His Excellency Uhuru Kenyatta, President of the Republic of Kenya, His Excellency Emmanuel Macron, President of the Republic of France, President of the Assembly, Hon Ministers, Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and gentlemen,
Permit me at the outset to extend my sincere appreciation to the Government and People of Kenya for the warm welcome and generous hospitality extended to me and my delegation at this Assembly.
May I also commend the government of Kenya and the United Nations Environment Programme for the excellent arrangements made for the Assembly.
Sri Lanka signed the Paris Agreement, which is unprecedented global commitment to combat climate change. Since our country has been listed as the second highest in the global climate risk index of 2019, implementing of climate actions are very vital to us.
As I stated in my key note address at the 3rd Forum of Asia Pacific Ministers and Environment Authorities in Singapore in January 2019, I wish to reiterate that it is our prime duty to assure the right to live in a safe environment and introduce environmentally sound economic trends that build upon sustainable global economic indices.
Being a follower of the Buddhist philosophy, I firmly believe that we are responsible for securing the sustenance of, not only mankind, but also the life on earth as a whole.
Mr. President, I observe that Poverty is a significant cause for global environmental problems.
Environment degradation and poverty are closely inter-related and inseparable, particularly in developing countries. Human induced ecosystem degradation has caused multiple challenges impacting air, water, marine, soil and all forms of ecosystems.
These problems, at the same time, provided us opportunities to be innovative. I am pleased and excited about the timely theme of UNEA4, which has captured most challenges faced by countries including island nations such as ours.
Today we are meeting here to endorse the Ministerial Declaration on “Innovative Solutions for Environmental Challenges and Sustainable Consumption and Production”.
My country has initiated in co-sponsoring 4 resolutions for UNEA4, along with other partnering countries on;
- Conservation of Mangroves
- Marine Litter and Micro-plastics
- Solid Waste Management, and
• Food Losses and Waste
I am pleased to state that Sri Lanka is the first country in the South Asian region, to prepare a Sustainable Consumption and Production Policy, with the assistance of SWITCH-ASIA Policy Support Initiative.
Sri Lanka has taken several ground level smart initiatives for policy formulation and implementation toward greening under my Government’s “Blue-Green” approach covering both land and ocean.
The National Policy on Urban Air Quality Management ensures clean air for a healthy Nation or the ‘Clean Air 2025 Action Plan.’
Oil based transport and power sectors have been identified as the main source of emission therefore Importation of vehicles were restricted to EURO IV standards.
In energy, we are rapidly moving to integrate renewable energy such as solar, wind, wave and biogas to our energy mix to minimize oil and coal use.
Sri Lanka joined the ‘UN Clean Seas Campaign’ alongside UNEA-3, and developed a roadmap with a view to minimize land based ocean pollution.
Sri Lanka is implementing a river basin and integrated coastal management approach to prevent ocean and water resource pollution that also include plastics and chemicals.
Furthermore, as the Minister of Environment, I have taken steps to ban manufacture and use of polythene products such as High-density polyethylene, shopping bags, carry bags, lunch sheets and lunch boxes.
In addition, regulations have been enforced to prohibit the open burning of polyethene.
During the recently concluded Commonwealth Heads of Governments meeting, Sri Lanka pledged to be the Champion in the Action Group for Restoration of Mangroves under the Commonwealth Blue Charter. Approximately 9,000 hectares of Mangrove Forest have been declared as a Conservation Forest.
Considering that an urgent attention of all nations is needed to protect coral reefs as one of the most sensitive ecosystems in the world, Sri Lanka has stepped forward to obtain the membership of International Coral Reef Initiative, with the intention of networking with other states.
We have taken steps to minimize unsustainable and destructive fishing practices that are damaging to corals.
Several initiatives are being taken in line with Marine Environment Pollution Control Strategy 2030. We identified the challenges of pollution due to intensive sea routes linking west to east.
Demonstrating Sri Lanka’s commitment towards achieving the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Sri Lanka was the first country to establish a separate Ministry with the portfolio for Sustainable Development, and established the Sustainable Development Council, to ensure that Sri Lanka meets the Sustainable Development Goals.
In January 2019 I declared open the first green city designed and built by my Government, namely, the Laggala Green City. This new city was built under the Moragahakanda – Kalu Ganga Multipurpose Reservoir Project.
This city will accommodate over 3000 families who were initially displaced when the Moragahakanda reservoir was first filled with water. We have planned to build more such green cities in the country.
In my capacity as the Minister of Environment, I commenced a programme in 2015 known as ‘Wanaropa’. The purpose is to increase the depleted forest cover from 29% to 32%, to conserve bio-diversity and the natural eco-system and promote the management of commercial forestry and various other activities. Month of October every year is declared as the National tree planting month dedicated to raise awareness and tree planting, island wide.
Each year with the voluntary collaboration of various government departments, organizations and school children and the citizens of the country approximately 2 million plants were distributed and planted. Fruit tree saplings were distributed to school children for planting, and financial benefits were offered to maintain the plants’ growth.
Agriculture is the main source of livelihood for people living in the rural areas of Sri Lanka and it has much potential for greening and to be climate smart. We like to see Sustainable Consumption and Production and science and technology are applied in our Agriculture.
This will not only help strengthening the financial position of the rural farmers and various others involved in the process, but also that of the country as a whole.
One of the biggest challenges faced by the farmers in Sri Lanka is the uncertain climatic conditions.
While one year there is an abundance of rain that creates a flood like situation, the next season the rainfall is little to the extent that the same region experience drought.
Sri Lanka is searching to adopt the system of cloud seeding which is said to be successful in some countries.
Recently, in October 2018, we discovered a type of caterpillar that caused destruction in many farm lands destroying over 80,000 hectares of corn cultivation within a period of one month.
That was a grave threat to our food production and a serious challenge to the environment.
However, three research groups from the Faculty of Agriculture of Peradeniya University, Sri Lanka, were able to find a solution to suppress the growth and control the spreading of the caterpillar.
Also as a country rich in nature, culture and heritage we like capitalize on nature and nature related sustainable businesses to drive our socio-economic development.
In that context the UNEA4 provide a sound base and tools towards managing and using nature.
I am pleased to announce that we are hosting the 18thConference of Parties of CITES in Sri Lanka in this May.
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
Concluding my statement, I wish to extend our appreciation to the United Nations Environment programme for its efforts on the environment front as well as for the valuable support extended to Sri Lanka for better environment management. I wish this forum all success.