I. ROLE OF TEA IN DEVELOPMENT IN SRI LANKA
B. Government awareness of environmental issues and areas of priority in the tea sector
With the liberalization of economic policies, the government has also recognized the need to integrate environmental concerns with the development process and for the sustainable use of the natural resources, in order to address national as well as international environmental concerns.
The President of Sri Lanka, in her policy statement for 1996, stated that "to ensure that rapid growth does not jeopardize the quality of the environment, the government will choose a balanced strategy towards environmental protection which integrates environmental concerns into the development process without fettering development itself". She further stressed the importance of national institutional procedures and guidelines for environmental management stating that "the laws, institutions and procedures related to environment concerns will be revised to ensure the rational and speedy handling of environmental concerns with regard to industrial ventures".
Policy decisions tend to be guided by the concept that environmental conservation and development efforts are not in conflict, but are two sides of the same coin. Efforts are therefore, being directed towards finding the right balance between the needs of development and environmental protection.
In consonance with the awareness of the government regarding environmental issues, the areas of priority for the tea sector are:
According to the annual report of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (1996) the national average tea yield for 1996 was 1,367 kg per hectare. During that year, tea yields among smallholders increased by 5 per cent, while yields from the large State plantations and private company plantations increased by 4 per cent. That was well below the average yield of 2,000 kg per hectare. Thus there is ample room for productivity improvements in Sri Lanka.
One of the problems related to the low productivity rate in the tea sector of Sri Lanka is the loss of fertile top soil through erosion and associated land degradation. Soil erosion has also caused major off-site environmental problems related to silting of reservoirs, with adverse effects on hydropower generation capacity and irrigation of agricultural land in the dry zone.
To overcome the problem, approval is not being granted for new planting or replanting of tea in hilly areas with a slope gradient exceeding 45o. Other environmentally friendly management practices that have been adopted by both the State and private sector tea plantations include:
The above measures are discussed in more detail in chapter IV.
Another environmentally-related problem is the leeching away of fertilizer (nitrates) from steeply sloping land into downstream water bodies. The overcome the problem the optimum usage of fertilizer types as well as careful timing of applications is recommended by the Sri Lanka Tea Research Board (see chapter IV).
Environmental issues related to processing activities in the tea sector do not pose significant problems. In fact, those activities have been categorized as "low polluting" by the Central Environmental Authority (CEA). Nevertheless, all processing activities are monitored through the issuance of environment protection licences (EPLs) under which the national standards for effluent disposal are laid down by CEA (see chapter IV).
With regard to international environmentally-related Conventions and other agreements affecting the tea sector, and to which Sri Lanka is a party, another issue that is being looked into is the use of methyl bromide as a soil fumigant. Its use in Sri Lanka is regulated and controlled under the Control of Pesticides Act (see chapter V).