rio+20 Summit too.
European countries have invited the Asian countries for a discussion
on this topic. Senior officer of the ministry Dr W L Sumathipala who is
a well-known expert in the field is to take part in this conference.
Q: The ministry is presently attempting to promote green
transport. How will this be put into practice?
A: Promotion of green transportation is a necessity. The
environmental damage caused by the transport sector cannot be belittled.
The vehicle emissions contribute to air pollution to a greater extent.
As a start Sri Lanka has already commenced the Vehicle Emission Test
programme. Considering the conditions of our vehicle fleet, we have
imposed only the minimum standards. We would have had to remove of about
35 percent of our vehicle fleet, if we had introduced European standards
at once. However, we have to raise these standards gradually. I believe
that time is ripe to advance to the next level now.
At the same time, the government has also undertaken the task to
renovate the entire road network of the country. The vehicle fleet of
the country is reaching five million, and some observe that this is an
unbearable number for a small country like Sri Lanka. We are working
with all relevant stakeholders to bring this situation under control.
Sri Lankan road system does not have cycle lanes. Therefore it has
become problematic for us to promote the use of bicycles. We have to
modify our roads to include cycle lanes. In most of the countries, a
cycle lane is a necessity when constructing roads.
Moreover, walking should also be promoted, and for that space for
pedestrians should be properly allocated when constructing roads. We
hope to bring this fact into the attention of the Road Development
Q: What would be the contribution of Sri Lanka at Rio+20
A: Sri Lanka alone cannot make a radical change in this
summit. There is no specific category for island states with medium
income in Climate Change negotiations. We have voiced this problem at
several international forums. At the international arena we mostly stand
with the Non Aligned Movement and SAARC. We also work closely with G77
However we have clarified our position with regard to global warming.
That is developed nations whose emission levels are very high must
curtail their emissions before talking about developing countries like
Sri Lanka whose emission levels are negligibly low. At the same time,
they should provision free technology transfer to developing countries
to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by adopting green practices. Even
during this summit we are going to stress this need. Technology transfer
can either be facilitated through bilateral or multilateral means. A
Green Economy cannot be realized without advance technology. Therefore
we urge the world to approach this matter collectively.
We also say that the second commitment of the Kyoto protocol should
be pursued. The sea level rise directly threatens island states such as
Sri Lanka. We have not even measured this impact yet. We have not
identified what areas would go under water if the sea level rises by
another two metres. We have to find out its impact on our coastal areas
and be prepared to face this challenge.
I believe there will be a some kind of agreement at the Rio+20. Even
at the last Climate Change conference, they have basically agreed that
2015-2020 would be the time for all to come to some kind of arrangements
or agreements. Therefore, I think the approaching Rio+20 will be an