President instructs and allocates Rs. 23Bn to conserve entire river system before end of year

Gotabaya-Rajapaksa

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has directed the Ministry of Environment to take steps to clean and conserve all rivers in the country before the end of the year.  

Rs. 23 billion have been allocated to clean up the entire river system under the ‘Surakimu Ganga’ (Conserve Rivers) programme.’ If that amount is not sufficient, additional funds will be provided to complete the project before the end of the year’, the President said.

President Rajapaksa also called on all those who make an outcry over alleged environmental destruction on social media platforms to join hands in fulfilling their respective responsibilities without raising their voices for the environment as a fashion.

Disseminating falsehoods alleging environmental disaster is well planned project initiated from Colombo. Today, many people forget what the status of Colombo and its suburbs were a decade ago.

The President recalled how he took steps to dispose of mountains of garbage in the City of Colombo and to redevelop lowlands as well as wetlands to transform Colombo to a green city. President Rajapaksa further said that this progress has attracted the attention of many countries in the world, including Singapore.

The President made these remarks inaugurating the ‘Surakimu Ganga’ (Conserve Rivers) National Programme in parallel to the World Water Day, with the objective of conserving the entire river system in the country, today (22) on the banks of the Menik River at the historic Kataragama sacred city.

President Rajapaksa unveiled the plaque marking the official launch of the ‘Surakimu Ganga’ project.

The installation of polythene and plastic filters across the Menik River, the promotion of the use of natural garlands instead of polythene garlands at the Kataragama sacred city and the introduction of garlands made from recyclable raw materials were also carried out in parallel to the inauguration of the programme. 

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’ (Conserve the Rivers)   project’s Geographical Information Technology Application was launched by the President.

The “Conserve the Rivers” project is one of the flagship programmes designed to achieve the goal of sustainable environmental management included in the ten-fold concept in the National Policy Framework, “Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour”. The specific objective of the project is to conserve water resources by ensuring water quality, which is a key component of environmental conservation. Providing clean drinking water to the people through conserving all rivers, protection of the environment and biodiversity, and promotion of tourism are among the other objectives of the project.

The “Conserve the Rivers” programme 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 associated with these 103 rivers that need attention. Riverbank erosion, illegal occupation of lands and illegal constructions, sand mining, discharge of domestic effluent, sewage and industrial wastes into rivers and discharge of wastewater sludge are a few of these major issues.

The Ministry of Environment and the Central Environmental Authority will implement the “Conserve the Rives” programme in joint coordination.

Coinciding with today’s ceremony, the “Conserve the Rivers” programme was launched in the other 8 provinces under the patronage of the respective Provincial Governors.

“The river basin system with the total 103 rivers in Sri Lanka, that has nurtured our society from generation to generation, is one of our most valuable heritages. The catchment areas almost cover the entire island including central highlands and surrounding forests in a remarkable manner. Therefore, in comparison to many other countries, we are very unique in terms of environment as well as ecology.” the President emphasized.

Although our atmosphere is polluted due to the activities of developed countries, unfortunately it is the developing tropical countries like ours that are the most vulnerable to its adverse effects,” the President added. Our opponents are trying to convince the world that we are engaged in deforestation activities. As I regularly attend village-level programs such as “Discussion with the Village”, I can clearly witness the plight of the innocent farmers. They are struggling for survival. The President said that it was false and inhumane propaganda by the opposition to twist the policy of providing land to such people in need to cultivate and accusing them as advocating deforestation. He further added that posting photos of the tree trunks that had fallen years before on social media and describing that as devastation caused by our agricultural policies is a distortion of the truth.

President Rajapaksa said that the “Conserve the Rivers” National Environmental Programme launched today (March 22) was a great legacy to be passed on to future generations and he expects that the District and Divisional Secretaries would coordinate this operation at the district and divisional levels.  

Minister of Environment Mahinda Amaraweera, State Minister Shashendra Rajapaksa, Dr. Anil Jasinghe, Secretary to the Ministry of Environment, and Chairman of the Central Environment Authority Mr. S. Amarasinghe also addressed the inauguration ceremony.

Maha Sangha, Uva Provincial Governor A.J.M. Muzammil, State Minister Vijitha Berugoda, Director General of the Central Environmental Authority P.B. Hemantha Jayasinghe was also present at the occasion.

The President also called on the Chief Incumbent of the Kirivehera Rajamaha Viharaya, and Chief Sangha Nayaka of the Ruhuna Magampattu Ven. Kobawaka Dhamminda Nayaka Thero and engaged in pleasantries.

President also visited the Chief Incumbent of the Kataragama Ruhunu Magampattu, Pradhana Adhikarana Sanghanayaka Ven. Kapugama Saranathiisa Nayaka thero and engaged in casual converstation.