Empowering Sri Lanka’s vital industries to manage chemicals the SMART way

Empowering Sri Lanka’s vital industries to manage chemicals the SMART way
A worker at a rubber plantation in Sri Lanka. Photo credit: Flickr - Daniel Mennerich.

A teardrop-shaped tropical island in the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka’s economy has been shaped in recent years by the industrial sectors of rubber, tourism, and textiles and apparels. Each of these industrial sectors is particularly important to the country from an economic perspective.

The year 1876 saw the first planting of 1,919 rubber seedlings on the island. Today, Sri Lankan natural rubber is a raw material with global significance; textiles and apparel products account for over half of the country’s total exports; and tourism is rapidly growing, with the island being named Lonely Planet’s top destination for 2019.

Though these industries provide financial benefits to the economy, they are not always managed with environmental sustainability in mind. Therefore, the potential to cause damage to human health and the environment exists.

To address the issue, the Quick Start Programme (QSP) funded a project in Sri Lanka to strengthen national capacity for applying ‘SMART Chemicals Management’. The QSP-funded project was executed by UNIDO and ran from March 2017 to December 2018. It achieved notable results in chemical management across rubber and tourism, as well as textiles and apparels sectors.

Garments being made at a factory in Sri Lanka. Photo credit: Flickr - ILO/Crozet.

Most importantly, the project strengthened national capacity of institutions and universities as well as enhanced efficiency and environmental performance of local industries in Sri Lanka with a gender mainstreaming strategy, which ensured that women and men had equal access to training, thus contributing to employment opportunities for women and men.

It also resulted in the development of training material, a standard teaching package, an online course, toolkit and sector-specific guidelines and best practices – and applied SMART Chemicals Management in the three sectors.

SMART Chemicals Management is a holistic approach to sustainability with multiple outcomes, especially: Sustainable management, Monetary benefits, Additional health and safety, Resource efficiency, and Technology transfer and innovation.

According to the Cleaner Production Centre of Sri Lanka, owing to this project, potential savings of 12 leading companies in the targeted sectors were identified as reducing industrial accidents by an average of 90%; reducing chemical, energy and water consumption by an average of 30-40%; and reducing waste generation by an average of 20-40%.

These results indicate a large success for the country and for the world, and have been disseminated through publications and presented at the 4th UNIDO Green Industry Conference, the Japan Chemical Industry Association, and the National Conference on SMART Chemicals Management.

The project was identified as a success especially with regards to stakeholder involvement. “Active involvement of national stakeholders in all the project activities have definitely contributed to high ownership and successful delivery of outputs,” noted Professor Ajith de Alwis, Department of Chemical and Process Engineering, University of Moratuwa, who evaluated the project as an independent reviewer.

Underground Pit where chemicals waste accumulates and soak to the ground

By enabling projects such as this one – QSP has supported developing countries, least developed countries, small island developing states and countries with economies in transition with building capacity for the sound management of chemicals.

We believe in a clean, chemical-safe world for all and aim to achieve this by working together with relevant governments and organizations.

Read more at http://www.saicm.org/Implementation/QuickStartProgramme.

Published on Wednesday, October 2, 2019
Copyright 2019 by SAICM