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Submitted by Anonymous on
I am Sri Lankan who worked for the United Nations mainly in the Asia Pacific region.My experience in the countries of South, East and South East Asia and the South Pacific is that CSOs are well focussed to address the issues related to climate change and disaster management such as storm surges tsunamis earthquakes land slides etc.These civil society organizations are not politically motivated and act on their own initiatives with advice from senior members of the community.They also do have no aspirations to be law makers or hold Government positions.The self reliance and sacrifice of these CSOs are commendable specially in China Bhutan Cambodia Thailand East Timor Viet Nam and South Pacific Islands mainly Fiji Tonga Vanavatu etc.It was a pleasure to work in these countries as the people at grass root levels were well organized articulated and gave leadership in solving problems related to envirnment and economic development.My special studies related to the environment were on small medium and large scale surface and underground mining integrated management of coastal zones conflict resolution on use of the fragile coastal environments such as promotion of tourism fisheries etc. However in Sri Lanka the greatest drawback for forming effective civil society organizations is that every strata of society from urban to village levels are highly politicized and nothing can be achieved if you do not show allegience to the ruling party politicians.CSOs who have opposing views of how the environment should be protected are threatned and even abducted.A good example is illicit mining operations for gems in Sri Lanka.There are very powerful ministers and other law makers who support these illicit mining activities as they are partners in such crimes against the environment.Another environmental disaster that goes unabated is sand mining.The recent reports of sand mining near the Kelani bridge could not be stopped as it was promoted by a government minister and the police were helpless.Moreover the two state sector organizations legally entrusted with the regularization of such activities were passing the buck(Geological Survey and Mines Bureau -GSMB and the Coast Conservation Department CCD).There is no coordination between these two entities as they fall under two ministries As regards to gem mining the Gem and Jewllery Authority gives permints for gemming instead of the GSMB which should be the sole authority to regularize mining activities in Sri Lanka. Other major examples of environmental degredation that causes disasters and even climate change in Sri Lanka are open pit mining for limestone in Aruwakalu in the Puttalam District and graphite mining in Bogala as well as Kahatagaha.These entities were privatized and the main drawback is that there is no regular and proper supervision of such mining activities by the GSMB.The limestone quarry at Aruvkalu is now strip mined with the overburden pushed into the Dutch Bay thus destroying the most valuable prawn fishing area in Sri Lanka.When the IUCN requested permission to enter this quarry site Holcim refused permission.Accordingly no proper environmental assessment can be made related to this mining operation.The same applies to graphite mining .The GSMB does not periodically inspect this operation and operational licenses are given without insisting on improvements for the safety of the mine and the health of the miners. No medical attention is given to some workers who suffer from graphite pneumoconosis as the Government does not consider this as a health hazard for compensation.GSMB is stinking with bribery and corrupton and it is a well known fact that if you do not bribe the officials over there and earlier ministers you will never be able to get a mining permit. Bribery and corruption are rampant in Sri Lanka from the highest level to the grass root level.I am personally aware that the present Chairman of the GSMB was requested to resign from his post as Director of GSMB when a mineral sands tender was manupulated by him in 2002.However when the present Minister for Environment and Natural Resources was appointed he made this corrupt official as Chairman GSMB just to spite the former Minister and Chairman who was a person from another political party byopenly stating that the Former Minister removed the then Director to bring in a UNP Chairman.The present Minister of Environment and Natural Resources deliberayely misled the masses and did not state the the Director functioned under the UNP Chairman at that time.Further a Working Director who was also removed from the GSMB for fraud for drawing his salary when he was not working for GSMB has been appointed by the present Minister as a Director of the GSMB.It is reliably learnt that a mining engineer was remanded a few years back for issuing frudulent mining permits in the Kandy District.The GSMB is identified as a very corrupt organization where the Chairman was proved corrupt inefficient and so the members of the Board of Management. The present Minister of Environment and Natural Resources has no vision for the GSMB and the Director is incompetent and not a geologist. I have elaborated the above facts to show that in Sri Lanka there is no way CSOs could contribute in any effective or significant manner due to the heavy politicization of the country.Moreover if CSO s coume out with facts they are either intimidated or even abducted.A good example is gem mining and sand mining in most of our major rivers in Sri Lanka.Government lawmakers from the Ministers down to Members of Parliament are so corrupt that they will turn a blind eye to environmental degradation. A major problem faced in the major cities of Sri Lanka is disposal of solid waste or garbage.I am aware that the World Bank at the request of the Chairperson of the Western Provincian Council (later President Chandrika Bandaranayake Kumaratunge) in early 1990's formulated a integrated solid waste (garbage) disposal plan with the setting up of an incenarator and rail tracks to haul garbage from verious parts of the Greater Colombo area.However the present Minister of Education who was a Provincial Councillor at that time appealed to the Chairperson not to go ahead with this project as it was to be located in his electorate.The World Bank had spent a couple of millions of Dollars for the easibility study and announced that it will never fund any solid waste disposal project in Sri Lanka in the future.We are faced with this garbage problem mainly due to the action of a selfish Ministerwho did not want this problem solvedas he thought of losing his votes.How can Sri lanka develop with such selfish lawmakers? The above are some of the examples where politicians and corrupt officials are doing to the well being of the people of Sri Lanka who would like to live in an environment devoid of natural disasters and climate change.Sri Lanka will never promote green development for at least the next five decades until all these corrupt politicians and their henchmen and senior officials who are the decision makers are eliminated by the ballot.Politics has ruined this country for the past 60 years and if not for such divisive politics we would have definitely overtook Singapore.The pipedream of the present Govrnment to make Sri Lanka an aviation naval information technology hub in Asia will remain a pipedream until all the corrupt lawmakers their henchmen family bandysm and patronage and senior government servants corrupt to the core are eliminated.In conclusion there is no room for civil society organizations to operate unless there is political patronge from the government.We also have the Blue Brigade headed by the President's son who is politicizing all layers of society under the pretext of giving pride of place to the youth.The only question I would ask the Government is "whether we are promoting Democracy or Dictatorship as in Myanmar of Iran?"I hope the answer will be expected after the 8 th. Of April.