Widespread pollution and the Ministry of Environment

Tuesday, 28 May 2019 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Before plastic was introduced humans and all living beings had the same or better quality of life – Pic by Shehan Gunasekara 


Pollution is a global topic spoken at numerous forums. Sri Lanka too talks of pollution.We are yet to walk the talk. Major causes of pollution are air, plastic, sound.

Airpollution is a result by carbon monoxide/dioxide, sulphur, nitrogen just to name a few that are released to the atmosphere by industry, vehicles, fire, etc.which affects the ozone layer causing global warming paving way to numerous problems for all living beings, plants, and water. 

There is acid rain in this country. Low intelligence legislators/educated officials do not observe this but the street vendors know about acid rain. They cover their fruits/vegetables when it rains to prevent their products being victims of acid rain. Smog can be observed in the sky in most parts of the country during the day. In the evening at dusk clouds of exhaust smoke emitted by vehicles can be seen by the naked eyeon main roads reflected by head lamp beam. Our legislators rushing by with their red/blue flashing lights fail to see this phenomenon as their level of education in not sufficient to detect air pollution.

Blue sky is not seen on most days during day time. Have our legislators observed, mornings after rain in the night? Aclear blue sky can be seen since the air pollution has been washed down by rain. In main cities in India buses, trucks, three wheelers, motor cycles are made to switch off engines when stopped at colour lights. Timers were installed at colour lights for this purpose. New hybrid vehicles switch off engine when stopped and switch on when accelerator is pressed. Sri Lanka Police at traffic lights who are not busy 95% of the time can be made to instruct drivers of non-air conditioned buses, trucks, three-wheelers, and motorcycles to switch off engine when stopped at traffic lights. This will save fuel as well as exhaust fumes of idle engine polluting air.

Air quality has improved to a certain extent after Vehicle Emission Test Certificate was made compulsory.Yet vehicles are seen on the road emitting belching smoke from exhaust mostly by buses, trucks, vehicles owned by the state, including Police and Tri Forces. KelaniTissa Power Station adjacent to New Kelani Bridge is a big polluter of environment emitting black smoke. 

CEB is full of qualified engineers. They can come up with a solution to filter the exhaust. Some time ago a smokeless train was a train with a diesel engine. Now there are no smokeless trains in Sri Lanka. Most of the diesel engines of trains are badly maintained. Very seldom does one see a smokeless diesel engine. Minister of Transport and GM Railways please observe this. Assume your eyes still can see smoke, if interested in a cleaner environment for your grandchildren.

Education vs. Intelligence

Plastic has taken second place as polluter. Plastic is human friendly. Disposal of plastic by humans is the issue. Plastic is now polluting land/rivers/lakes/sea, the cause to which are humans that use plastic. Humans that use plastic do not dispose plastic in an environment friendly manner, thereby causing major disaster to humans and sea creatures. Plastics are used in places that it is not essential to use plastic. Before plastic was introduced humans and all living beings had the same or better quality of life.

Bangladesh which has overtaken Sri Lanka economically has banned polythene. Nepal too has done so. Although a polyphone ban is in effect in this country‘who cares’? Before polythene was introduced the public enjoyed the bath packet wrapped in banana/lotus leaf. International food chains do not use plastic food wraps or styrofoam containers. Theirtakeaway or delivery is in paper containers. Even their lunch/dinner with rice comes in paper container. Use of plastic wrapped lunch/dinner packet should be completely banned. 

Our legislators introduced a thicker GSM instead of the previous thin plastic wrap and shopping bag. This has created a bigger pollution issue than previous wrap as thicker plastic takes a longer time to deteriorate than thinner plastic. Decisions by legislators are always destructive, not progressive. Who came up with this idiotic idea that a thicker plastic will reduce pollution? Again Education vs. Intelligence is the culprit. Use of plastic was restricted by supermarket chains as they were interested in controlling pollution by plastic bags. A less intelligent judgment was given by a person who was considered intelligent against the decision of supermarket chains. Supermarket chains have now introduced recyclable bags showing the country that their management is more intelligent than the person who lifted the ban. Before plastic shopping bags came it to fashion. Groceries were wrapped in paper cones tied with jute string, or paper bags from recycled cement bagsor paper bags made with 80-200 GSM paper. Shoppers carried their own recyclable bag from home.

PET water bottles have become a fashion. PET water bottles are placed in front of each delegate at meetings of Government as well as meetings chaired by the President of Sri Lanka. President as Minister of Environment should ban the purchase of water in PET bottles by Government departments. In most countries, coffee, tea, is available FoC for self service by those who require before/during/after meetings. Water is available through water dispensers. All meeting rooms of this country including office of the President should have water dispensers. 

Many organisations of this country provide water dispensers with hot/cold facility and water in bulk supplied. Service is very good, much cheaper than PET bottles which will reduce cost and solve the problem of disposal of small PET bottles. What is required in offices is recyclable/washable glass ware or disposable paper cups. The manufacture/sale of water in PET bottles less than 5 litres should be banned. Many years ago we carried water in recyclable utensils. We went to school or on excursions with our water/drink hanging on our shoulder which was brought back home. 

Another big issue is plastic, yoghurt, ice cream, yoghurt drink, fruit drink, butter, toothpaste and other items that are available for retail in plastic containers. Disposal of these plastic containers is a big issue. Disposable/degradable alternatives are available. Globe Butter from England had a paper wrap. If the so-called Ministry of Environment is interested in environment conservation, all these items in plastic containers should be banned by 31 December 2019 to have a cleaner future for this country. In the past, before plastic became a fashion, ice cream came in paper cups. The Government should ban the retail of fruit drinks, and other products in plastic. Replace them with paper or glass. 

Ceylon was a developed country in the early ’50s. Officials from Singapore visited Ceylon to learn from Ceylon as both were British colonies. Now Singapore does not have a garbage problem. They collect all the garbage and incinerate them at over 1,100 C, other than glass productising electricity. A two-way solution. Theirplant is totally smokeless and sometimes releases steam. Our pundits are still talking about land fill and compost. Singapore is rich and developed now, Sri Lanka started becoming a Beggar State from 1960 onward due to political bungling.

Over to you Ministry of Environment and Ministry of Development Strategy.

The sound menace

Anothermenace is sound. Fortunately for Sri Lanka a new DIG in charge of traffic police has gone in to action to get rid of loud horns of buses with much publicity. May be 70% successful. There are still buses with loud horns on roads but now the Police is turning a deaf ear or has gone deaf after the gas in the just opened bottle of soda action created by Police. Similar tohead lamp on, on motor cycles on the move. The legislators have now come up with a maximum sound level of horn in vehicles to be 105 decibels. There is hardly any difference of noise level between 100 and 105 decibels. They have not been practical in listening to sound level. Why could not the law makers make it 100 instead of 105. 

Most of thelaws on this country are tricky. There is an old English statement to say law is an ass. It is provedby legislators of this country that make laws to confuse the law enforcement agencies and public to make culprits get away on grounds of proof as 105 decibels. The sameidiotic decision as the GSM of plastic wrap. Another idiotic decision is electricity at 13 amps. The country was used to 5 amp and 15 amp. This may be the only country that has specification as 13 amps.Again Education vs. Intelligence. 

Fortunately it was not CJ who decided on GSM of plasticor 13 amps. Who will ensure the 105 decibel sound level of horn? Police or environment authority? Do we have portable equipment available for enforcing authority to check sound of horn? Some time back, sound measuring equipment was importedcosting approximately Rs. 80 million if I remember right. They were not put in to use. As usual wrong equipment had been imported at great cost to the public. 

The same with vehicle smog detection equipment for Police to do spot checks.Where are they now?Who is responsible for importing this unusable machinery? May be President of Sri Lanka will have to appoint another commission to investigate if he is interested. Anyway DIG Traffic has done a marvellous job trying to eradicate this bus horn menace, may be 70% successful to date. Thank you and congratulations DIG Traffic. Please ensure this sound control is not allowed to be gone with the wind or an opened bottle of soda where the gas goes off after some time, like head light on for motorcycles on the move.

If we are to set up an Industry Environment Authority will have a stipulation to state sound at perimeter of factoryhas to be below 80 decibels.

This law does not apply to religious institutions. 9% of the population disturb the peace of 91% of the population by religious call for prayer at 4/5a.m. and many times more. Fortunately the current Anti-Muslim front has been able to pass the message to the Government to ban this disturbance. Hope and pray that this ban will continue. The same way Buddhist temples representing 68% of the population disturb the peace of society for one hour by their chanting at 5/6a.m. and 6 p.m. Why is the law of 80 decibels not applied to these religious instructions?

In the past no amplifiers were used, it was a human voice or voices. Now amplifiers are used with recorded prayers/pirith disturbing the peace for miles. Morning study time of children is disturbed. Elders and citizens cannot continue sleeping from 4a.m.because of the loud noise. Inthe modern world this broadcast is not required. Those who want to have their prayers can do so by having the prayers on mobile phone or radio or TV inside their home.

The same for pirith. Most TV channels and radio have pirith at various times in the morning. Those interested can listen to pirith on radio, TV or mobile phone within the house without disturbing the rest of the family. Religious broadcasts through amplification over 80 decibels should be completely banned for all religions. The next will be the upcoming elections. Music shows should be banned after 11 p.m.

The politicians of this country are the people who break all the laws of the country especially traffic laws, and expect citizens to follow the law. 70% of politicians have become the bane of this country.

There is a Ministry for Environment. We have air pollution, sound pollution, pollution by plastic. What does the Ministry of Environment do other than waste hard earned money contributed by public by way of taxes?

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