Compiled by Savithri Rodrigo
PROTECTING THE PEARL
Tharushi Sewwandi calls for swift action to stem environmental degradation
Q: What are the challenges facing the country today?
A: As a young citizen, I see the environmental, social, economic and political issues as being challenges.
There’s increasing deforestation, destruction of coral reefs and mangroves, soil degradation, water pollution and waste management, which are primary environmental issues.
Social challenges include linguistic divisions among citizens specifically between Sinhalese and Tamils.
The most apt example of this is when arguments ensued about whether the national anthem should be sung in both languages.
Furthermore, unemployment and poverty are challenges faced by Sri Lankans while the political system too has been challenging for citizens.
Q: How can Sri Lanka retain the talent that it has?
A: The reason for migration and brain drain is that Sri Lanka cannot meet young people’s needs once they qualify. This is because there’s no future investment in education and healthcare, and little value for the knowledge these young people possess.
It is the government’s responsibility to curtail brain drain. First, the education system must change, and the number of universities should increase and be made relevant to global needs. Education must include centres for scientific and new research, and nurture inventors and researchers.
Q: Do we have young leaders who can take the country forward?
A: Sri Lanka is full of young leaders who can bear the responsibility of taking the country forward but they must develop better leadership qualities.
Young leaders should not be politically influenced but rather, independent from political parties and be well-educated not only with knowledge but also in dealing with human beings. Leaders must respect all ethnicities and religions, and care for the environment.
They have to be team players and work in unity, not merely giving orders for others to follow.
Q: And do you believe that Sri Lanka will be united one day?
A: Although Sri Lankans say they’re united, it is not so. This is especially seen among adults with a tendency to always demean another religion or ethnicity and blame others.
There will come a day when people will unite where they forget these divisions and accept their own mistakes.
Q: And where do you see Sri Lanka in 10 years’ time?
A: Although Sri Lanka is known as the ‘pearl of the Indian Ocean,’ it will be a mere particle of sand by 2030. Only urban centres will be developed and rural areas would’ve vanished unless we consciously work towards sustainable green development.
In 10 years’ time, the green concept will only be seen in some parts of Sri Lanka and if people do not change, hu-manity will become extinct.
Q: How do you view the growing importance of social media today?
A: Social media has its good and bad sides, and people must choose what is right. It has played an integral role in globalisation, reducing physical distance and increasing inter-country relationships with people the world over.
Moreover, social media is a great knowledge receptacle; a good source for sharing information.
Q: Who is responsible for climate change and global warming?
A: Humans are the most advanced living beings on the planet, which means that they can change the environment according to their needs and expectations. There-fore, the climate change we face is blamed on people – and all of humankind should be held responsible for this. At least today, people must realise what we’ve done to Planet Earth and make drastic changes to save it. For example, if one tree is cut, we must plant five; because trees are the lungs of the Earth and they keep us alive.
If we fail to do this now, people’s health will suffer and humankind may become extinct.
Q: What challenges do young people face in a global context?
A: The main challenge is unemployment probably due to automation and technology. Sedentary lifestyles among young people have contributed to health issues including mental stress.
In addition, safety has become a problem including escalating crime with sexual harassment and abuse being rampant. The onset of terrorism too is an issue and young people must seek solutions to the problems they face.