The United Nations General Assembly in 1972 declared June 5 of every year as “World Environment Day” to raise awareness among the peoples of the world to the problems of environmental degradation such as deforestation, over exploitation of natural resources, environmental pollution, uncontrolled emission of green-house gases, depletion of the ozone layer, global warming, climatic change, rapidly receding polar ice-caps etc., that threatens the survival of all forms of life on this planet, the Earth, and for which mankind and his activities had been largely responsible. By declaring such a day the UN hoped to sensitize and inspire millions of people around the world to join in a common celebration of individual and group actions for positive change.
The theme adopted for the World Environment Day – 2011 was “Forest – Nature at Your Service,” which apparently was chosen intentionally to supplement the UN’s “International Year of the Forests” which falls this year. The theme chosen for the day, “Forests – Nature at Your Service” underscores the many essential life-sustaining values that forests provide and the intrinsic link between our quality of life and the health of the forest eco-systems.
In Sri Lanka, the national celebration of the International Environment Day, was held at Pinnawela National School, under the patronage of the Minister of Environment, Hon. Anura Priyadarshana Yapa and the presence of the Speaker of Parliament, Hon. Chamal Rajapakse. The choice of Pinnawela for the national celebration was most appropriate, as Pinnawela has become internationally renowned, as the home of a wildlife conservation project, the Elephant Orphanage and Nursery. The Ministry of Environment assisted in the renovation of the main hall of the school, where the celebrations were held. The Ministry also donated laboratory equipment valued at Rs. 70,000 to the Pinnawela National School, the venue of the national celebrations, while other schools in the area also benefited by receiving laboratory equipment valued at Rs. 50,000 each. Among the events organized to mark the day, was an “Environmental Walk” in which 1,000 school students participated, a “Green Award Ceremony” for entrepreneurs, an extensive tree planting campaign with the participation of students and the general public and an Exhibition in which not only government organizations connected with the environment, forestry, conservation etc. took part, but also other government departments and parastatals, such as the National Gem & Jewelry Authority (NGJA) and the Export Development Board.
The participation of the NGJA at this event was significant, as the organization is in the forefront of encouraging environmental-friendly mining for gems in the Sabaragamuwa Province of Sri Lanka, where Pinnawela is situated, a province that is also the home of the internationally renowned city of Ratnapura (the City of Gems), a source of the world renowned Ceylon blue sapphire and Ceylon rubies, since very ancient times. Environmental degradation associated with gem-mining in the district has been a source of concern to the NGJA, which in association with other government bodies had cracked down on illegal mining activities in the province, and has encouraged environmental-friendly, sustainable mining activities, that bans the use of heavy equipment for mining and requires the filling up of gem pits after they have been worked to their maximum.
The following photographs depict the participation of the National Gem and Jewelry Authority and the Export Development Board in the Exhibition held at the Pinnawela National School to mark the World Environment Day on June 5, 2011.