Permit me at the outset to extend my sincere appreciation to the Government and People of Singapore for the warm welcome and generous hospitality extended to me and my delegation for the visit. May I also commend Singapore and the UNEP for the excellent arrangements made for the Forum.
In this era, in which the global community is trying to achieve Sustainable Development Goals while addressing environment challenges, I am privileged to deliver the Keynote speech at this Forum of Ministers and Environment Authorities of the Asia Pacific on behalf of Sri Lanka.
The attention of the world is drawn to environmental matters of regional significance which require solutions of global scale. Hence, I take this opportunity to extend my appreciation to the UN Environment – Asia Pacific for their lead role on global scale as well as their role in strengthening regional cooperation.
Economic, social and environmental sustainability of the world, particularly of our region, is severely affected by adverse impacts of climate change. In such an era, it is appreciative that the Fourth Session of the United Nations Environment Assembly is being thematically organized focusing on human knowledge and skills towards innovative solutions that successfully address environmental challenges.
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.
Hence, I trust that the Fourth Session of the United Nations Environment Assembly, to be held in March, will be a productive venture to ensure global food security.
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. Therefore, it is important to strengthen our regional cooperation in order to fulfil all environmental responsibilities and our obligations.
As a descendent from a proud agricultural civilization, it gives me an immense pleasure to share Sri Lankan experiences with you for the betterment of the whole world. Our ancestors were blessed with food security as they respected nature.
While reaching for innovative dimensions towards global food security and encouraging sustainable consumption patterns, Sri Lanka has proposed a resolution on managing food waste at the forthcoming UN Environment Assembly.
Human activities should not threaten the regeneration capacity of nature and it is the sole responsibility of the mankind to implement activities which will strengthen the regenerative capacity of nature.
The fertile soil and associated soil life are the heart of nature. Forests, which nurture soil resources as well as the waterways, are the blood of mother-earth and should be gifted to future generations securely. I consider it is our responsibility.
We should stand together to protect the eco-systems, especially wetlands from chemical pollutants. Sri Lanka is always committed to play our role for global environment conservation. Championing the mangrove conservation in Commonwealth Blue Charter is a promising effort in this regard. As a way forward, and to implement a comprehensive programme on global scale, Sri Lanka has proposed a resolution on mangrove conservation for the Fourth Session of the UN Environment Assembly.
I emphasize the need for the implementation of the resolutions of previous UN Environment Assemblies in order to achieve expected outcomes. Further, as a regional body, Asia Pacific office would request UN Environment Programme, to intervene in establishing an effective mechanism to monitor the progress of implementing the resolutions.
In addition, I would like to highlight the importance of initiating action to revise environment conventions according to timely requirements.
Further, I propose to establish a system which encourages member countries to successfully achieve the expected commitments under environment conventions. A strong funding mechanism to assist countries like Sri Lanka, which are severely affected by adverse impacts of climate change, has to be established for achieving sustainable development goals. The support of developed countries and regional cooperation should be broadened in order to strengthen the sustainable industries to reap the benefits of blue green economies.
The UN Clean Seas Campaign has showcased remarkable achievements in protecting oceans around the world. In pursuant to the campaign, Sri Lanka has proposed another resolution for UNEA-4 in order to minimize ocean pollution from land based activities including micro plastic. As a region we should work hand in hand, to promote innovative environment friendly solutions to address the burning issue of marine pollution in our region.
With regret, I would like to draw your attention to the fact that Sri Lanka has been ranked second in the Global Climate Risk Index 2019. Being a tropical island, Sri Lanka’s dry zone covers 70% of its land area and receives less than 1,500 millimetres of rainfall per year.
Despite all the challenges of adverse impacts of climate change, Sri Lanka has commissioned the Moragahakanda and Kaluganga multipurpose water resources projects as one of the largest recent green investment. This was introduced to combat the adverse effects of climate change. It provides water for drinking and agricultural purposes for the communities in the dry zone. These twin reservoirs, with the capacity of 817 Million Cubic Meters, boost the economy through irrigating additional 84,000 hectares of farmlands. They generate 25 MW hydro-powers.
I gracefully invite the world community to observe Sri Lanka’s courageous and ambitious efforts to combat the effects of climate change and to invest in green infrastructure.
While we conserve our traditional cascade irrigation system which is a UNESCO world heritage, we have invested on green infrastructure. This project rehabilitates 2500 irrigation tanks and irrigation canal more than 260 kilometres.
Though with very limited land, the Government of Sri Lanka has implemented the ambitious project, “Wanaropa”, to increase the forest cover from 29% to 32% by year 2030. I gracefully invite the world community to observe Sri Lanka’s courageous and ambitious efforts to combat the effects of climate change and to invest in green infrastructure.
As a partner in the Asia Pacific region, Sri Lanka believes the outcome of this meeting will provide invaluable regional perspectives / for the forthcoming Session of the UN Environment Assembly. I am confident that this Forum will help to achieve our shared common regional goals and wish this forum a great success.
May the blessings of the noble triple gem be always with you!