News

Committee to reform laws to protect marine environment 

BY Pamodi Waravita

Following two marine disasters caused by the MT New Diamond and the MV X-Press Pearl vessels over the past two years, the Cabinet of Ministers has approved the formulation of a committee to study and recognise the legal provisions necessary for the protection of Sri Lanka’s marine environment. 

“Two recent incidents involving the MT New Diamond and the MV X-Press Pearl vessels have led to the need for a committee to identify legal provisions for the protection of the marine environment. Many discussions following these two disasters have led to stakeholders identifying that there are not enough laws in Sri Lanka to protect the marine environment, its wildlife, and other valuable resources. There was a committee which was appointed previously as well, headed by President’s Counsel (PC) and former Supreme Court Judge Justice P.A. Rathnayake. The proposals that this committee received will also be considered by the new committee as they were never implemented,” Cabinet Co-Spokesman Dr. Ramesh Pathirana said at yesterday’s (16) Cabinet of Ministers’ media briefing held to announce its decisions.

The cabinet decision stated that the new committee will be chaired by Chandaka Jayasundara PC.

Speaking to The Morning in this regard yesterday, Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA) Chairperson Dharshani Lahandapura said that a representative from the MEPA will also be a part of the committee.

“The MEPA has also identified eight international conventions and protocols which the Government needs to ratify. Provisions of these conventions are already included by the MEPA in the proposed amendments to the law with regard to marine environment protection,” added Lahandapura.

Accordingly, the conventions are the International Convention on Civil Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution Damage (BUNKER), the International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response, and Co-operation (OPRC), the OPRC – Hazardous and Noxious Substance (HNS) Protocol, the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships Ballast Water (BWM), the International Convention on the Control of Harmful Anti-Fouling Systems on Ships, the London Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter Protocol, and the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) and Protocols of 1973 and 1978 as modified by the Protocol of 1997.

In what is termed as the “country’s largest marine environment disaster”, the MV X-Press Pearl ship caught fire on 20 May this year approximately nine nautical miles away from the Colombo Harbour. Last year, the MT New Diamond also caught fire in the western coast of Sri Lanka.