Celebrating World Water Day
Marking the World Water Day 2013, the “Every Drop Matters” (EDM) Sri Lanka Project (www.edm.lk) of UNDP organized a series of events in collaboration with the Ministry of Environment and Renewable Energy, Biyagama Local Authority, UN Volunteers along with youth for Greener Sri Lanka, Paapedi (a group of cyclists raising awareness) and Expolanka Holdings PLC. at Biyagama area in the Kelani River Basin on 22nd March.
UN-Water declared the year 2013 as the year of “Water Co-operation”. EDM Sri Lanka’s initiative complimented the theme with its established partnerships by bringing together volunteers from government institutions, local authorities, private sector and the local community in Biyagama area which is one of the local authorities that nourishes from the Kelani River and home to many industries.
Three main events had been organized at Biyagama: the corporate sector workshop to improve the understanding of water quantity and quality issues; foundation laying for the bio gas facility as a way to process solid waste, wastewater and toilet waste that otherwise harm the quality of water; and the awareness and advocacy campaign with the volunteers to spread awareness on waste, water and health and collect CFL bulbs, plastic, e-waste and unused medicine.
The awareness and advocacy campaign also included collecting harmful waste accumulated at houses such as used batteries, CFL and other fluorescent bulbs; leather material; unused drugs; plastic; and electronic waste that can lead to water pollution if released to environment unabated. 12 volunteer groups participated in the door-to-door awareness and waste collection campaign, advocating the importance of proper waste segregation and disposal, impact of improper waste disposal on clean water and overall environmental pollution while sharing the awareness material on water and health. Two private sector companies specialized in waste collection and disposal partnered with EDM to support the awareness and waste collection campaign. “Geyocycle” trained the volunteers on safe handling of collected waste and took the responsibility of the collected plastic, glass and e-waste. In addition, “Orange” took the custody of the CFL bulbs to recycle them at their recycling facility.
Among the awareness activities, the street drama organized by the volunteers from Youth for Greener Sri Lanka on uses of water, poor water quality and health impact was a hit.
Commenting on the awareness campaign based on the theme “Water is Life! Let’s Work Together To Preserve Water”, a volunteer from Youth for Greener Sri Lanka added “[t]his awareness campaign was a potent way of making this momentous message of efficient and sustainable ways of waste management and water protection vocal to make the community responsible to feel that “every drop matters”. A medical student at the Faculty of Medicine, University of Colombo Samandika was happy that they volunteered for a cause that really helped local community to understand the need to be conscious of the importance of protecting fresh water and its intrinsic link with our behaviors especially when it comes to waste management.
Many volunteers were encouraged by the volunteer experience as they were truly inspired in promoting the cause to preserve and protect water resources.
Anisha Niyas, a volunteer from V-force, had another experience to share as she saw the need of the community to know how to be responsible in their day-to-day activities to keep the river clean. “Being a part of the World Water Day Awareness and Outreach Campaign was an eye opening experience. My team of volunteers and I were covering the Yabaraduwa area and as we went from house to house raising awareness and collecting selected items of waste, we realized how unaware the people were of best water practices. The feedback we got from the community was great as they were receptive to what we were saying.”
“I feel privileged to be a part of a volunteer network that strives to make a difference through collaborative effort. Volunteering has shown me that our individual talents and expertise can together take on any issue and give leadership to find solutions for them,” said Dhilmi Suriyarachchi, a Medical student who was volunteering with the EDM. “I enjoyed our rewarding teamwork for 'Every Drop Matters’ Sri Lanka project for World Water Day, and 'Paapedi 2013' - a cycling journey for climate justice. Insight and knowledge I have gained as a volunteer goes beyond any textbook, it is an experience that has made a positive change in me”.
The Assistant Country Director of UNDP Sri Lanka, Dr. Ananda Mallawatantri appreciated the volunteers and their commitment “[t]his work that brought in the synergies in many ways showed us the power of “Partnerships”, “Volunteering” and “Engagement”.”