March 3, 2017 10:15 am
A series of reports published in the media in the recent past such as the issues pertaining to the environmental impact of Uma Oya project, gravel mining at Divulapitiya, Port City, filling up of wet land at Muthurajawela, Moragahatenna project, mini hydro power projects, deforestation and several other exemplifies the numerous environmental challenges Sri Lanka faces as a country with its economic development. The lack of effective environmental laws and weak policies together compound the situation further. These are not the only environment issues we face today and they are not found in Sri Lanka alone but as responsible citizens of our mother land it is our duty to be aware and care for the environment.
The present challenges remind of what is often quoted plea ofthe Native American leader. “When the last tree is cut down, the last fish eaten, and the last stream ispoisoned will you realises that you cannot eat money”.
The main reason for environmental decadence is that we have allowed a powerful few to claim ownership over the earth’s resources which belong to the people of today and also to future generations. The interest that these few have is profits. They want to earn maximum profits in shortest period of time. As such, they extract earth’s resources without any concern for nature and environment for their own benefit and good. Since the acquisition of profits is the primary aim of the elitist class, exploitation of labour and physical resources to the maximum becomes imperative form them for development. For them. Small fishermen or small farmers have no contribution to make except to carry out their profit driven orders.
It is important to note there is no place for the poor in any stage of the profit driven development process. They see no value in consultations with small fishermen or small farmers is in any matters such as the ownership of common resources, payment for labour, livelihoods, security, future and so on. The construction of the Colombo Port City or the Uma Oya project is two classic examples.
The previous governments as well as the present government seem to depend heavily on the elitist concept or the principles of development as described above. The present government is arrogantly committed to the mega development projects such as building high ways, metro cities, agro businesses, fisheries, tourist industry and plantations and so on. Accordingly, the government is obliged to provide infrastructure facilities such as water, land, telecommunication, electricity and labour to those companies. Provision of thousands of acres of land and forests and sea to the local and foreign investors deprives the poor of their means of livelihoods. As a result, the country has become heavily indebted and is compelled to sell certain areas of the country to multi-million companies.
True development ought to be people and environment friendly. It should enhance people’s capacities, increase and protect resources making them available to all living beings. The resources are meant for all living now and those to come in future. This has been the teaching of the Church. However, the local Churches have been very slow in indoctrinating its faithful to such teaching of the Church. We are now at a critical juncture of our history.
Through his powerful encyclical “Laudato SI”, Pope Francis has awakened not only the Christian conscience but also of the world to care for the earth we call home. He calls that the earth is our common home and compares it to a sister with whom we share our life and to a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us. We, however, have hurt her because of our irresponsible use and abuse of the resources of the earth and unhealthy relationship that we have towards our mother earth. One cannot but wonder whether we would heed the call of Pope Francis in his efforts to care for the earth our common home from the impending disaster or whether we will fall into the state of ‘Globalized indifference’.
By.Fr. Sarath Iddamalgoda