22 September, 2019

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Planning For Less Hospitals

By Ranil Senanayake

Dr Ranil Senanayake

“I would like to see less hospitals, as a consequence of public health being less compromised.” What an enlightened statement! The President suggested these goals in his speech the other day in a marked contrast to those seeking to sell our well-being and our children’s well being for their greed and profit.

At a time when the very basis for life, our land and water is being negotiated away by corrupt and uncaring politicians, there must come a point when the public has to stand up and say enough! The president has stated some goals. We need less hospitals and a more healthy population. Will some of these so called ‘development projects’ help in achieving these goals? The construction of massive buildings on the reclaimed land in front of Colombo will certainly increase the air pollution being felt today. A practical experiment is to leave a mirror face up at anyplace in the house, leave it clean and check the amount of dust that settles from the air, this is what you will be breathing every day. If you place the mirror in the same place regularly and see the dust deposit increase, it means that your health and the health of your children are being compromised. If the new constructions are allowed without any limits being set on air quality , the dust settling on the mirrors will be intense ! The worse the air quality becomes the more hospitals we will need. In all the rush about EIA’s and SEIA for the Port City, there is yet no EIA on the quality of air and the impact on the population of the greater Colombo area if heavy construction is to be permitted. The population living in Colombo will be exposed to dust, PM 2.5 and atmospheric pollutants from such constructions if allowed without strict limits. Even today there is a problem with pulmonary and cardiac problems in the urban population. Unchecked seaward construction could see an exponential rise in lung and heart disease and require the construction of even more hospitals to attend to the sick. Perhaps, the ‘developers’ rushing in to profit from the construction might also build hospitals to treat the sick of Colombo to make further profit. Such a cynical approach in business is alive and well in Si Lanka, where the importers of poisons and carcinogens, pesticides and weedicides, make huge profits from investing in hospitals to further profit from the misery that they themselves have created. The ‘developers’, who seek make huge profits by compromising the health of Colombo, might also be the developers of the hospitals to further profit from the victims of their actions.

The land that we have been born in has become a land scarred by uncaring commercial enterprise that, over a few centuries, reduced the resplendent ecosystems of this country to degraded hillsides and soils. During this time of economic plunder we reduced the forest cover by over 90 % and polluted over 95% of our 103 river basins. The tragedy is that we still continue on the same path. The current move to try and invite the polluting industries of the world to come and lay waste our unpolluted lands, will compromise the future citizens of this nation. When those with political power seek to sell a future far beyond their own lifetimes, should they not consult with the youth?

In the rush to hand over our lands to ‘investors’ to construct industrial areas, there has not been one word of caution about the effects on our population. The smokestack operators pushing coal have not mentioned one word nor paid a cent of their profits to alleviate the suffering of the people that living around that power plant. A visit to the area around Norocholai and a discussion with the farmers who are loosing their livelihood and health due to the dust and fumes from the so-called ‘clean’ power plant will indicate if any of those who made a fortune buying this white elephant and supplying it with the coal, has even spent a rupee on attending to the well being of those whom they affect. This is the way with unclean businesses. They operate for their personal profit only; there is no declaration of commissions or any CSR program amongst that lot.

Given such a history of political and bureaucratic apathy and corporate greed; The public must examine why we are offering the clean lands in the south of our nation, so far unpolluted by persistent pollutants to any ‘investor’ as long as they come with some money. Does this invitation for industrialization extend to those emitting persistent pollutants that will affect our children and their children? Persistent radioactive pollutants can stay poisonous for thousands of years, persistent heavy metallic compounds for hundreds of years and persistent organic pollutants for centuries too. The use of these dangerous chemicals, although banned or the severely restricted by the international community, is still produced and used in places with loose environmental laws. The case of Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) illustrates the danger. Persistent organic pollutants are organic compounds that are resistant to environmental degradation through chemical, biological, and photolytic processes. Because of their persistence, POPs bioaccumulate with potential significant impacts on human health and the environment. The international community at the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants in 2001 discussed the effect of POPs on human and environmental health, with the intention of eliminating or severely restricting their production.

But elimination of stocks was prevented by the industries that use many POPs as pesticides, solvents, pharmaceuticals, and industrial chemicals, the industries that use them look for countries with lax environmental standards to move such industries into. As examples two chemicals with very low import volumes into Sri Lanka, which will increase with uncontrolled ‘industrialization are; Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and its salts. These are used in the production of fluoropolymers. PFOS and related compounds are extremely persistent, bioaccumulating and biomagnifying, or Hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD) which is a brominated flame retardant primarily used in thermal insulation in the building industry. HBCD is persistent, toxic and ecotoxic, with bioaccumulative and long-range transport properties. There are hundreds of similar chemicals certain ‘industries’ will require for their business, but which could poison our soils for years to come.

Who will protect us from such an outcome? If this insane notion of inviting any type of industry regardless of their impact on our people is promoted and permitted, they might as well begin building more hospitals. The vision of the President of better “public health” for the public will be will compromised, and if the environmental regulations are ignored, the impact of these activities on the health of the people and generations to come will be severe indeed.

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Latest comments

  • 0
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    Is there any state entity concerned with environmental pollution?
    Who examines requests for commencement of industries for possible environmental pollution?

    Has the author alerted these, with regard to existing pollution which he has mentioned ?

    • 2
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      Thanks Dr. Ranil for your great work! Please keep it up.

      What Sri Lanka needs is people-centered development that priorities needs of people and environment (such as good public transport) , while building on sectors of comparative advantage such as Fisheries and aquaculture since Sri Lanka has massive ocean resources, compared to most other countries.

      But what we have is FAKE DEVELOPMENT AND PHANTOM AID in an Era of Fake News such as the Volks waggon Factory and the Horana Tire Factory and development disasters like the Uma Oya Project., We have white elephant projects in Hambantota which has cause a massive DEBT TRAP. due to Chinese, US and IMF debt trap advisors and economic Hit Men running working with CORRUPT POLITICIANS in the Mahinda Jarapassa regime, and now in the Agency for Economic Development of the brain dead Prime Minister of Sri Lanka who thinks that the US Govt. and its right wing Millennium Challenge Corporation / Harvard Economic Hit men are gods gift to Sri Lanka and follows their policy advice.

      As a result poverty rates have gone up today and economic inequality is growing massively today. Sri Lanka manages to get by because of maids working in the middle east.! The first thing is that Sri Lankan development experts need to be brought in to formulate National Development Planning and policy making for regionally equitable development and the development planning process needs to be de-politicized and owned by the Sri Lanka people.

  • 1
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    In Kandy the air is polluted and we need all the road restrictions removed and no more buildings that attract heavy traffic.

  • 3
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    Thank you for your enlightened article
    .It is time the whole of the economic system based on GDP be reviewed. This is a form of creative accounting is misleading as the negatives are not taken into account..
    The serious concerns are the pollution of water and air. . The vehicle of life and the carrier from nutrients to oxygen the life giver has been converted to the vehicle of death that carries chemicals , nuclear waste etc . The cancer rate in SL has doubled in the last 10 years. according to the american cancer association 70% of cancers are preventable if clean air and clean water is adaopted as a policy.
    What concerns me is the complacency of the medical profession and the environmentalist who have allowed the illiterate politicians and their henchman the economists ( IMF) to destroy the health of the nation pursuing a economic policy that is anti life. Also concerning is the commodification of health care with unnecessary investigation and minimalistic care ( 5 Minutes /Person) that is maintaining a profession that is meant to be caring, The commodification of health care is detrimental not only to healthcare but also to the economy of the country.
    It is time the people wake up and fight this antihuman behaviour of the economist and politicians who have been enslaved by the IMF .

  • 0
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    Who will protect us from such an outcome?
    When corruption is rampant, there can be no trust and services also suffer. When state or local government officials involved and support corruption, strong and effective governance can be difficult to establish and therefore social and sustainable economic development will be hindered. No progress can be made until good citizens, those who are participates in public affairs with wisdom, must come forward on an urgent basis and in a more pragmatic manner to expose duplicitous higher ups and deal direct with the criminal challenges.

  • 0
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    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

  • 3
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    This is the very reason why our country needs a specialized body to look into the needs of the people. President do not have the knowledge and wisdom to organize the country to prosperity. Politician dimwits power should be trimmed and transferred to state regulatory bodies for progress to be seen.

  • 2
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    Other than simply identifying the problem which most of us are AWARE of !

    What is your solution then?

    NO SOLUTION ?

    I thought so….

    • 2
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      The solution is like China take a step back and go for sustainable development by phasing out on the use of fossil fuels .Singapore faced a high degree of Air pollution with the pig farms in 1984 and they solved the problem by reducing numbers .Transport regulations were brought about to prevent the haze in the city around the high rise residential apartments .Water pollution meant that the water had to be treated with additional cost ..Yes they walked into the world of high GDP and had to incur more expenses to get it right Has it been controlled for this small population of people of 6 million plus people Recently the government has slammed a recent study by the University of Singapore on Urban Pollution and rapid development?? not a very good model for us …Should we tread the same path/ Have we embarked on a program to destroy a very very rich natural environment that would be the envy of those living in the urban jungle any where in the world environment ..Plus side of Singapore is that for this small population the ratio of Medical Docs is 1:470 people .with a total of 28 hospitals and 11230 hospital beds ..We got to to do more research on the rise of the Asian giants and apply the model with a fluidity to suit our work ethics values and culture .That would be a solution to consider research and debate then be brave to flip back and then make amends .

      • 0
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        Have you been to China and seen the pollution there? Sustainable development? They are still burning coal like nobody’s business.

  • 2
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    We cannot simplify complex problems with idealistic rhetoric ‘ less prisons ! less Hospitals! a dream .a Pie in the sky mentality .My home is sterile and clean and cool so what it must be the same out there . .May be from the lofty heights to which he was pushed up the Presidents does not tread on the dusty ground any more nor on the parched field of drought ridden land , nor breathe the polluted air of a coal driven power plant .Nor the world of crime where everyone wants to get rich quick with scams , drugs or simple haggling for farm products to have more money with them .He may not be aware that development ideology in the advanced countries have made more demands on research for on drugs to beat cancer and Cardiac conditions .may be few of us at least should read this article which covers most areas that lead to the increase of medical conditions and not prevent them , for to achieve the UTOPIA the dream of our President . does not see the cancers that entered into our society .This is a balanced article written By Dr Senanayake .Hope the PM or his experts around him have time to read and reflect and may be flip back on some decisions .Better late than never !

  • 1
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    It’s good to read the simple message of concern for the environment that this article encapsulates. All that scientific stuff is beyond me, but I do know that owing to the obsession with technology which we hardly understand, we are doing a great deal of damage to the environment.

    I have once or twice met Dr Ranil Senanayake more than thirty years ago. Then as now, he was very concerned about preserving our local flora etc. He used to have this place of his at Mirahawatte, near one of the work sites (Dyraba) for this disastrous Uma Oya Scheme. I went that way a few days ago; I wonder if he still comes up there. He is incredibly erudite on these subjects, for which reason, perhaps, I’ve not been reading his many articles.

    I agree that for all that people may scoff at the President’s rural background, a lot of his thinking is more enlightened than that of many who talk highfalutin stuff about GDPs. On the other hand I’ve been making many comments on ethno-social articles. In that area, the performance of Yahapalana has been most disappointing. Why on earth aren’t we moving faster to fulfill the promises made to the World Community to ensure that there are, at the very least, credible investigations in to allegations?

    Back to the environment. We have to keep changing smartphones because they are so complex and we don’t properly know how to use them! In discarding batteries I find that even the largest establishments acknowledge that they just dump in to local council garbage. And we now find that those local councils have no understanding of all that Ranil is talking about here.

    As for Uma Oya, they’re supposed to be tunnelling away with two 300 metre long machines which can’t reverse, right under me. No, correction: this tunnel will pass within about a mile of my house. Some of the reports that I’ve got are credible. The Iranians have sub-contracted to some Germans. One German had resigned because he found that precautions to prevent further damage to the environment are not being taken.

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