When I browsed though my computer today I found an article. Its an interview done with me somewhere in 2013 for a News paper or Magazine and I am not sure whether it got published or not. But I have this written question and answers saved in a document. I think even its bit old still the answers are very valid even today perhaps more than yesterday. So I thought of sharing that here when 14 out of 25 districts in Sri Lanka has floods.
A The usual concept is that Sri Lanka is still not ready 'what to do in advance' about climate change, and how to 'avert adverse consequences' and those aspects are still not analysed. What is your take on that?
I totally disagree with the concept as there is no such “in advance”. We are already in the middle of Climate change repercussion. I am sure everybody in the country now knows there is something happening which is very unusual. They may not know why? But when you go to grass root communities our adults say that it’s not like those days…everything has changed including climate and weather. So I think it’s a known fact now with unknown reasons for many people in the country.
I am not sure how we could avert these repercussions as the globe is also fighting for that and we have gone far beyond the tipping point. Only solution would be get adopted and try to slow down the consequences and make sure each of us in this world try to maintain a very low carbon foot print which means we all must be conscious about our own individual damage we do to this earth. So we should not accelerate such consequences by continuing same ill practices as now we know what made it happen this way.
B also, we have no proper data on climate change and compared to other nations we have no advance research on the issue. Why is that? Well I think we have some kind of data which would be enough to start taking actions. If we use the already prepared reports and strategic plans and put them into practice, I am sure we can take so many adaptive measurements. Only thing I feel we don’t have a holistic approach. Everybody has their own agendas and no such coordination. But all relevant authorities have done some research, surveys, analysis and reports but nothing have gone to pragmatic level yet. Or if they have then not effectively. Since I am into more awareness raising I know some people say that they have participated in climate change adaptation and mitigation workshops/lectures but they don’t know that they should not burn polythene or should not waste water/food or pollute their own river which will also connected to climate change repercussions.
C there is rainfall pattern is changing drastically and the ultimate persons who face the impact of Climate Change is the down trodden. Is this issue considered seriously? I am not sure that it is taken seriously as we have track records of forgetting things very easily. When there are flood or cyclones we all say oh..ah…and people suffer and some die but again we forget what made the weather that bad and how we should get ready for such situations until next natural disaster comes. How can our grass root communities get ready and face it when no such properly planned guideline for them to get adopted? So they live with the situation. No we have not taken anything seriously yet. Even USA government took this seriously soon after Hurricane Sandy. I always say Climate Change Global warming or any environmental pollution is like a cancer. Nobody sees the damage until it comes out and patient die. So let us suffer more…then we will try to take actions of course it will be too late by then.
D are the people of this country aware of the climate change and do the poor farmers who depend on weather patterns told about it all in sri Lanka? As I told you before grass root communities are aware of some drastic changes as they live with Nature every day. But when we ask why…most of them don’t know the science but they say just because of human ill practices such as deforestation. So we need to take science up to their level not in English but in their local languages either in Sinhala or Tamil and again in a simple way which is very close to their hearts. Then surely they will give us solutions even as our rural people are wiser than our urban living modern generations and farmers are well connected with Nature. But I didn’t mean the farmers who are already got polluted their wisdom with inorganic fertilizers and technology introduced by multinational companies. Still we have farmers who are well connected with Mother Earth and suffering a lot as there is no say for them.
E: How is the state operating in connection with climate change and disaster management?I am not sure I can answer this properly as I don’t understand how they work on these two areas. I only get news from media and I don’t hear that they talk about Climate Change as a reason for disaster. Or I have not seen any Climate change scientist (if they are in the country) describing what has happened in such situation. I was in USA when hurricane Sandy hit East Coast and I got to know more knowledge on Climate change during that period when I listen to radio, TV and read news papers. I felt it was the same for general public in USA at that time. Unfortunately, when I see the relief work done by our community and the government during a disaster like floods or drought all these actions are inviting many more disasters. They all do it with great big hearts specially with our culture based on “Dana” (Donations), no plans for waste management, amount of garbage produced due to relief work is so frightening and obviously creates more pollutions and worsen the situation. Also no plans for helping wild animals or domesticated animals or rescue plan or discarding the carcasses or temporary shelter for them. It’s so pathetic why our people with such big hearts ignore the suffering of Non-human living beings.
F: we hear the environment ministry and the other stake holders who come under Climate change are not linked and operate separately. why is there no linkage between all the institution that has something to do with climate change.? and what is the fear?
Well again I don’t know from that side because I don’t represent them. As a NGO leader I can only talk about my experience. I conducted two National level campaigns with grass root youth. One was a river journey along Kelani River and the most recent one was a bicycle journey to talk about zero emission and sustainability which had ultimate goal of creating green youth leaders. I tried to get connected with relevant ministries and departments and personally met most of them. Some really let me down saying that I represent a NGO and they don’t want to work with NGO’s and we are a voluntary organization but they label us as a NGO anyway that is the only way we could get the registration from Social Services Department in the country. Some said yes and at the end again refused without giving me any valued reasons. Thanks to few ministries, state departments and Authorities (I think they mainly know me personally) I got some support and somehow I completed it with a great success. So I don’t know whether it’s a fear or a disgust they have on each other. What I know is its very challenging to work in collaboration with many stake holders in environmental field.
G. are they aware of the danger we face? I am sure yes! Because they get trainings, attend conferences and get updates from IPCC. They are aware but not sure whether they are conscious enough about what is happening.
H why is that when we talk about climate change we need to contact the NGOs rather than the state run institution/s? any reason? Oh…is that so? Very interesting! well that of course I am not aware of.
I. Do you consider NGOs are pushing it hard on the government on climate issues? I don’t think we are doing enough. Anyway how could we do? Only few NGO’s are working closely with government and I don’t think those are working on Climate Change issues in a way to push the government had enough.
J Are all the NGOs working on Climate Change working together to bring about a better awareness programme? No not yet. Its sad. I think it’s high time to have a proper network.
K what kind of disparity is prevailing among all stakeholders when it comes to Climate Change? I think its not only regarding Climate change but in all fields. Their interests, expertise, attitudes, perceptions, back grounds, education level, objectives of the organization, and also the conscious levels matter. We all live in different shapes of cocoons. Some come out of it as a butterfly and see the world and try to get adjust to fulfill their mission. But some are not. They live, grow and survive inside the cocoon throughout the life. That’s their choice anyway.
L. In your opinion how can sri lanka being a tiny island adjust to the climate change? Sri Lanka is a geographically a tiny Island with huge resources. Culturally we are positive thinkers. That is why a natural disaster like Tsunami didn’t make a huge damage as many expected. I think it’s easy if we think properly. I still believe we have a manageable population, good culture who respect each other, blessed with weather conditions (no such extreme weather like snow or hot summer). What is lacking is sustainable thinker, environmental friendly passionate, committed, leadership who consider him/her as a daughter or son of Mother Earth. If a country like Bangladesh could have taken many steps to combat Climate change why can’t we?
M people involved in Climate change do a lot of policy studies and travel overseas to particiapte in forums and conferences. Does that have any impact on averting dangerous situation of the country?
Well again I think if we convert such information/experience into simple languages where everybody in the country can understand then we can make use out of it. I have also got training from overseas even from USA former Vise president Al Gore who is a wonderful presenter and an activist. What I am doing is, I translate all information into Sinhala and Tamil and share it with grass root communities, youth and kids I am working with. But again its lot of work as we need to remake many things in a way our people can understand fully. Otherwise all information will be trapped inside the folder given at the conference or training. No use to anybody even not to yourself.
N What is lacking with the policy makers in terms of talking about climate change? Perhaps they don’t think enough for future scenario, the changing condition within next 20-50 years, or more appropriate to local conditions and not quick enough in preparing or implementing. By the time the policies implement it’s already being outdated.
O climate change is a global problem that all nations are destined to face together. It is a complex problem demanding complex policy interventions to address multiple issues. How far is Sri Lanka fairing? If we think in the same line the other Nations think then the condition is same for us too. Too complicated!!! If we have our own scientists who think in a different line using our traditional knowledge and practices perhaps we could understand the scenario and would find easy solutions. But who is brave enough to do that. Most of our education is western oriented so can we think differently? I sometimes wish we had King Rawana or somebody who could use all energies in the universe to tell everybody hey… Don’t follow Western World…they are already gone in a wrong way, so it’s time for Great Turning!
language barrier, understanding science in Sinhala is difficult. So academic personal should be able to communicate well or they should use people like us/NGO's for awareness raising if we are given such results we can spread the message. I asked such information from responsible persons but they said nothing is available (may be true or maybe they didn't want to share it with us)
There are quite few number of scientific publications online. But how many of us (grass root communities) use internet to read such important data. Do you think even a science teacher in this country read them? I have doubts. So what we should do is we should make the science language to a readable (Sinhala and Tamil) and understandable (given terminologies in local languages)
I think Sri Lanka has all the documents ready (I have doubts about the content though). However, what we need is implementation with sustainable thinking and true intention of sustainable development.