By Gomi Senadhira
Finally, Sri Lanka has managed to get rid of 243 containers filled with 3,000 tons of toxic waste imported from the United Kingdom. Unfortunately, the authorities are yet to take action against any of the importers. (Toxic garbage from the UK – CEA, Customs fail to take action against the importers; The Island 22 February 2022). Can we expect any action from the CEA and the Customs against the importers? I am not optimistic. Why? Let me explain.
First, why do developed countries like the UK and Singapore lawfully or unlawfully export garbage or what they call “recyclable waste” overseas? Because it is cheap, and they can do that very easily with the help of dishonest officials and shady “entrepreneurs” in developing countries, for whom it’s a lucrative business.
Secondly, how did the Customs detect the 3,000 tons of “illegally imported foreign garbage”? Wasn’t it only when the containers that remained in the port for months without being cleared by the importer started to stink and leak? When were the tons of customs-cleared garbage in a clandestine garbage dump created inside the BOI discovered by the BOI and the CEA? Wasn’t it only after a media exposure? Didn’t all this happen after the implosion of Meethotamulla garbage dump? Coincidence? Maybe. Maybe not.
In 2018, I wrote against yahapalanaya government’s plans to turn Sri Lanka into a dumping ground for Singaporean garbage, under the Sri Lanka Singapore FTA (SLSFTA). That was after, China, the world’s largest importer of waste, banned imports of “foreign garbage” in 2017. At that stage, I did not know stinking toxic waste was imported into Sri Lanka. Because that kind of waste is not a normal part of global commerce. Only failed states import that type of waste. Sri Lanka, I believe, is not one of them.
At that stage, my main concern was plastic waste; the main target of the Chinese ban. Before the ban on imports, China was the main importing country of plastic waste. Their studies showed that over 70% imported plastic waste was mismanaged, triggering a series of environmental problems. That is why in July 2017 China notified the World Trade Organization (WTO) that it would stop accepting shipments of “foreign garbage” such as waste plastic. China’s WTO filing said, “We found that large amounts of dirty wastes or even hazardous wastes are mixed in the solid waste that can be used as raw materials. This polluted China’s environment seriously… To protect China’s environmental interests and people’s health, we urgently adjust the imported solid wastes list, and forbid the import of solid wastes that are highly polluted.”
During the four-year period 2017-2020, while struggling to ship back 3,000 tons of illegally imported stinking wastes, the customs and the CEA had facilitated “legal” imports of a much larger quantity of garbage into the country. For example; Sri Lanka imported nearly 20,000 tons of plastic waste (HS 391590) In addition, nearly 1000 MTs of plastic waste under HS 391530 was also imported every year. Most of it, according to customs data, was imported from China. As far as I am aware, China does not export plastic waste!
In 2018, when I warned about possibility of our trade negotiators from the BOI, the Customs and, trade and finance ministries are planning to establish garbage processing plants in Sri Lanka under the SL-SFTA. In 2016 Singapore exported over 40,000 tons of plastic waste. Most of it went to China. After the Chinese ban, Singapore was looking for new dumping ground for plastic waste. However, the ministers from the “Yahapalanaya” government strongly refuted it. Among them were Mr. Eran Wickramaratne, the former State Minister of Finance, and Dr. Harsha De Silva, the former State Minister of National Policies and Economic Affairs. They insisted Sri Lanka does not and will not import garbage. They did so while the Customs and the BOI were passing in thousands of tons of garbage into the country. Then there are very strong provisions in the SLSFTA to facilitate the export and processing of garbage. For example, Waste Disposal Services (CPC 9402), in the services chapter opens mode 2 (that is consumption abroad). That means Singapore can consume its solid waste processing service abroad. In this bilateral agreement that means in Sri Lanka. Yet, ministers and the trade negotiators said it was “…a despicable attempt … to deceive the public” and unleashed a media campaign with totally incorrect information with incorrect information to mislead the public. Does that mean our negotiators and ministers do not know how to read and understand simple commitment in the agreement! Or was it a “…a despicable attempt … to deceive the public”?
In 2018 I urged the government to swift action and ban the import of plastic waste and notify the WTO. It is essential to ban imports before Singaporean or Chinese companies establish Waste Disposal Service in Sri Lanka using SLSFTA. It is also necessary to remove all the garbage import and processing-related paragraphs from the SLSFTA. So far, the government has not taken any action on it.
As per the National Solid Waste Management policy published on the CEA website (Last Updated on Friday, 02 August 2013) importation of post-consumer waste to Sri Lanka is prohibited and the establishment of any new recycling industry based on any imported waste/ recycled material is not allowed. But Sri Lanka’s imports waste had increased by many folds since 2013. We have also given commitments in the SL-SFTA that allows foreign investment in waste disposal services to process imported waste!
Can the government, particularly the ministers responsible for trade and environment Mr. Bandula Gunawardana and Mr. Mahinda Amaraweera explain to the country why they are not taking action to ban the import of garbage? If they are unable to do so, why do they need to import plastic waste? Do they believe, unlike in China, plastic waste does not pollute Sri Lanka’s environment seriously? Do they believe they have no obligation to protect Sri Lanka’s environmental interests and people’s health? Perhaps, we could also have their views along with those of Mr. Eran Wickramaratne and Dr. Harsha De Silva on the import of garbage and the commitment given in the SLSFTA on consumption abroad of “Waste Disposal Services.”
(The writer is a specialist and activist on trade and development issues. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Lingering world disorder and the UN’s role
Russia could very well be questioning the legitimacy of the UN system by currently challenging the right of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to arbitrate in the conflicting accusations of genocide brought against each other by it and Ukraine. Russia has countered Ukraine’s charge of genocide, occasioned by its invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, by accusing the latter of perpetrating the same crime in the rebel region of Eastern Ukraine, which is seen as being within the Russian sphere of influence.
As is known, when Russia did not participate in a hearing sanctioned by the ICJ on the charge of genocide brought against it in March 2022, the ICJ called on Russia to halt the invasion forthwith. Russia, however, as reported in some sections of the international media, reacted by claiming that the ICJ has ‘no jurisdiction over the case since Ukraine’s request does not come within the scope of the Genocide Convention.’ The main sides to the Ukraine conflict are at present reportedly stating their positions in the ICJ with regard to the correctness of this claim.
Whereas, the law-abiding the world over would have expected the ICJ’s word to prevail in the Ukraine conflict, this does not seem to be the case. More precisely, it is the moral authority of the UN that is being questioned by Russia. Given this situation, the observer cannot be faulted for believing that Russia is ‘sticking to its guns’ of favouring a military solution in the Ukraine.
Considering the foregoing and the continuing lawlessness in other geographical regions, such as South-West Asia, the Middle East and parts of Africa, the commentator is justified in taking the position that little or nothing has been gained by the world community by way of fostering international peace over the decades.
Most distressing is the UN’s seeming helplessness in the face of international disorder, bloodshed and war. The thorny questions from the 9/11 New York twin-tower terror attacks, for instance, are remaining with humanity.
One of the most dreaded questions is whether the UN Charter has been rendered a dead letter by the forces of lawlessness and those wielders of overwhelming military might who couldn’t care less for moral scruples. Those state actors who display these traits risk being seen as destruction-oriented subversives or terrorists who are impervious to civilizational values.
Commentators are right when they point to the need for UN reform. This is, in fact, long overdue. Of the original ‘Big Five’ who went on to constitute the permanent membership of the UN Security Council (UNSC) at the end of World War 11 and who oversaw the establishment of the UN, only the US and China retain major power status in the true sense of the phrase today.
The rest of the original heavyweights cannot be considered ‘spent forces’, but there are other powers of more recent origin who could easily vie for their positions. Some of these are India, Brazil, South Africa, Turkey and Indonesia. Inducting some of the latter into the UNSC could help constitute a more globally representative UNSC. That is, they will help put together an UNSC which is more faithfully reflective of the current global power distribution.
Theoretically, a more widely representative and inclusive UNSC could be a check against the arbitrary exercise of power by the more ambitious, expansionary and authoritarian members of the UNSC but a foremost challenge facing the UN is to induce such new members of the UNSC into representing the vital and legitimate interests of the ordinary publics within these states and internationally. Minus such representation of the world’s powerless UN reform could come to nought. In fact, this could be described as a prime challenge before the UN which could decide its enduring relevance.
Admittedly, the challenge is complex and defies easy resolution. Not all the countries that are seen as prospective UNSC members are democratic in orientation. That is, they would not be people-friendly or egalitarian. Most of them are governed by power elites that are part of what has been described as the ‘Transnational Capitalist Class’ and could be expected to be repressive and parasitic rather than caring or egalitarian. How then could they be expected to be committed to re-distributive justice within their countries, for example?
In the short and medium terms, the UN system could bring into being systems and institutions that could make it comparatively difficult for the power elites of the world to be parasitic, exploitive, self-serving and unconscionable. Strengthening and giving added teeth to systems that could prove effective against money-laundering and allied practices of self-aggrandizement is one way out.
Ironically, it is perhaps the UN that could lay the basis for and provide these mechanisms most effectively and non-obtrusively. It would need to work more with governments and publics on these fronts and lay the foundation for the necessary accountability procedures within states. It should prepare for the long haul.
In the longer term, it’s the coming into existence of democracy-conscious governments and ruling strata that must be sought. Here too the UN could play a significant role. Its numerous agencies could prove more proactive and dynamic in inculcating and teaching the core values of democracy to particularly poor and vulnerable populations that could fall prey to anti-democratic, parochial political forces that thrive on division and discord.
UN aid could be even directly tied to the establishment and strengthening of democratic institutions in particularly impoverished countries and regions. Thus will the basis be laid for younger leaders with a strong democratic vision and programmatic alternative for their countries. Hopefully, such issues would get some airing in the current UN General Assembly sessions.
Accordingly, the broad-basing of the UNSC is integral to UN reform but the progressive world cannot stop there. It would need to ensure the perpetuation of the UN system by helping to bring into being polities that would respect this cardinal international organization which has as its prime aim the fostering of world peace. Democracy-conscious populations are an urgent need and systems of education that advocate the core values of democracy need to be established and strengthened worldwide.
The coming into being of rivals to the current Western-dominated world order, such as the BRICS bloc, needs to be welcomed but unless they are people-friendly and egalitarian little good will be achieved. Besides, undermining the UN and its central institutions would prove utterly counter-productive.
Country Roads …concert for children
I’ve always wondered why those who have hit the big time in their profession, as singers, have not cared to reach out to the needy.
They generally glorify themselves, especially on social media, not only with their achievements, but also with their outfits, etc. – all status symbols.
I’m still to see some of the big names grouping together to help the thousands who are suffering, at this point in time – children, especially.
However, I need to commend the Country Music Foundation of Sri Lanka for tirelessly working to bring some relief, and happiness, to children, in this part of the world.
Country Roads is said to be Sri Lanka’s and South Asia’s longest running charity concert for children, and this year, they say, the show will be even better.
This concert has consistently donated 100% of its proceeds to children’s charities in Sri Lanka. Over the past 35 years, this has resulted in several million rupees worth of aid, all of which has contributed directly to addressing the most pressing issues faced by children in Sri Lanka, a common practice since the concert’s first edition was held in 1988.
In 2014, the concert contributed Rs. 500,000 to Save the Children Sri Lanka, to support its mother-and-child programme for local plantations. During the same year, another Rs. 100,000 was given to the Oxonian Heart Foundation, to help treat impoverished and destitute children suﬀering from heart disease, while a further Rs. 100,000 was donated to a poor family caring for a special needs child. In commemoration of its landmark 25th anniversary concert in 2013, CMF donated a million rupees to aid in a special UNICEF project.
The 2023 musical extravaganza will feature the bright lights and panoramic cityscape of Colombo, as its backdrop, as it will be held at the picturesque Virticle by Jetwing, which is situated high above the city, on the 30th ﬂoor of the Access Towers building, in Union Place, Colombo 2.
The 35th anniversary Country Roads concert for children will take place on Saturday, 7th October, 2023.
Feizal Samath, President of the Country Music Foundation (CMF), the concert organisers, commented: “We are very much looking forward to this event as it’s being held after a lapse of five years, due to unavoidable circumstances.”
Fan favourites the Mavericks from Germany and Astrid Brook from the UK will once again return to headline the 2023 concert, and joining them on stage will be local outfit Cosmic Rays, as well as the Country Revival Band, with Feizal and Jury.
Dirk (from the Mavericks) has this to say to his Sri Lankan fans: “2018 was the last time we were in your beautiful country with the Mavericks band. Then Corona came and with it a long break. I missed you very much during this time.
“It has now been five years since my last visit to Sri Lanka. A lot has changed. The sponsorship that has always made this trip possible for us is gone. But we didn’t just want to end this tradition, which we have learned to love so much since 1992. That’s why we’re travelling to Sri Lanka this year entirely at our own expense, because it’s an affair of the heart for us.
“We very much hope that it won’t be the last Maverick performance in Sri Lanka. We hope that this unique journey will continue, that there will also be a Country Roads concert in the years to come.”
The 35th anniversary edition of the Country Roads concert for children will be supported by Official Venue Virticle by Jetwing, and Official Airline SriLankan Airlines, as well as its other partners, Jetwing Colombo Seven, Cargills, LOLC, and Fireﬂy.
Tickets are currently available, for a charitable donation of Rs 2,000 each, at Cargills Food City outlets at Kirulapone, Kohuwela (Bernards), Majestic City, Mount Lavinia (junction) and Staples Street.
Healthy, Glowing Skin
Give your skin a boost by including the following into your diet:
Avocados contain healthy fats which can help your skin stay moisturised and firm.
They also contain vitamin C and E – two important nutrients that your body need to support healthy skin and fight free radical formation.
Avocados are also rich in biotin, a B vitamin that some nutritionists believe can help promote healthy skin and hair. A deficiency of biotin can lead to skin problems, such as rashes, ache, psoriasis, dermatitis and overall itchiness.
Carrots are rich in vitamin A, which fights against sunburns, cell death, and wrinkles. Vitamin A also adds a healthy, warm glow to your skin.
You can get vitamin A by consuming provitamin A through fruits, vegetables, and other plant-based products. Your body then converts beta-carotene into vitamin A to protect your skin from the sun.
Provitamin A can also be found in oranges, spinach, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, bell peppers, broccoli and more.
* Dark Chocolate:
Dark chocolate is beneficial for your skin because cocoa powder boasts a bunch of antioxidants. These antioxidants hydrate and smoothen your skin, making your skin less sensitive to sunburn and improves the blood flow of your skin. Make a healthy choice by opting for a bar of dark chocolate with 70% cocoa for more antioxidants and lesser added sugar.
* Green Tea:
Green tea has been said to protect the skin against external stressors and ageing. This is because it is antioxidant-rich and contains catechins that protect your skin, reduce redness, increase hydration, and improve elasticity.
A diet rich in antioxidants along with adequate hydration may even out your skin texture, strengthen your skin barrier and improve your overall skin health.
Avoid adding milk to green tea as the combination can reduce the effects of the antioxidants present in green tea.
Additional tips for healthy skin…
Don’t forget to stay hydrated because water plays a big part in the appearance of your skin. Water ensures your skin has enough moisture, which reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. It also helps with nutrient absorption, removal of toxins and blood circulation.
Besides food and water, it is important to observe proper hygiene. This means no touching your face until you’ve washed your hands. Your hands carry more bacteria than you think and the occasional touch here and there can add up. After a long day out, cleanse your face thoroughly.
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