UK to assist Sri Lanka with X-press Pearl pollution response

UK to assist Sri Lanka with X-press Pearl pollution response

June 18, 2021   10:11 pm

Following the X-press Pearl container vessel fire, the United Kingdom is providing marine pollution expertise to help respond to the impact on the marine life and coastal habitats of Sri Lanka, the British High Commission in Colombo said today (June 18).

“I’m really pleased to announce the UK Government’s Centre for the Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) will provide expertise and analytical capacity to support plastic pollution monitoring, as well as environmental and socioeconomic impact assessments,” the High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, Sarah Hulton said.

The Cefas is an agency of the UK Government’s Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs that tackles serious global problems of climate change, biodiversity loss and food security.

According to a statement from the UK Government, the experts are expected to partner with Sri Lanka Government Departments, academics and responsible authorities to support effective emergency response and implementation of a post spill integrated monitoring plan.

Cefas is working to assist in the laboratory analysis of post spill monitoring samples, particularly plastic pellets, and potential chemical contamination.

From their UK laboratory, the experts will work collaboratively with in-country teams to support their assessment of the consequences for marine and coastal habitats and species, including mangroves, seagrass and coral reefs.

UK experts will also contribute to socioeconomic analysis to assess the impacts on local communities and livelihoods.

Following the initial response, the Cefas will continue to collaborate with the emergency response teams in Sri Lanka to provide guidance and training to enhance their capabilities to address any future incidents that could impact on the environment and livelihoods.

UK experts will support clean-up action over the short term, as well as preventative work for the long-term.

Speaking in this regard, Director General for Ocean Affairs, Environment and Climate change at the Ministry of Foreign Relations, Hasanthi Urugodawatte Dissanayake said: “Damages to the marine environment is a cause for concern for all those who are looking towards the oceans for the future progression of mankind. In this spirit of cooperation on environmental issues, Sri Lanka appreciates this initiative by the Government of UK offering assistance to understand the impact on marine environment, with opportunities for long term collaboration.”

Meanwhile, UK’s International Environment Minister, Lord Goldsmith said, “We are determined to play our part in supporting developing countries to protect and restore their coastal ecosystems with our £500 million Blue Planet Fund launched at the G7 by the Prime Minister.”

“The X-Press Pearl vessel fire and the release of plastic pellets and chemicals along the Sri Lankan coast has already had devastating impacts, and it will likely cause long term harm to the environment, local fisheries and livelihoods. I’m pleased that the UK is able to use its world-leading scientific expertise to advise on the clean-up effort and support plastic pollution monitoring. But this disaster again shines a light on the fragile nature of our marine environment,” Lord Goldsmith continued.

Cefas Marine Litter Scientist, Dr Umberto Binetti, who expressed concerns over the possible effects of the pollutants spilled from the vessel not only on the environment but also on local communities in Sri Lanka, stated that the agency has been closely following the situation throughout the past few weeks.

He said the Cefas is preparing a series of actions to provide support in monitoring the situation. “Our UK laboratory is available to analyse samples collected by our in-country research partners and we stand ready to support Sri Lanka in understanding the serious environmental and socio-economic impact of this incident and possible mitigation measures.”

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