‘Climate Change’ – a Sri Lankan Perspective.
The Summary of discussion at the forum held on the 21st of July 2007, at the British Council on ‘How importantly should Global Warming figure in development agendas of developing countries’ with a focus on Sri Lanka.
The event started off with an introduction to the event from Gill Westaway, Director of the British Council Sri Lanka. Gill mentioned about British Council’s ongoing effort to raise awareness among the public about the risks posed by climate change. She mentioned that although Sri Lanka as a country has many issues on to be dealt with, the country is not exempt from the issue of climate change and she emphasized the need for action, stemming especially from young people.
The introduction was followed by a presentation on Youth Yatra, the project from which the event stemmed from.
Yatra was an EU funded project for young people managed by the British Council along with partners in Finland (Finnish Youth Cooperation Allianssi), India (Swechha We for Change Foundation), Sri Lanka (Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement) and the UK (UnLtd). This project brings together 24 young changemakers from Finland, India, Sri Lanka and United Kingdom to go through a practical, professional, personal, reflective and active journey on issues of sustainable development. Three Members from Beyond Borders – two from BB Sri Lanka and one from BB India – participated for the project.
The presentation focused on the learning from a personal point of view from each of the Yatra participants from Sri Lanka. The presentation was delivered by Poornima Weerasekara.
Climate Change in Sri Lanka.
Professor Ajith De Alwis (Head -Department of Chemical & Process Eng., University of Moratuwa) spoke on the risks posed by climate change on Sri Lanka. Following is a summary of the points he raised:
- Young people and people in general can’t be ignorant of issues, and that the 21st century demands us to be more informed of the changes that are taking place.
- According to some experts, Jaffna, and other places is in the north and eastern provinces, and Matra in the southern provinces is in danger of being underwater due to sea level rise caused by global warming.
- The ‘piece of land’ which is at the focal point of the current armed conflict in Sri Lanka may not be there, in a few years time if the predictions are true.
- Loss of solid productivity is one of the main environmental problems in Sri Lanka and the problem of soil erosion, will be further aggravated by climate change. This will have far reaching implications for agriculture sector, among others.
- Climate change will also increase the risks of malaria, and chikungunya outbreaks.
- Sri Lanka hasn’t played a significant role in creating the problem, and similarly what we can do to mitigate the problem is also small.
- Despite this, we stand to suffer from it, especially adding on to problems we already have of poverty and conflict. Imposing climate change issues on top of this will have disastrous consequences.
- There are policy issues that need sorting out, for example the CEB (Central Electricity Board) incurs a loss of Rs.50 Million daily – enough to build a rural hospital a day.
- Sri Lanka suffers from power inefficiency.
- Despite this, most important thing is not to be appalled by the problem, but instead understand if fully and solving it bit by bit.
- Time magazine chose the century’s greatest people. No.1 was chosen as Albert Einstein, next was Mahatma Gandhi. Both science and values are important, and with the correct balance of the two, you can change the world.
- You have to practice what you preach, walk the talk, and like Gandhi said – you must be the change you want to see.
End of part 1. The next part would focus on the actual open forum discussion. If you have anything to add on the issue, please use the comments section below.