President Sirisena is committed to one nation and one planet | Sunday Observer

President Sirisena is committed to one nation and one planet

President Maithripala Sirisena
President Maithripala Sirisena

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has – Margaret Mead

As Wendell Berry said, the only thing we have common is the world we are living in. We have one planet and it is dying in front of our eyes and the legacy we are going to leave for our children is all nothing but dried up lands, polluted air, mountains of garbage and a dying hope. But we are not too late still, we can change this.

Throughout his political career President Maithripala Sirisena has emphasised and made a monumental effort to protect the environment. As a visionary leader he is personally involved in leaving a beautiful earth for our future generations, one more beautiful than the one we received from our parents.

He has stated in many governmental and non-governmental events that out of all the ministries he could have taken over, he chose the Ministry of Environment following his appointment as the President of the country because he is so passionate about this vision. During President Rajapaksa’s government also the Ministry of Environment was under him because of this vision and passion.

Environmental issues

Currently, Sri Lanka is facing many environmental issues. They include large scale logging of forests and degradation of mangroves, coral reefs and soil. Air and water pollution are negatively affecting the nation’s health.

Insufficient waste management, especially in rural areas lead to environmental pollution. Sri Lanka is currently facing climate change, which in turn impact such factors as extreme weather occurrences and sea level rise.

Throughout his term as the President of the country, he has given the utmost importance to everything concerning the environment and never missed a chance to participate in an event that was dedicated to protecting the environment.

He equally believes that lack of environmental issues among the nation has helped corrupted politicians, government officials involved in fraud, to make things worse by taking the lead in destroying nature and covering it up on the pretence of development.

A man’s character can be recognised through the way they treat Mother Nature. No one should think of harming the environment for the sake of money. President Sirisena has always pointed out that we should dedicate ourselves to protect the environment.

One nation

We are committed to making our country one nation because we have only one country.We should apply this same theory to the environment too. We have only one planet! Yes, with technological advantages we might find other planets, maybe better ones, but for the time being its only the earth and we must protect it.

As a nation we should be proud because being such a small island, we have come up with several ground level Blue-Green smart initiatives which have been introduced covering both land and ocean. President Sirisena focused on this during the ‘One Planet Summit’, which took place in Kenya earlier this year.

In 2015, under President Sirisena’s leadership the government reached an agreement with private companies, non-governmental organisations, researchers and the people of this nation to protect all mangrove forests in Sri Lanka by law.

Moreover, they agreed to launch mangrove reforestation activities to create alternative sources of income for locals.

Delivering the key note address at the Third Forum of Ministers and Environment Authorities of Asia Pacific in Singapore in January 2019, President Sirisena stated that being a follower of the Buddhist Philosophy, he firmly believes that we are responsible for securing the sustenance of, not only mankind, but also all life on earth.

He believes that environmental degradation and poverty are closely inter-related and inseparable, particularly in developing countries.

Deforestation

Due to deforestation in Sri Lanka the size of land covered by natural forests decreased from 80 percent in 1820 to 43 percent in 1948. This was mainly due to British Colonialism which increased the amount of tea, coffee and rubber plantations.

The natural forest cover further decreased to 23 percent in 2000. In 2010, 29 percent of Sri Lanka was covered by forests including forest plantations.

Drivers of recent forest degradation are an increase in population, road construction, timber production, agricultural development and forest clearing by private businessmen. Even though there are conservation areas, the management is partially insufficient. The extensive deforestation leads to a rise of the average surface temperature.

Deforestation is also responsible for an increase in greenhouse gas emissions because trees remove CO2 from the air. Clearing the areas causes the CO2 to return to the air and thereby increases the atmospheric carbon concentration.

By taking all these things into consideration and as part of his vision, during the World Environment Day 2019, President Sirisena gave instructions to cancel the licenses of timber mill owners in possession of illegal timber. He also ordered that unutilised lands belonging to the Land Reformation Commission and the Sri Lanka Cashew Corperation to be used in a program to increase the country’s forest density by 2030.

As a leader who has a good relationships with other nations, President Sirisena invited other regional countries to stand together to protect eco-systems.

The President believes that despite all challenges that we face as a nation, we were able to commission the Moragahankanda and the Kaluganga multipurpose water resource projects as one of the country’s largest green investments. This was introduced to combat the adverse effects of climate change.

On October 10 , 2019, President Sirisena addressing the Environmental Pilots Presidential Medal Ceremony held at the President’s House, stressed the responsibility of each and everyone of us to protect the environment. He was quite emotional as an environmentally sensitive leader. During his speech he took the flower decoration in front of him as an example to explain how selfish we humans have become.

The flowers make our surroundings beautiful, it gives a very pleasant aroma and is eye catching. We feel calm when we look at them.

Flowers also give honey to the bees;whose primary food source is honey collected from flowers.

We also enjoy the honey they make. So, flowers are not only a sight to see and enjoy but a source of delicious mouth-watering food too. But at the end what does it get in return? Nothing! It just withers and die. The flower does not expect anything from us. But we humans won’t save a tree in gratitude.

Policies

Having hundreds of policies on saving the environment won’t be effective if we do not actively take part in this challenge. President Sirisena has proved that actions matter by making some decision which were questioned by many politicians and businessmen who thought about their well being only.

He further believes that one of the most effective ways to protect the environment is to increase the forest density to clear pollution and balance nature.

All this is true. But as responsible citizen we can’t let our leaders to do all the work. To change we must be the change first.

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