As part of the national celebrations for Earth Day 2018, the Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA) of the Ministry of Mahaweli Development and Environment, in collaboration with SLYCAN Trust, TNL Radio, Road to Rights International and Mount Lavinia Hotel organised a beach clean-up at the Mount Lavinia beach. Government officials of the ministry, representatives of local civil society organizations, university undergraduates as well as volunteers from youth movements came together on the 22nd of April at Mount Lavinia Hotel premises to participate in this event.
Celebrated worldwide on the 22nd of April, Earth Day is a day which bears reflection on issues related to environment and the need for concrete action for the protection of it. This year the theme for Earth Day, “End Plastic Pollution”, shifts the emphasis on the widespread issue of plastic pollution which affects not only the health of humans but also the integrity of the natural ecosystems.
The beach cleanup was organised with the objectives of drawing attention to the widespread pollution of Sri Lanka’s coastal areas due to the mismanagement of waste and improper garbage disposal practices, and to actively engaging various stakeholders from government institutions to university undergraduates, to take action to address and prevent the pollution of the coastal areas. The event also served to create awareness on the need for the sustainable disposal of garbage and plastic waste and to highlight the consequences of single use plastics on both marine and terrestrial ecosystems of our environment.
“Through organising programmes like beach cleanups we hope to influence the public and create awareness on the need for responsible use and disposal of non-biodegradable material to the environment. As part of the Clean Seas campaign MEPA, with the support of the government, plans to appoint beach caretakers to protect the oceans on the World Environment Day in June”, said Rear Admiral Rohana Perera, Chairman of MEPA.
“The main objective is to start the discussion on the consequences of using plastic, especially of single use plastics such as plastic bottles, straws and polythene bags. We plan to make people aware of the repercussions. Plastic and environment pollution, to reduce the plastic usage and reuse plastic” – commented Dr. Terney Pradeep Kumara, General Manager of MEPA.
The contribution and participation of Civil Society Organisations, private sector organisations and youth movements for the event was a noteworthy endeavour. Collaborations of diverse stakeholders in initiatives relating to awareness creation and the mobilisation of efforts relating to the sustainable usage of resources is undeniably crucial to achieve success in ending plastic pollution.
“Public participation for environmental protection is important, and engaging youth is vital. Through this initiative taken on Earth Day, SLYCAN Trust is aiming to create a public that will contribute to take mindful actions to protect the environment. This includes ending use of material such as plastic which is harmful to the environment, as well as protecting our beaches,” said Ms. Vositha Wijenayake, Executive Director of SLYCAN Trust.
As part of the Earth Day celebrations, participants also signed the Clean Seas Pledge, which is a campaign carried out by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The signing of the pledge marked the individual and collective commitment to work towards plastic free communities and marine environments.