(COLOMBO, LANKAPUVATH) –Minister of Environment Mahinda Amaraweera says the damage to the environment caused by the burning of the X-Press Pearl container ship will last for another 20 years and it could not be calculated in dollars.
Addressing a media briefing held at the Ministry of Environment today, Minister Amaraweera said he obtained a list of goods shipped in the Singapore-registered cargo ship that caught fire on May 20th while anchored in the seas 9.5 nautical miles northwest of Colombo Harbor and burned for 13 days before sinking partially.
The ship has carried 193 items in about 1486 containers including 25 tonnes of nitric acid. It also contained a large number of containers containing nurdles, plastic pellets used as raw materials to manufacture plastic products. The containers had two-month supply of plastic pellets for two of Sri Lanka’s leading companies. According to the Minister there are eight major companies that manufacture plastic and polythene related products in Sri Lanka.
“A large portion of the plastic that had washed ashore due to the sinking of the ship has now been collected. We do not know how many more were eaten by fish in the ocean as well. According to the information I have, plastic pallets piled up on the beach have been collected and stored in 40 containers for destruction,” he said.
“Then you can imagine how much plastic is imported to our country in a year. Less than 10 percent of this is recycled and the rest is released into the environment,” he added.
As well as obtaining compensation for the damage caused by the sinking of the X-Press Pear, all those responsible for the disaster should be identified and punished, the Minister said.
The Minister added that the CID has already commenced investigations in this regard as instructed by the President. The Minister of Justice has stated at the Cabinet meeting that steps have already been taken to file two cases in this regard.
“But as the Minister of Environment, I say that the damage caused by the sinking of the X-Press Pearl cannot be measured in dollars. This caused a great deal of environmental damage. The carcasses of sea creatures such as turtles and dolphins are now floating to the land. All those involved in this destruction should be legally punished.”
When asked whether the perpetrators had been identified, the Minister said it was reported that neither the port nor the harbor master had been informed of any chemical leakage on this ship. Therefore, the captain of the ship as well as the agent of our country in that shipping company are responsible. Also the VDR device will reveal more people responsible. He said that all of them should be punished.