Posted on April 12th, 2022

Sarath Wijesinghe President’s Counsel and former Ambassador to UAE and Israel. A former Chairman of Consumer Affairs authority. President Ambassador’s Forum

World Consumer Day

World Consumer Day is remembered on 15th March every year worldwide by governments and organizations, in order to raise global awareness about the consumer needs and their rights. They have a right to know of the information on price quality and standard of the consumer items and services. The current world consumer day is celebrated since 1983 initiated by the inspiring speech by the President John Kennedy to the US congress on March 15th 1962 spoken on safety, right to be informed, choose, and many rights today recognized by the United National  nations and other institutions  worldwide. Every year a topic is chosen to discuss and give publicity to the chosen topic to educate and make the voice heard of the citizen to the rest of the world on the consumer and the connected information as an eye opener of the governance.. Annual events worldwide has a ripple effect on the consumerism activism worldwide reaffirming the rights available to the consumer awaiting for the assistance of the consumer organizations and the active and alert consumers in dealing with the unfair and errant traders, and industrialists exploiting the consumer.  Some of the topics chosen for the world Consumer Day are timely useful and current to the entire world. The names are chosen carefully depending on the needs of the society at the time of the given year.  2013 it was Consumer Justice, 2014 Fix the Phones Right,2015 Healthy Diet ,2016 Antibiotics in the Menu 2017 building a Digital World, 2018 Trusted Smart Products,2019 Sustainable Consumer and 2020 Tackling Plastic Pollution that has made the world known of the needs and awareness programs connected to the event worldwide. Theme chosen this year is most relevant to the entire world and the member nations with living beings and the earth the existence is threatened due to pollution which has aggravated due to plastic pollution which is not a degrading materials sometimes do not decay over millions of years and the threat is ever increasing due to indiscipline of the human beings damaging the environment the health of the human and animal kingdom including the environment you live in.

Theme of this Year – Tackling Plastic Pollution

The annual celebrations on the theme are followed by various projects worldwide led by the World Consumer Federation with branches all over the word.  This year the topic chosen is ‘’Tackling Plastic Pollution’’ which is a timely and a current topic which is a theme that has become to the threat to the future of the earth and animal kingdom including the human being threatened by the environmental destructions, pollution, deforestation and the threat of extensions and imbalance of water levels threatening large scale environmental catastrophes,  and now  over usage and manufacture of plastic is excessive and use cannot be controlled due to free availability a  cheaper in  price and convenience in day to day life and industries. The event is remembered in over 250 outlets worldwide including Sri Lanka when the Consumer Affairs Authority and Central Environment authority Information Department OPA BASL and Ambassadors’ Forum are expected to be actively involved. Ambassador’s Forum based in Sri Lanka and UK is organized  a Webinar  with the participation of the Ministry of Information and CAA with expert Panel including Professor ‘Prathiba Mahanamahewa’, Sarath Wijesinghe Presidents’ Counsel and a former Chair CAA, CAA officials, Dr Anil Jayasinghe the Secretary Ministry of Environment ,‘Dilantha’ an activist  and many other activists worldwide. The links could be obtained from the five sites hosted by the Ambassadors’ Forum and Mrs Gaya Siriwardens the administrative Secretary of Ambassador’s forum will liaises with the public on ‘0094771327909’ , dilkiv@gmail.com.

Effects of Plastic Pollution

80% of marine debris is plastics and 5.25 Trillian micro plastics and in the ocean ever increasing rapidly. Plastic pollution is the accumulation of plastic objects and particles in the earth environment that adversely effects human wildlife and habitat that  effects the waterways environment and ocean It is estimated 8.8 million tons of plastics waste enters the ocean every year it is estimated that in 2050 there could be more plastics than  first in the ocean by weight. As in 2019 368 million tons of plastics is poured each year. Impact of Plastic on our health and environment is huge and disastrous in the destruction of earth and the lives of the living being. The few basic information indicates the imminent and future dangers to the earth and the living beings on the excessive and uncontrolled use of plastics by the human. As of 2019 368 million tons of plastics is poured to the can and earth every year and 12 million tons of plastic are poured to the ocean alone every year, ad 80% of marine debris is plastic, and there are 5.2 Trillian micro piece units are hovering in the environment floating in weighing up to 26, 90000 tones killing the lives of 100,000mamals, and turtles annually. The vast damages to the environment and in return to the world are ever increasing with no or limited controls due to the developments taking place at an unprecedented rate worldwide. Pollution and destruction is caused due to action and inaction of the human behaviour selfish conduct and lifestyle, which is controlled by some disciplined societies. In many western countries the waste disposal is streamlined and controlled with different garbage containers at residencies and public places. World suffers and the danger is in your doorstep harming all members of the family and the pets. Even Elephants, fish and many in the living kingdom are victims with harrowing images and stories published on media often with most disturbing images. Water in major and other water streams and public places are polluted due to bad habits of the undisciplined citizen. Main rivers from ‘Kelani’ river is polluted due to waste by councils, industries, and private households. The catalogue is endless with ever increasing pollutions in all respects which is a health hazard and ugly when we are about on achieving booming tourism after the drawback on ‘Covid Pandemic’ given us the highest blow to our economy.

Origin of World Consumer Day

World consumer day is an annual event on 15th March every year for celebrations, activism, and solidity among the consumer and consumer organizations worldwide. Consumerism has a historical significance until WCD was originated in 1983, and subsequently the consumer rights were elevated to a position of international recognition and legitimate by adopting guidelines by the United Nations. John F Kennedy said in 15/2/1962 that consumer by definition includes the largest economic groups affecting and effected by almost every public and private economic decisions yet they are the very important group whose views are often not heard. Today things have changed as in the west where the consumer is organized and powerful. WCD is one of those events of showing strength and powered of the consumer. Seminars shows and workshops and shows of activism give a sense of power and strength to the consumer. Junk food generation which has adverse effect of the health of the human being especially children have been a popular important topic of the day. Some topics chosen before of unethical drug promotion, GM food, Consumer and water, control of food chain, selection of the same topic junk food consecutively for two years indicates the importance of the topic. Twenty million children around the world are already overweight. Most children are targeted to multinational organizations as victims. As a result there is a strong campaign to urge world to introduce an international code on marketing unhealthy food to children Consumer rights day depends on   initiatives  planned functions  and projects carried by  consumer organizations on every country, This takes the shape of a special campaigns press conferences exhibitions workshops  and similar events. Unfortunately Sri Lanka there is less activism leaving the helpless consumer alone in the hands of the errant trader in industrialist continues to exploit freely despite inactive regulatory led by the Consumer Affairs Authority which is established by the act no 9 of 2003 with highest expectations to protect the consumer, regulate trade, from consumer organizations and shoe the strength of  the consumer to the governance and the trader, and compel the regulator to regulate the trade and get the government machinery to provide e the consumer quality food and consumer items  of quality at a reasonable price.

Consumer and Consumer Day in Sri Lanka

Consumer is defined simply in the dictionary as one who consumes or buy or uses goods or services when  act no 9 of 2003 gives a more detailed definitions as an actual or potential user of any goods or services made available for a consideration by any trader or manufacturer. It can be considered that almost every citizen is a consumer and the main regulator the CAA regulates the price and the quality of consumer items with other regulators namely the Public Health inspectors, Local Authorities, and statuary bodies meant to regulate trade when the concept of price control is shifted to regulation by abolition of acts 1/79 consumer Protection Act, 1/87 Trading Commission Act and Control of Prices Act. Pollution is a dangerous health hazard and Plastic pollution is a more dangerous and long term hazard that is to be tackled by the state, private sector and individuals. It is timely and opportune for the consumer International to choose the theme tackling plastic pollution because it affects the health of the living beings and standards of all consumer items consumed by the consumer. Consumer day is celebrated but the main regulator CAA other interested group academics and concerned citizen individually as a part of the world awareness projects which has a ripple effects of the member countries and responsible governments. Unfortunately the average Sri Lankan consumer (citizen) appear to be  still irresponsible conducting the waste disposal habits that increases the sangers to the environment on garbage collections hap- hazily  and irregularly. In UK, Netherlands and many western countries the citizen is disciplined to dump waste in separate garbage containers giving priority to environment and the health of the citizen long and short term.

Way Forward for a Clean and Healthy Environment to benefit the Citizen and the World

The state and UN has resolved to look after the interest of the consumer in need of help and also the ruling governance is bound to regularize trade business and economy of the country keeping the balance among the trader regulator industrialist and the consumer. Consumer is vulnerable and needs assistance and help of the governance and the non-governmental organizations worldwide. UN has resolved 29/248 on 16/4/85 and 70/186 dated 22/12/2015 UNCGOD guidelines for access to essential goods, to vulnerable groups of consumers, prevent giving hazardous consumer items, access to information, consumer education and on dispute resolutions. All kinds of environmental disasters are an imminent threat to the world over including Sri Lanka the most careless victim of undisciplined groups responsible for deforestation, sand mining, and various kinds of destructions taking place uncontrolled plastic pollution being the main course with little or no control. The main statutory bodies to check destructions are CAA consumer Affairs Authority a main regulator on consumerism The Central Environmental Authority the state has allocates millions for environment protection, department of forestry, wildlife, trade, environment, Ministries of defence and many others including local authorise are expected to be partners in protecting environment including large scale pollutions appear to be dormant and inactive. Non-Governmental organisations and civil society has a mail role to play in this war against pollution and destruction and meet the threat of plastic pollution in order to tackle it against the tide. There should be a concerted effect by all the parties concerned to work together to minimize pollution in all kinds such as marine, water, earth, and environment general. Sri Lanka is vulnerable as it is an Island exposed to sea and the disasters that has affected by polluting the sea due to disasters in the sea. Sri Lanka is  a part of the world family exposed and most vulnerable unless precautionary matters are taken in all respects with a disciplined society with international standers of precautionary matters successfully adopted by the many states in the west. It is estimated that the sea will have more debris than fish if precautions are made and many images are emerging the fish full of plastic materials inside and animals including elephants with full of plastics in the digestive system which are not perishable an degradable. Therefore it is high time the member states take the threat seriously and resolve on the word consumer day to save the earth to save our generation to come.

Pollution (Plastic) in Sri Lanka / alternate solutions for plastic menace

Pollution in Sri Lanka is rampant and rapidly increasing in all sectors. Deforestation is taking place in large scale with sand mining destroying the environment and damaging the river banks and lands at a repaid phase. In Sri Lanka pollution is mostly manmade due to various reasons as overfishing, logging forest degrading mangroves damaging coral reliefs’ soil erosions due to digging and sand mining air pollution water pollution and mismanagement of waste disposal and common factors of causing environmental destructions by the human. Air pollution is due to over unplanned industrialization and waste disposal is unplanned and primitive. Rivers are polluted due to releasing industrial and human waste in large scale by individuals companies and local authorities. Waste is collected with only 24% household has waste disposal mechanism. In a country of21.4 million the generation of waste is 7000 metric tons with 800 waste daily by Colombo Municipality which are not properly regulated with waste mountains and polluted rivers creating mountains of waste all over with ‘’Meethotamulla’’ in mind. 50% of plastic products are of single use and will not degrade at times over millions of years. In other countries the Ministry of Environment is the most active and in the front seat, but in Sri Lanka it is hardly heard of. Sri Lanka produces 1.59 ‘MMt’ a year which is poorly or not managed as in the west top priority is given to scientific and orderly waste disposal with the cooperation of the community and the local bodies. Sri Lanka has over 500 companies producing plastic products with 1600000 metric tons imported per year which is not properly regulated ( may be not at all) giving free hand to the industries citizens to use it freely with no control or discipline. 800,000metric tons of plastic is imported and 1600000 metric tons of plastic is used locally on industries released to the environment at same stage in some way. Oil spills are causing tremendous damages and it is good news that UN is planning a new Treaty on Plastics which is on the way covering many areas.350 tons of oil was released to the sea with wanton damages to the sea environment and the living creators of all kinds. The ship wreck has released 500000 metric tons of plastic products will be in the sea for millions of years damaging the environment and the living beings in the sea. 20th may 2021 the X- Press Perl rejected by two countries arrived our sea causing the wanted damages to us for generations to come releasing 348 tons of oil, 25 tons of Arsenic, and 75 billion pellets to our clear best sea converting it to be the worst pouted sea in the ocean – a tragedy indeed.  What are the alternative resolutions and steps to be taken to protect our environment and the lives of living beings? We must improve our waste disposal methods to international standards by maintaining discipline among ourselves collectively and individually. We must have innovators and innovative methods to find alternatives for plastic which we have with us traditionally based on our traditional handicrafts made from local degrading   materials. It is affordable beautiful and environmental friendly. Educating on good habits from schools and community with the assistance of the media is vital for the campaign to save our life and environment. A through study and strict implementation a legal system is paramount to compel the citizen to be disciplined coupled with education. Media has a vital role to play in this by educating and give correct picture to the citizen faced with imminent danger or perish together if no proper steps are taken immediately. Plastic pollution continues every second worldwide and it is the duty of the world citizen to act individually and together to stop the menace for the existence of the earth and the living beings. The author could be contacted on sarath28dw@gmail.com and whats app 00947777880166 active in UK

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