We Cannot Be The In Lists Of Worst Plastic Polluters – Says Minister


As a nation, Sri Lanka has a huge responsibility to counter against some international organisations which is out to tarnish the country’s image, claiming that Sri Lanka is the fifth country in the world to dump polythene and plastic into the ocean, said Environment Minister Mahinda Amaraweera.

Minister Amaraweera yesterday visited Uswetakiyawa on the invitation of Creative Artist Lalith Senanayake, who took part in a large project where he created a massive gentle giant, elephant out of the plastic waste that washed up at the beach. Lalith has always had a liking towards sculpting animals and birds, so he settled on an elephant for this sculpture.

Speaking at the occasion, Amaraweera said: “We must all systematically reduce the dumping of polythene and plastic into the ocean. The design is made using plastic and polythene that is washed ashore from the ocean. Studies have shown that even the annual fish harvest in our country is gradually declining due to plastics and polythene, which seriously affect marine pollution.”

He said some 24,000 plastic bottles are collected daily from the ocean at the Dikowita fishing harbour. “I discussed with the officials and even held a hearing. Not only that. Fishermen were even banned from carrying water in small plastic bottles when leaving multi-day fishing vessels for fishing.”

Each boat keeps a record of the plastic containers and polythene it carries as it sails out to sea. They must be brought back when they return. The dumping of plastic and polythene waste into the ocean was completely banned, he said.“This creation by Lalith Senanayake is appreciated. He was given this idea by his little daughter. To make our young children love the environment, adults must live by their example. But we should be really ashamed when we see the destruction that the older generation of our country is doing to our environment today”.

Minister also said that in 1980 our annual fish harvest was 300,000 tons. But by 2018, it had dropped to 53,000 tons. One of the main reasons for the decline in fish stocks is the increase in the amount of micro plastics added to ocean water year by year. He also said that of the 60 water samples tested in the southern ocean here, 70 percent were confirmed to be micro plastic. “This situation is not unique to the ocean common to the soil as well. The amount of micro plastics in the soils of our country is also high in some areas.”

“I see the expressions of the Lalith Senanayake in this creation as a tragedy on the earth. A large number of wild elephants in our country die every year due to eating polythene,” Minister said. The Secretary to the Ministry Dr. Anil Jasinghe was also present on the occasion. The Minister presented a Lion Award to Lalith Senanayake Senanayake  and his wife plan to use all they learned to start an initiative against plastic use next year. They hope they can encourage people to recycle or reduce their plastic consumption. The family is also on a journey towards zero-waste – to live a more sustainable and eco-conscious life. They began sorting through the waste to find which bits they could use and which were unusable.

He said that the sculpture took over three months to make, but due to the lockdowns that happened, they had time to give their complete attention to their piece. The two little ones too have had fun helping their parents spin their magic and bring life to this magnificent work of art, he said. They were very effective in using the pandemic for some healthy family bonding time, instead of focusing on the negative aspects.

They picked an elephant to sculpt because they thought it would appeal to kids; they wanted to educate kids on plastic waste and show them that by polluting, they are endangering these majestic animals. “I wanted to highlight the fact that we collected trash the size of an elephant, so they would understand the significance.” They displayed it at the beach in hopes that kids will look at the sculpture and think “that could be my plastic bottle”, so they would understand that they shouldn’t just be discarding their waste anywhere.