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Thursday June 30th, 2022

Sri Lanka president defends controversial agrochemical ban amid mounting opposition

President Rajapaksa addressing the COP26 summit in Glasgow, Scotland

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka President Gotabaya Rajapaksa speaking at a global climate summit in Scotland on Monday (01) defended his government’s controversial decision to ban agrochemicals in the face of mounting opposition by farmers, experts and what he called entrenched lobbies.

“Sri Lanka recently restricted the imports of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and weedicides due to public health concerns, water contamination, soil degradation, and biodiversity impacts. Although opposed by entrenched lobbies, this has created opportunities for innovation and investment into organic agriculture that will be healthier and more sustainable in future”, a statement from the President’s Office quoted him as saying at the World Leaders Summit COP26 held in Glasgow.

The Rajapaksa government’s overnight shift to organic fertilizer has been severely criticised by opposition parties, agriculture experts and, not least, hundreds of farmers who have taken to the streets in furious protest.

Critics have said though it is a good idea in theory, the shift to organic fertilizer should be carried out in stages over a number of years.

Professor Buddhi Marambe, a former Dean of Agriculture Faculty at the University of Peradeniya who was recently sacked from all government positions, had been warning in recent newspaper articles that the move could lead to crop declines that in turn cause huge food shortages within months.

Related: Sacked Sri Lanka scientist rejects ad hominem attack as fertilizer warning materialize

Speaking at the COP26 summit, President Rajapaksa further said Sri Lanka is proud to be a co-lead of the “Global Energy Compact for No New Coal Power”.

In September this year, Sri Lanka joined six other countries in pledging a No New Coal Compact, promising to cease the issuance of permits for new unabated coal power plants after the end of the year.

The cabinet office announced on Tuesday (02) that ministers have approved a series of policy guidelines with regard to power generation including a proposal to generate 70 percent of the country’s electricity from renewable sources by 2030. Other proposals include a decision to forego the construction of new coal power plants and to neutralise net carbon emissions from power generation by 2050.

Related: Sri Lanka cabinet nod for electricity policy guidelines; 70pct renewable by 2030

The COP26 – the UN Climate Change Conference is being held at a “critical moment in the fight against climate change” and is attended by around 25,000 people from 197 countries representing a wide range of fields.

“It is essential that the world’s largest emitters of greenhouse gases fulfil their national commitments and assist developing nations navigate through the climate crisis,” the President’s Office statement quoted Rajapaksa as saying in his address.

Rajapaksa also called on nations to work together in a spirit of true cooperation to overcome the crisis and sustain humanity and the planet.

“Climate change affects all nations, but disproportionately impacts developing island nations. Developing nations that take bold steps towards climate change mitigation and adaptation deserve extensive support,” he said.

“Sri Lanka is deeply aware of the impacts of climate change. Our rich philosophical heritage, shaped by Lord Buddha’s teachings, places great value on environmental integrity,” said Rajapaksa, adding that sustainability is at the heart of Sri Lanka’s national policy framework.

“Sri Lanka’s updated Nationally Determined Contributions aims to reduce emissions towards achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. It is expected to increase carbon sequestration capacity by 7% by 2030 and steps are being taken to phase out use of fossil fuels,” he said.

In 2019, Sri Lanka spearheaded the Colombo Declaration on Sustainable Nitrogen Management, which seeks to halve Nitrogen waste by 2030, the statement said.

“We look forward to more countries joining this initiative.”

Sri Lanka leads the Action Group on Mangrove Ecosystems and Livelihoods under the Commonwealth Blue Charter initiative. President Rajapaksa also said Sri Lanka welcomes investments, technology transfers, and climate financing for its “ambitious sustainability efforts, along with broader development assistance to support recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.” (Colombo/Nov02/2021)

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