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Statement by H.E. Kshenuka Senewiratne, Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations at the Launch of the “Group of Friends to Combat Marine Plastic Pollution” 8th June 2020

Monday, 08 June 2020
  • Sri Lanka is pleased to be among the founding members of the “Group of Friends on Combating Marine Plastic Pollution”. I wish to congratulate Norway, the Maldives and Antigua and Barbuda for this timely initiative and look forward to contributing to the Group’s efforts in the future, to achieve SDG 14.
  • Oceans are an absolutely important natural resource for living beings, considering that they account for 70% of the source of oxygen we breathe, and regulate earth every second on a daily basis.
  • Sadly, we witness marine plastic pollution being on an increasing trajectory with no sight of abatement. Sri Lanka as an island nation recognizes a special responsibility on its part to address this issue with vigour. Our seas are home to an abundant and rich marine life, with much of population relying on the seas for their livelihoods. A significant segment of Sri Lanka’s tourism industry is also dependent on our pristine beaches and sea life, which we share with many members here today.
  • Marine plastic pollution is therefore of particular concern to Sri Lanka.. Since plastics are produced from petro-chemicals, we are disturbed by the findings that globally, as much as 8 million tonnes of its waste are dumped to our seas annually, which is predicted to increase in the future. If not adequately addressed, we could be facing a future of having more plastic than fish in our oceans by 2050. This could result in catastrophic consequences, including devastating impacts on our marine diversity and ecosystems, while undermining coastal communities and harming human health.
  • Therefore, the need for a more concerted and coordinated effort to combat marine plastic pollution at global, regional and national levels, has never been greater. Conscious of our obligations to protect the seas, Sri Lanka joined the UN Environment’s Clean Seas Campaign against Marine Litter and Ocean Pollution in 2017, which includes measures such as plastic bag bans, new marine reserves and drives to increase recycling.
  • At a national level, Sri Lanka implemented a ban on single-use plastic products from 1 January 2018, stepped up separation and recycling of waste, and set a goal to making its ocean and coastline “pollution-free” by 2030.  In addition, the Government has joined hands with the private sector and civil society to clean up the coastal areas and create awareness among the population to reduce the use of plastic.
  • Protecting our planet, particularly our seas, is our responsibility.  But we cannot do it alone. Collective action is a key factor in combating marine plastic pollution. While relevant UN agencies have sought to take action on addressing this burning issue, believe it is now imperative for the global body as a whole to adopt binding obligations to combat the abhorrent practice of marine plastic pollution. I believe that this Group of Friends launched on World Oceans Day will make an important contribution towards this end to accomplish the goal of plastic free seas.


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