1. Agriculture World

Sri Lankan President takes up Challenges in Making the Country First in the World to Completely Eliminate Use of Chemical Fertilizers

Dr. Lakshmi Unnithan
Dr. Lakshmi Unnithan
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa

SriLanka the island Country is the leader in Fertilizer usage according to Early World Bank Reports. Urea,Phosphate and Potash are the main groups of chemical fertilizers used in SriLanka according to reports. Continuous application of fertilizers since green revolution has contributed to increase in heavy metals and metalloids in the soil and groundwater aquifers. The country spent U. S. $ 221 million in 2019 to import chemical fertilizer and this amount is expected to rise between US $ 300 – 400 million with the price increase of crude oil, according to the President.  

President Rajapaksa pointed out that despite the huge expenditure on chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides, there has been no qualitative increase in agricultural production adding that soil infertility has led to declining yields and loss of biodiversity. The newly improved varieties of rice cultivated by farmers requires a large amount of urea, triple super phos-phate (TSP) and muriate of potash (MOP or potassiumchloride) and these three main fertilizer varieties are subsidized by the government reports Ekanayake 2009. WHO classifies pesticides with arsenic as highly hazardous (WHO 2004). 

Arsenic containing pesticides have been banned in SriLanka since 1995 (Fernando and De Silva 2006.Chronic Kidney Disease has escalated into an epidemic in North Central Province and adjacent farming areas in the dry zone of Sri Lanka. Studies have shown that this special type of CKD is atoxic nephropathy and arsenic may play a causative role along with other heavy metals say reports and studies. Phoshate Fertilizer is a main source of arsenic in areas affected with chronic kidney disease in Sri Lanka. Loss of livelihoods of rural people, deteriorating health and declining productivity of the people has become a challenge to the country. 

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has stated that he is willing to take up the challenge in making Sri Lanka the first country in the world to completely eliminate the use of chemical fertilizers and will not reverse the steps already taken on the initiative. Educating the farmers and creating a healthy generation is the need of the hour said the President. The President made these remarks at a discussion held at the Presidential Secretariat to raise awareness on the ban on import and use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides. 

“The government must guarantee the right of the people to a non-toxic diet to produce a healthy and productive citizen,” the President said recalling that the “Vision of Prosperity” policy statement promised to accelerate the production to fully use organic fertilizer for agriculture in Sri Lanka over the next decade.20-point Cabinet Memorandum aiming at a green socio-economic model of sustainable solutions to climate change and laying the foundation for making it a reality was presented to the Cabinet recently.  

The President also reiterates that there would be problems at the beginning of the program. But the building of a sustainable green socio-economic pattern should not be delayed. 
“We need to identify the right solutions to the problems that arise says the President . Farmers may think that giving up the use of chemical fertilizers will reduce production.” If so, the President guarantees that the loss of income will be compensated from the Rs. 50 billion spent annually on the chemical fertilizer subsidy.  

A group with proper training and education as well as a feeling for the country and the environment is required to implement the program, the Head of the State noted. The President also said that those who do not like or think differently about the program will not be deterred from leaving at the outset. The President said he is ready to personally reach out to the farming community to overcome the challenge. The President said the government will directly get involved to provide all necessary facilities to the producers to encourage the production of organic fertilizer at the district level. 

Basil Rajapaksa, Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on Economic Revival, said protests can come as it is a sensitive subject for many people engaged in agriculture but the goal could be easily achieved through the participation of all parties including religious leaders, farmers' organizations, professionals, researchers, government officials and media support. Basil Rajapaksa pointed out the need to expand the organic fertilizer market in a way that is convenient for the farmer. 

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