(COLOMBO, LANKAPUVATH) –President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa launching the “Surakimu Ganga” national program yesterday instructed the Ministry of Environment to take steps to clean and conserve all rivers in the country before the end of the year.
The President said Rs. 23 billion has been allocated for the program to clean and conserve all the rivers and if that amount is not enough, additional funds will be provided to complete the project before the end of the year.
President Rajapaksa also called on all those who talk about the environment on social media to join hands in fulfilling their responsibilities without standing up for the environment as a fashion.
“The creation of an environment disaster is a program planned from Colombo. Many people today forget what Colombo and its suburbs were like a decade ago,” the President said recalling that Colombo was made a green city by clearing the rubbish heaps and redeveloping the lowlands as well as the wetlands. President Rajapaksa says that this progress has attracted the attention of many countries in the world, including Singapore.
The President expressed these views while inaugurating the “Surakimu Ganga” National Program for the Conservation of the River System in Sri Lanka this morning (22) on the banks of the Menik River at the historic Kataragama Sacred Area.
President Rajapaksa unveiled the plaque marking the official launch of the ‘Surakimu Ganga’ project.
The installation of polythene and plastic containers in the Menik River area, the promotion of the use of natural garlands instead of polythene garlands at the Kataragama Sacred Area and the introduction of garlands made from recyclable raw materials were also carried out at the inauguration of the program.
The Multipurpose Shredder was officially handed over by the President to the Moneragala District Secretary.
Dr. Anil Jasinghe, Secretary to the Ministry of Environment presented the “Sobaketha” Magazine and the “Mihimadala” newspaper to the President.
“Surakimu Ganga” Program Geographical Information Technology Online Computer Application was launched by the President.
The “Surakimu Ganga” project is one of the flagship programs for sustainable environmental management included in the ten-point “Vision of Prosperity” policy statement.
The aim is to conserve water resources by ensuring water quality, which is a key component of environmental conservation. Among the other objectives of the program are providing clean drinking water to the people, protecting the environment and biodiversity, and promoting tourism through river conservation.
The “Surakimu Ganga” program is designed to cover 103 rivers in Sri Lanka. The Central Environmental Authority (CEA) regional offices conducted a preliminary survey using a computer application over a period of two weeks to inspect 10,410 locations with problems associated with the 103 rivers. River bank erosion, unauthorized land grabbing and construction, sand mining, discharge of domestic wastewater, sewage and industrial effluents into rivers and discharge of wastewater sludge are the main issues.
Ministry of Environment and Central Environmental Authority jointly implement the ‘Surakimu Ganga’ program. Coinciding with today’s ceremony, the ‘Surakimu Ganga’ program was launched in the other eight provinces under the patronage of the Provincial Governors.
“The river basin system consisting of 103 rivers in Sri Lanka, which has nurtured our society from generation to generation, is one of our most valuable gifts. The watersheds, along with the central highlands and associated forests, cover almost all of our beautiful island. Therefore, in comparison to many other countries, we are a very unique country in terms of environment as well as geography,” the President pointed out.
Although the atmosphere is polluted due to the activities of developed countries, unfortunately developing countries like us are the most vulnerable to its adverse effects, the President said.
“Today, our opponents are trying to convince the world that great destruction is taking place. As I regularly attend village level programs such as ‘Chat with the Village’, I can clearly see the plight of the innocent peasantry. They are fighting a big fight for survival. It is a false and inhumane propaganda by the opposition to say that we were acting in a way that would lead to deforestation by giving land to such people to cultivate,” the President said.
He said it is a distortion of the real situation to show the trunks of the huge trees that were cut down many years ago on social media and claim that our agricultural policies are wreaking havoc.
President Rajapaksa said that the “Surakimu Ganga” National Environmental Program launched today was a great legacy to be passed on to future generations and hoped that the District and Divisional Secretaries would coordinate this work at the district and divisional levels.
Maha Sangha, Minister of Environment Mahinda Amaraweera, State Minister Shasheendra Rajapaksa, Dr. Anil Jasinghe, Secretary to the Ministry of Environment, Uva Provincial Governor A.J.M. Muzammil, State Minister Vijitha Berugoda, Director General of the Central Environmental Authority PB Hemantha Jayasinghe were also present at the occasion.