Environment destroyed under the guise of development ; Secure the right to breathe and exist – ‘Husma’

Following the government’s recent arbitrary environmental measures, an awareness program to raise the public awareness was held at Pettah yesterday (22).

Organized by the Sri Lanka Young Journalists’ Association (YJA) and the Center for Environment and Nature Studies (CENS), the movement rallied around the Fort Station, raising public awareness on the continued environmental destruction.

Many concerned citizens, Environmental Activists, journalists, artists and the Clergy took part in this movement to make people aware of the ongoing destruction and the outcome of it.

The Open and Wayside Theater Troupe Sri Lanka took part in the program, raising the public awareness of the pressing issue, in the means of songs and drama.

“I’m an environmentalist. Above all, I’m a citizen of this country. What we are doing here is standing for our rights. Our right to breathe and exist on this land.

We consume over 500L of Oxygen in a single day. Where do we get that much of Oxygen from? Sri Lanka is 65610 square kilometres and from that, we have only left with 16% of forests areas. If things continue to exist the way they are now, there will be no more forests in Sri Lanka in very near future. You can feel the harsh heat of the sun these days. These conditions will become even worse through deforestation.

We could hear of instances from the recent past where some ministers had said that we don’t need Oxygen to breathe. We are living in a country where such a parliament, authorities exist. That is why we decided to raise awareness among the people about the significance of the environment.”, Chaminda Jayasuriya, an artist who participated in this awareness program told the media.

The protesters also claimed that 10 acres of forest are destroyed everyday, and policies are made and defied for that purpose.

“Sri Lanka should have a forest coverage of 24% and it has been reduced up to 16% today. We would like to remind the rulers who care for us so much that you compose and amend policies which have facilitated to destroy 10 acres of forests each day.

If the authorities do not have a proper policy to protect these forests, we have to uncover their masks and reveal their true nature to the public. People have to concern this issue more seriously since what they do will be directly affecting to our children, to the next generation. If these arbitrary actions are not stopped immediately, we will have to face a greater disaster than this Covid pandemic in very near future.”

The protesters pointed out that deforestation done under the disguise of ‘development’ has caused severely both on people and the wildlife.

“Kurunegala is the district which contributes the most to the paddy production of the country, producing 13.6% of the country’s need. But today these farmers are left helpless, many of them have lost their paddy fields due to the construction of the Central Expressway over wetlands in Kurunegala. People have lost priceless properties for the sake of this myth called ‘development.

This expressway was built by land filling for about 8 feet high. A large amount cubic metres of soil were used for this purpose, and a countless number of mountains have been demolished down to build this highway. You can see examples for yourself in Vilgamuwa, Narammala, Wagawa, Vilbawa ancient village. People who used to consume fountain water now been forced to take water from water bowsers. We would like to ask the rulers what is the development they trying to achieve by annihilating the environment, thus cutting down the people’s fundamental needs. We look condemn these acts of fraud by the government,” Sanjeewa Kulathilake from Kurunegala said.

What is the point of the development achieved if people do not have proper water to drink and unpolluted air to breathe, they questioned.

The youth took part in the protest alleged that the rulers make profits by destroying the environment. They further stated that they will continue to fight alongside CENS and the other organizations to protect the environment, demanding from the government to secure the citizens’ right to live in a free and healthy environment.

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