International Coastal Clean-up Day on 15 September kick started a week-long series of beach clean-ups in Sri Lanka. Around 1.59 million tonnes of waste is released into the ocean around the island annually. Every year millions of tonnes of plastic end up in the ocean, ten per cent of which is marine litter made up of derelict fishing gear. It takes hundreds of years for the plastic to degrade and disintegrate into tiny pieces known as microplastics which are unwelcome and dangerous guests in our food chain.
"The EU's Plastics Strategy is translating political commitment into bold action at home and abroad", said EU Ambassador H.E. Tung-Laï Margue. "The EU is playing a leading role in ocean governance, and is helping to build momentum for a global call for cleaner and safer seas. EU Delegations around the world have organised beach clean-up campaigns to mark International Coastal Clean-up Day, and we are happy to be doing the same here in Sri Lanka. Immediate and continuous action is vital to tackle ocean plastic waste to ensure sustainable oceans and fisheries, and to support resilient coasts and coastal communities".
Hanna Singer, the UN Resident Co-ordinator, noted that "SDG 14 calls for action that will ‘by 2025, prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds, in particular, from land-based activities, including marine debris and nutrient pollution’. The UN in Sri Lanka, through its many agencies has continuously engaged in activities focused on ocean and coastal preservation. Our commitment, together with the government, to protect marine ecosystems and biodiversity has been further strengthened through the renewed focus on environmental management in the UN Sustainable Development Framework 2018 – 2022".
MEPA General Manager Dr. Terney Pradeep Kumara said, "The waste which accumulates in seas around Sri Lanka is not merely from Sri Lanka; it comes from neighbouring countries. Therefore, a sustainable solution is needed to control the release of waste to the sea. Tackling marine debris requires educating people–they must be briefed about matters such as encouraging the reduction of using single use plastics and waste segregation, recycling and beach clean ups. In line with this, MEPA has organised almost 100 beach clean-ups around Sri Lanka during coastal clean-up week, and I thank the EU and UNOPS for being part of this programme".