By: Staff Writer
Colombo (LNW): French Development Agency (AFD) has stepped into support Sri Lanka’s efforts of enhancing effective air quality monitoring and reporting in the island.
An agreement was signed yesterday (30) between the country director of the French Development Agency (AFD) M. Reda Souirgi and Dr. Anil Jasinghe, Secretary to the Ministry of Environment in Sri Lanka in presence of the Ambassador of France to Sri Lanka, Jean-François Pactet and the Minister of Environment of the Government of Sri Lanka,. Naseer Ahamed.
They signed a 300,000 EUR grant agreement supporting improved monitoring and reporting of air quality in Sri Lanka. The Central Environmental Authority (CEA) and National Building Research Organization (NBRO) officials were also present at the event.
Air pollution remains a critical issue for cities such as Colombo and Kandy, as for many other major cities in the developing world. In comparison to some of its regional counterparts such as Delhi and Dhaka,
Sri Lanka still has a fairly good Air Quality Index. However, year on year it is evident that Air quality is becoming a more prevalent issue.
Each year, Sri Lanka suffers from seasonal air pollution events, generally imported from the Indian continent and exacerbated by its own pollution generating activities.
The most recent being in January 2023, when NBRO declared dangerous levels of air quality in several parts of the country.
The COVID-19 travel restriction and the most recent fuel crisis in 2022 gave city dwellers a rare opportunity to witness their city with a high level of air quality and good breathable air.
Air Quality is an important development indicator. Indeed, air pollution has high economic and social costs and overall impact on the general well-being and standard of living of city inhabitants.
First, it comes with high human cost as it leads to higher cases of Asthma, lung disease and various other respiratory diseases.
This creates an economic burden on the health sector and reduces the overall productivity of the general population. Good air quality is also an important indicator of the attractiveness of a city, and boosting the overall competitiveness and image of a city in this global economy.
Worldwide, the economic cost of air pollution is estimated $2.9 trillion per year (3.3% of world’s GDP), while it is linked to 4.5 million premature deaths annually.
Accordingly, the issue needs to be addressed in an objective and systematic way. Air pollution is not a new topic for Sri Lanka; far ahead of its regional counterparts, various indicators such as PM10, NOx, SOx, ozone and CO have been monitored for more than twenty years.
Two new monitoring stations, managed by the CEA, were installed in 2019 near Colombo, at Battaramulla, and in Kandy.
Meanwhile, monthly concentrations of NO2 and SO2 have been measured in 25, different places in and around Colombo, using passive sampling techniques by the NBRO. However, the country is still lacking consolidated data and facing discrepancies among different sources, preventing from accurate reporting and information dissemination. Despite the existence of data sources, finding the Air Quality Index for Colombo remains particularly difficult, and the most frequently cited data are generally from unreliable sources.