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Sri Lankan technocrat honoured for clean air efforts

COLOMBO, Nov 21, 2014 (EconomyNext) – A senior Sri Lankan Treasury official has won an international award for his work to improve air quality by implementing policies to improve fuel quality, reduce vehicle emissions and introduce electric cars.

B M S Batagoda, a Deputy Secretary of the Treasury, was named winner of the 2014 Kong Ha award at a three-day international air quality and sustainable transport forum being held in Colombo.

"Many still think that the air we breathe is ‘a given’ and there is no need to take care of our air to maintain it," Batagoda said.

"That is why so many urban sectors breathe dirty air because it is in many ways invisible. However, we all know the perils of PM 2.5 (an air pollution measurement), and that is why our work never stops here."

In 2008, the Clean Air Asia Partnership established the Kong Ha Award for Excellence in Air Quality Management named after the former chairperson of Clean Air Asia.

The award honours leaders in air quality management related policies and their implementation in Asia.

Clean Air Asia was established by the Asian Development Bank, World Bank, and USAID to promote better air quality in Asia whose economic growth was accompanied by worsening air pollution.

Among Batagoda’s key contributions is the establishment of the Air Resource Management Center, an organization in the Sri Lankan Ministry of Environment that involves key stakeholders in the public and private sector related to air quality management.

In 1998 when he was appointed as Director for Air Quality Management in the Ministry of Environment, air quality was not a priority in the government’s action plans.

Batagoda implemented policies for cleaner fuels, green vehicles and sustainable transport through standards in vehicular emission, fuel quality and vehicle importation like tax breaks for hybrid vehicles that have both an internal combustion engine and electric motor.

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"I accept this award as an inspiration to continue the work. I hope to see everyone in the world breathe clean air," Batagoda said during his acceptance speech at the Integrated Conference of Better Air Quality and Intergovernmental 8th Regional Environmentally Sustainable Transport Forum in Asia.

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