Taking care of the environment

By David Stephens, Pix by Sanka Vidanagama

If you happened to walk past the Wellawatte railway station last Saturday morning, you would have noticed a large group of youngsters, armed with gloves, garbage bags and various other paraphernalia, enthusiastically snatching up bits of trash and debris from the beach’s cluttered sands.

They did this because last Saturday October 24, was The International Day of Climate Action and the beach clean up was the first in a string of events organized by Beyond Borders as part of their environmental initiative ‘Project Act.’ The project will be made up of a range of similar events and will draw to a close on March 24, 2010.

“We are separating the garbage into degradable and non-degradable and the CMC will clear out the separated garbage,” Tehani Ariyaratne one of the members of Beyond Borders explained.

The day kicked off with a briefing led by Halit Azeez that was more like an energetic call to arms than a conventional speech. The participants then engaged in a series of ice breaker activities before finally being enlightened about the purpose of the event by leaders of the different organizations.

Environment and Natural Resources Minister Champika Ranawaka also graced the event, distributing plants to several of the volunteers and signing a pledge towards eco-friendly living.

With rousing chants of “Go Green Now” a group of more than 100 strong then began walking towards the front entrance of St. Peter’s College Bambalapitiya in a demonstration that thumped the message of environment safety on passers by and residents.

“I support what these kids are doing, people should take care of the environment, most people just throw garbage all over and my job becomes very difficult because of that,” says Rupasiri Gunawardena, a street garbage collector who works on the Bambalapitiya route.

Most of the youth and officials gathered on the beach last weekend were affiliated to Beyond Borders and a host of other organizations that comprised the Environmental Program of the Consortium of Humanitarian Agencies (GTE) Ltd (CHA), the Roteract and Interact movements, the Sri Lankan Youth Climate Action Network and the International Climate Champions for Sri Lanka (Part of the British Council).

However there were also those who had heard about the event through word of mouth like Ranga Paliawala, an employee from Practical Action, who was informed of the event by an office colleague.

The highlight of the day was when all the participants of the beach clean up assembled on the beach to form a human 350 of which a photograph was taken.

The photograph will be sent to www.350.org to demonstrate Sri Lanka’s participation in the global 350 movement. 350 is an organization that encourages people all over the world to show their solidarity for a safer climate and hopes to generate a positive outcome from this December’s United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. “350 parts per million carbon dioxide is the safe limit for humanity, so that is the significance of the number 350,” reveals a member of the Beyond Borders’ core team.

Project Act is funded by a grant from the United States Department of State. Glen Davis, a representative of the United States Embassy in Colombo earlier praised the efforts of Beyond Borders adding, “We in the U.S believe in grass roots democracy, individual citizens taking power and acting on their own to initiate change.”

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