The machinery brought down to clean the coastal areas polluted by the X-Press Pearl disaster is to be used for a new purpose - to tidy up the tourism beachline.
The matter was brought up at a meeting chaired by the president's chief of staff and senior advisor on national security Sagala Ratnayaka to discuss coast conservation efforts recently.
It was revealed that the Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA) owns two large and 11 small beach-cleaning machines, while another is with the Negombo Municipal Council, all of which are idling without being used for any purpose.
Accordingly, Ratnayaka has proposed to utilize these machines to do the necessary cleanup of the coastline.
According to a study published in the Marine Pollution Bulletin which analysed 10 locations along a 91-kilometer stretch of Sri Lanka’s southern coast, it was revealed that 60 percent of the sand samples and 70 percent of the surface water samples they collected contained an abundance of microplastics mainly due to poor waste management and an inability to break away from age-old littering practices.
10 distinct beaches are considered paradise beaches of Sri Lanka, whose coastline accounts for nearly 80 per cent of the tourism infrastructure. From among the 10 main beaches, it is learnt that seven experience heavy pollution, mainly from plastic.
As current cleaning methods are human/labour intensive, extremely time consuming and carried out at irregular intervals, these machines can be used in an organised manner to clean the beaches as they are capable of collecting dangerous objects such as syringes, broken glass, cigarette filters, footwear as well as single use plastics in the forms of straws, plastic bags and styrofoam.
Further, stones from pebbles to larger rocks and organic waste such as coconut husks and tree wigs can be collected as well.
Meanwhile, private sector assistance is also to be obtained to use the machinery which is presently not being used as well as to promote beach cleaning as a good practice mandatory for economic sustenance by encouraging private stakeholders to adopt their own form of coastal cleaning and conservation.
Navy commander Vice Admiral Priyantha Perera, former Navy chief Rear Admiral Ravindra Wijegunaratne, chairman of the Marine Environment Prevention Authority (MEPA) Asela Rekawa and Ports Authority officials participated in the discussion.