Sri Lanka rugby players tackle world’s worst beach polluter | Sunday Observer

Sri Lanka rugby players tackle world’s worst beach polluter

28 February, 2021
Rugby head Rizly Illyas (left) and Dialog’s Brand, Marketing and Media manager  Harsha Samaranayake lead the way
Rugby head Rizly Illyas (left) and Dialog’s Brand, Marketing and Media manager Harsha Samaranayake lead the way

To overcome the shame of been branded as one of the world’s worst marine polluters, Sri Lanka Rugby (SLR) and its commercial partner Dialog, the island’s premier connectivity provider, inaugurated the first phase of the ‘Sayura Rakina Rella’ sustainable beach clean-up programme by the Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA) deployed to protect and preserve the island’s coastline.

The initiative kickstarted with the collection of over 770 kilograms of rotten waste material from the Sarakkuwa beach in Negombo which was handed over to the Wattala Pradeshiya Sabha for its safe and sustainable disposal.

Players from the present Sri Lanka men’s and women’s rugby teams as well as former Tuskers Asoka Jayasena, Hisham Abdeen, Dilroy Fernando, Ajith Upawansa, RMS Ratnayake and Jude Pillai, MEPA goodwill ambassadors, musical artists Bathiya and Santhush, young rugby players from the Western Lions Academy, officials from SLR together with the Dialog team volunteered to the two-hour clean-up to restore the beach to what it should be.

“When we were school children, we used to come to the beach often to play touch rugby. However, due to increased pollution, the beaches are not safe to come to as one can easily hurt himself from household waste that is buried in the sand.

“Under this sustainability initiative, we would like to discourage the public from polluting and to take on their roles as responsible citizens by following proper garbage disposal methods”, said Sri Lanka Rugby chief Rizly Illyas.

Illyas said that interestingly rugby and the beach are near and dear to some of the world’s top rugby playing nations especially in the Asia pacific region.

“Rugby Sevens giants in the Pacific Ocean like Fiji, Samoa and Tonga play most of their rugby on the beaches. They play touch rugby especially on the beach to develop their ball handling skills, which is something that I don’t see much today in Sri Lanka,” said Ilyas.

At present, Sri Lanka ranks poorly according to a pollution index transcribed by the World Bank, ranking as the fifth worst beach polluter of the world in 2015, mainly due to poor disposal of plastic waste.

On average, a Sri Lanka produces 500 kilos of non-degradable waste per day resulting in a mammoth amount of 100 million of solid waste added into Sri Lanka’s coastal waters, according to 2017 records.

During the total two-hour collection process, 275.89 kilos of plastic, 102 kilos of metal, 83 kilos of glass, 250 kilos of organic and 63 kilos of paper waste was collected.

“We are thankful for Dialog and SLR for coming forward for this important initiative to safeguard Sri Lanka’s natural assets. We at MEPA sincerely hope that these initiatives, in the long run, inspire other sporting bodies, corporates and civil society to come forth and do their civic duty and we believe that initiatives of this nature enable corporates to be an agent of change in building a better tomorrow.

“We hope that by paving the way for initiatives of this nature, we can turnaround the present status quo especially as the country is opening its borders for tourism,” said Dharshani Lahandapura, Chairperson of MEPA.

Being the ace sponsor of Sri Lanka Rugby, Senior General Manager, Brand and Media, Group Marketing at Dialog Harsha Samaranayake said his company jumped at the idea to foster the beach clean-up.

“Dialog is pleased to join hands with SLR and MEPA to conserve our marine resources which have been under threat as a result of careless waste disposal,” said Samaranayake.

“It is our belief that sports, like rugby with a large following, will be a game changer in influencing its followers and the public on the necessity of preserving one of our country’s greatest natural assets.”