Environmental Challenges In Sri Lanka
Environment or an ecosystem is the natural surrounding where living (plants, animals, micro-organisms, and humans) and non-living (soil, water, air, and nutrients) components coexist.
A healthy ecosystem comprises all the chemical elements and nutrients circulating in a cycle while supporting millions of species. The countless number of species in ecosystems contribute towards the process of cycling elements by producing food, living their lives, and even paying through their deaths. In this process a variety of goods and services are produced that are beneficial for humans. As the natural environment plays an important role in the existence of human beings, animals, plants and other activities on earth, humanity’s entire life support system depends on the well-being of all the species living on earth. Besides food, ecosystems provide ‘provisioning services,’ for people to derive nearly all their material needs. The most important are: water, medicines, clothing, wood, biofuels, and fossil fuels.
Sri Lanka is an island which has been identified as one of the top biodiversity areas in the Asian region.
Sri Lanka’s natural forest resources are amongst the most floristically prosperous in Asia and it has the highest density of species diversity. However, recently anthropogenic threats to its forest and other natural resources (e.g., coastal, rivers, soil, fauna, flora, etc) have increased. Although Sri Lanka has a good record in environmental education in the Asian region still lacks the political will and commitment to protect its environment.
There are major environmental problems that are faced by Sri Lanka. Chief among them are:
- severe land degradation
- poor management of water resources
- impact of large scale deforestation
- loss of biodiversity
- coastal erosion,
- scarcity of water pollution,
- inadequate facilities for waste disposal
- loss of agricultural productivity
It is widely accepted that land degradation is one of the most critical problems affecting future economic development in Sri Lanka. The demands of a rapidly expanding population have brought pressure on the island’s natural resources, resulting in a high level of environmental degradation. The more important manifestations are heavy soil losses; high sediment yields; soil fertility decline and reduction in crop yields; marginalisation of agricultural land, landslides, and deforestation and forest degradation.
Sri Lanka’s Environmental law is a curious mixture of civil law and common law principals derived from Roman Dutch Law and English Law, statute law and juristic writings and judge made law. As a result there is a multiplicity of jurisdictions and institutions in the environmental area. The judiciary has shown an interest in the development of environment law. Laws provide the tools and framework for its management. The numerous tasks of management including policy making, enforcement, application of management techniques and tools.
The 1978 constitution of Sri Lanka contains several provisions relating to the environment. It states that it is the duty of the state to protect, preserve and improve the environment for the benefit of the community. Article 28(f) of the Constitution makes it “fundamental duty” of every person to protect the nature and conserve its reserves.
The key environmental law at the statutory level in Sri Lanka in the National Environmental Act No: 47 of 1980 as amended which has introduced both Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Environmental Protection License (EPL) procedures. Apart from this Act, there are many other statutes which deal with the specific areas of resources and development activities.
Although the above has been stipulated due to the tension between environmental protection and economic development in Sri Lanka, enforcement of environmental laws presents special challenges. Also the war was a distraction that also contributed to the neglect of the environment. Now the war has ended and it is time for the government and public to rethink and act progressively to protect the environment for future generation.
It is important to state that Environmentalists have sought to use the courts as instruments of change and this has resulted in a number of important judicial decisions on environmental law. The number of environmental matters being litigated before the courts of Sri Lanka has shown a sharp increase in recent years. The number of public interest cases on environmental law has also increased as both the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal have relaxed their rules on standing. Some cases have also recognised international concepts on sustainable developments, inter-generational equity and the doctrine of the public trust.
Sri Lanka has strengthen its environmental law to enable more effective action against growing industrial pollution. urban waste disposal, and illegal buildings. The government is now looking forward to amend the existing laws to enable the authorities’ better cope with expected enhance in the following areas.
The lack of effective environmental laws and weak policies together has compounded the situation. We need to take urgent action to protect the nation’s environmental resources for the sake of current and future generations. The lack of effective environmental laws and weak policies together has compounded the situation. We need to take urgent action to protect the nation’s environmental resources for the sake of current and future generations.
- Improve and develop new methods and techniques to recycle or salvage garbage. Initiate and support research activities on garbage recycling and management programs.
- Enhance existing soil conservation methods with more robust techniques and with greater public awareness.
- Enhance existing forest conservation legislation and develop management toward sustainable and participatory methods.
- Enhance Wildlife Department regulations and improve implementations of wildlife conservation initiatives with public support.
- Enhance freshwater resources legislation and strengthen and sustain public participation for water conservation.
- Permit and provide more autonomy to local government to make their own environmental conservation and management regulations based upon local issues with local involvement.
- Enhance the Coast Conservation Department Act to make the Department an exclusive authority on coastal conservation issues and increase public awareness on coastal resources.
- Implement healthy environmental legislation and provide more power to the Central Environmental Authority (CEA) for environmental conservation.
- Strengthen environmental legislation and initiate a degree program on environmental law.