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Governments On Preventing Air Pollution In Colombo Environmental Sciences Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Environmental Sciences
Wordcount: 5389 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Air pollution is the presence in the outdoor atmosphere of one or more contaminants such as dust, fumes, gas, mist, odour, smoke, or vapour in quantities and of characteristics and duration such as to be injurious to human, plant, or animal life or to property, or to interfere unreasonably with the comfortable enjoyment of life and property.

1. Air is the very basic need of every living organism. Air is essential to life on earth. All organisms require moderately pure air, and they cannot survive without it. Air is considered safe when it contains no harmful dust and gases. Air pollution effects global warming, ozone depletion, acid rain and various respiratory illnesses.

2. The air pollution has worsened in most large cities in the developing world. In Sri Lanka, Colombo city is facing this problem due to the highly increased vehicle emission and few other environmental issues. The high density of population and industrialization is the other most important environmental issues that have drawn the attention of policymakers, administrators, and environmentalists in the recent past. Most countries in the world are trying to give a solution to air pollution in their countries by revising their policies, rules and regulations. However Sri Lanka is still not taken firm action to revise the environmental policies, rules and regulations to prevent air Pollution.

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3. Colombo is the main commercial and business hub of Sri Lanka and as a result, many people are arrived into the city daily. The central district, which comprises of Fort and Pettah, provides more than 100,000 jobs and is estimated to have a daytime population of more than 650,000. The greater Colombo area contains more than 4 million people or 26% of the country’s population, but covers only 5.6% of the entire land area. Outside the city, Katunayake Bandaranaike International Airport and the Free Trade Zone further increase traffic congestion in Colombo. As the most important commercial and administrative center, Colombo attracts the maximum number of vehicles and individuals. Therefore it is highly vulnerable to health hazards due to vehicle emissions.

4. Clean, dry air contains 78.09% nitrogen by volume and 20.94% oxygen. The remaining 0.97% is composed of a gaseous mixture of carbon dioxide, helium, argon, krypton, nitrous oxide and xenon, as well as very small amounts of some other organic and inorganic gases whose amount in the atmosphere vary with time and place. Various amounts of contaminants continuously enter the atmosphere through both natural and man-made processes that exist upon the earth. Man as a ‘pollutant’ has labelled that portion of these substances which interacts with the environment to cause toxicity, disease, aesthetic distress, physiological effects or environmental decay.

5. The human activities are the primary cause of pollution and as the population increases, the attendant pollution problems also raise proportionately. The first significant change in human’s effect of nature came with his discovery of fire. Prehistoric human built a fire in his cave for cooking, heating and to supply light. The problem of air pollution came into existence at this time.


5. General Objective. To analyze the responsibility of the Government and its authorities towards the reducing of air pollution in Colombo City and give recommendations to prevent Air pollution in Colombo City.

6. Specific Objectives. The specific objectives of the research are as follows.

a. To examine the various Air pollutants.

b. To examine the impact of the air pollution.

c. To examine the actions taken by the Government and its authorities to prevent Air Pollution in Colombo City.

d. To analyze and suggest the recommendations for implementations based on the findings of the study.




1. The air pollution in main cities in developing countries is one of the leading critical environment problems. The health impact of the air pollution looks likely to be greater in the capital of Sri Lanka. Therefore the responsibility of the government and its authorities is to protect air and minimize the air pollution in the country.

2. However, the actions taken on air protection in Colombo are inadequate and not suit the present day context. Therefore, this paper will identify the effects of air pollution in Colombo and analyze the impact of air pollution in Colombo City. Further this paper will analyse the effectiveness of existing legal remedies in preventing air pollution.


3. Actions taken by the Government and its authorities to prevent air pollution in Colombo City are inadequate.


4. This study will explore the air pollution in Colombo city and the responsibility of the Government and its authorities and how air pollution can undermine the goals of development.

5. Furthermore, policies that are necessary on economic basis can deliver significant environmental benefits. However, these policies are not enough to ensure urban air protection. Therefore the strong public organizations and policies for urban air protection are very essential. The policies adapted by the Sri Lankan government over the past two decades to rely more on development. However, natural air protection is an area which government must uphold a central role.

6. Examine the effects of air pollution in Colombo and validity and practicability of the existing environmental policies and regulations in Sri Lanka.


7. The primary study shows that the Colombo city would be the area where the air pollution can be seen predominantly. The both primary and secondary data will collect regarding the subject of air pollution in Colombo City from the available resources like publications, books and internet web sites.

8. The main decisive factor is to look at this problem in government and citizen’s perspectives. Thus, the views of government authorities and citizens will seek to get their expectations of the desired strategies and policies. Scholars on the subject and professionals on this subject will be interviewed through discussions. A predetermined questionnaire will be distributed among the selected citizens in Colombo city to absorb their views.


9. This research study was done within three months of period and with limited time. Hence it was difficult to cover all the pollution proven areas in Colombo area. Therefore the calculation might be showed slight difference if compare with another research. It also faced the difficulty of getting genuine answers from the community.




1. The atmosphere surrounds the earth. It is composed of gas molecules held close to the earth’s surface by gravitation. It consists of Nitrogen (78%), Oxygen (20%), Carbon dioxide (0.03%) and small amounts of inert gases such as argon, neon, and krypton. It also consist changing amounts of water. Dust participles called as particulates are also consist with varying amounts.

2. The earth’s current atmosphere consists of several layers as Troposphere, stratosphere, mesosphere and thermosphere. The average composition of the atmosphere varies little from place to place, except for its moisture contents. The variation of moisture condition is a very important natural condition affecting plant growth. Air temperature is another important environmental condition that profoundly affects both plant and animal life. Air is in constant motion and its movement is creates wind.

3. Some of the atmospheric gases have the capacity to absorb heat. These are called Green House Gasses. Carbon Dioxide, Water vapour and Ozone are three of the naturally make green house gasses in the atmosphere. Green house gasses are liable for maintaining the level of temperature of the earth. If the quantity of these gasses increases in the atmosphere then additional heat will be trapped and the earth’s atmosphere will get warmer. These gasses have been increasing in the atmosphere in recent years in the earth.

4. In the normal condition the atmosphere contains a layer of ozone in the atmosphere. This layer traps a part of Ultra violet rays and X-Rays, reducing the amount of these deleterious rays reach to the earth. However, the introduction of Chlorofluoro carbon (CFC) in to the atmosphere has been shown to damage the ozone layer. CFC is chemical that have been used for many years in aerosol, air conditioning and in refrigeration.


5. Air Pollution is the presence in the atmosphere of one or more foreign materials such as dust, fumes, gases, mist or smoke in quantities and in durations which are harmful to human, plant or animal life or to properties. A gas like CO2 which is a normal element of the atmosphere can in certain conditions, become a pollutant, when its concentrations increase to levels that threaten the well-being of living things or disrupt physical or biological processes.

6. Air pollution is as old as civilization itself. The first air pollution incident took place, when early humans made fire in poorly ventilated or set fire to a dry forest. But it was the growth of industries after the industrial revolution that became the largest engine of air pollution first in Britain, Europe, North America and then spread to the other places of the World.

7. Damage to the clean air has three possible costs to present and future human welfare. The Health of Human may be harmed. Also the economic productivity may be reduced. In addition, the pleasure or satisfaction obtained from an unspoiled natural air may be lost. Since spoiled urban air problem vary across countries and with the stage of industrialization, each country required to assess its own priorities carefully. Emissions from transport industry and population growth impose serious costs for health condition and productivity in Sri Lanka.



8. Basically air pollution can be classified as primary and secondary types. Primary pollutants get into atmosphere directly by various processes. Major part of this is added to the atmosphere due to the burning of fossil fuels in transport vehicles and by industries. Carbon Dioxide, Carbon Monoxide, Sulphur oxide and Hydrocarbons are some examples for primary air pollutants. Secondary air pollutants are those formed in the air through various chemical reactions. Some of the primary pollutants undergo chemical reactions once they are in the atmosphere and produce secondary pollutants. For an example Sulphur oxides will react with atmospheric water vapour and produce acids. This way acid rain is produced and it leads to disruption of various eco-systems. Another example is the smog produced by the action of sunlight on automobile exhaust emitted in to the atmosphere.

9. Air pollutants can be either in the form of gases or in the form of particles. Some of the common pollutants are Carbon Dioxide, Sulphur oxides, nitrogen oxides, methane and ozone. Particulate pollutants include dust, fume, mist, smoke and sprays.

10. Dust particles get in to the air when materials are being handled or processed. Dust from cement, coal, and bricks and saw dust from wood working are few examples of such particulate pollutants. Fumes and mist are not many solid particles, formed in the atmosphere due to condensation of vapours by sublimation or chemical reaction processes. Smoke particle are formed as a result of incomplete combustion of carbonaceous materials. Liquid particles referred to as spray are formed by the atomization of a parent liquid.


11. Some pollutants are formed and emitted by natural processes. Pollen grains from flowers, smoke particles from forest fires, volcanic eruptions and wind blown dust are examples of particulates of natural origin. There are also naturally occurring gasses such as nitrogen oxide and methane.

12. Man made sources of pollutants can be considered under stationary combustion processes transportation, industrial and the agricultural processes.

13. When fuel such as oil or coal used in power plants, gasses and particulate pollutants are emitted in to air. These pollutants consist of a mixture of particles such as fly ash and smoke and gasses such as the oxides of sulphur and nitrogen. Carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide are also produced in combustion process.

14. In transportation, particularly from vehicles, the pollutants are emitted in to the air. These pollutants comprise particulates such as smoke, lead and gasses like carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide and hydrocarbons. These pollutants are high in concentration around traffic light junctions in the cities such as Colombo.

15. In industrial processes, depending on the type of energy used, a wide range of pollutants are emitted. If the industry burns oil as its energy source, smoke, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, sulphur oxides and nitrogen oxides will be emitted to the air.

16. In Sri Lanka a large percentage of the energy consumed comes from fuel wood. Burning of fuel wood, used for industrial purposes or domestic use, also produces pollutants. Some agricultural activities such as crop dusting add particulate pollutants to the atmosphere. Further, the burning of forests for chena cultivation can be grouped in to this category.

17. Vehicle Emission: Increased vehicle emission in Sri Lanka mainly Colombo is the most significant environmental issue that has drawn the concentration of policymakers, administrators, and environmentalists in the recent past. Various studies undertaken by regulatory agencies and researchers clearly indicate that inefficient combustion of petroleum in motor vehicles is the primary cause of growing air pollution in Colombo city. Lack of information on economic and environmental costs of vehicle emission and its improvement and prevention have inhibited public response and enforcement, and impeded the implementation of existing laws, and the development of further regulations. The worst prevalent air pollutants emitted from vehicles comprise particulate matter (PM), lead (Pb), non-methane volatile organic components (NMVOC), nitrogen oxide (NOx), sulfur dioxide (SO2), and carbon monoxide (CO). Of these, particulate matter and lead are the most detrimental components of vehicle exhaust that affect the environment and human beings.

18. Apart from pollutants emitted by petrol-driven vehicles, the amount of exhaust from diesel-driven vehicles is large and therefore a matter of major public concern due to its undesirable environmental effects. However diesel-engine exhaust contains less toxic gases, it has a much higher particulate matter consideration than petrol-engine exhaust. In Sri Lanka, the observed levels of TSP, SO2, O3, and lead are significantly higher than air quality standards recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Central Environmental Authority (CEA) in Sri Lanka. This clearly reveals the special nature of the vehicle emission problem in the country which is directly linked with a wide range of factors such as composition and increase in number of vehicles, price structure of fuel, lack of traffic management, use of low-quality fuel, and lack of alternative fuels.

20. Combustion Engine Exhaust: Cars, busses, trucks, jet airplanes and other combustion engine vehicles cause air pollution. The exhaust from these contains carbon monoxide, nitrous oxide and gaseous oxide. This type of air pollution creates smog which causes respiratory health problems and holes in the ozone layer, which increases the exposure to the harmful rays of the sun.

25. Mills and plants: Mills and plants, such as paper mills, power plants, chemical plants, iron mills, steel mills, cement plants and asphalt plants, release emissions into the atmosphere causing air pollution

21. Factories: Factories, homes and power stations burn fossil fuels, which cause air pollution. The burning of oil and coal also contributes to smog. This air pollution destroys plants, damages buildings and creates oxidation on iron.

22. Petroleum: Petroleum refineries such as “Sapugaskanda” release hydrocarbons and various particulates that pollute the atmosphere.

23. Pesticides: Pesticides used to destroy indoor and outdoor pests, insecticides used to destroy insects and herbicides use to kill weeds all cause air pollution.

26. Indoor Air Pollution: This happens when there is insufficient ventilation to disburse the toxic fumes from new carpet, paint and/or cleaning chemicals that are used indoors.



1. Several studies conducted in Sri Lankan cities show that air pollution leads to reduced health and quality of life, damage to property, and economic losses. PM10-related health damage in the City of Colombo is about Rs. 26.0 billion per annum; and in the case of PM2.5 it is about Rs. 774 million per annum. This is according to a study by Chandrasiri,S. et. al. (2004) which quantified the health effects of PM2.5 from auto-diesel emissions. Based on the above estimates, the researchers calculated the cost per ton of auto diesel emissions in Colombo. These estimates of the health damage values for PM10 in Colombo come quite close to previous estimates in these studies:

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2. Another study on the “Exposure to Aerosol Pollution and Reported Respiratory Symptoms Among City Dwellers” by Perera, G.B.S., Emmanuel, R., Premasiri, H.D.S., (2006) shows that urban dwellers report higher prevalence of respiratory illnesses since they spend more on the roadsides, have higher exposure and also have all the common respiratory symptoms. Comparison of most common causes of mortality and morbidity data shows that although non-air pollution-related causes remain the primary cause for mortality, air pollution is a significant contributor to morbidity.

3. The average property damage due to urban air pollution in Colombo is estimated at Rs. 12677 (US$ 126) per household per year. The average willingness to pay to avoid property damage from urban air pollution is at Rs. 520 (US$ 5.20) per household per year. If an Air Quality Improvement Fund were to be established, the public would be willing to pay Rs.15460 (US$ 154) per household per year.


4. Air pollution is increasingly recognized as a threat to the health of people in mainly developing countries. The World Health Organization states that 2.4 million people die every year from causes directly attributable to air pollution. A study by the University of Birmingham has found a strong co-relation between pneumonia related deaths and air pollution from motor vehicles. More Worldwide deaths per year are linked to air pollution than to road traffic accidents. The causes of air pollution related deaths include aggravated asthma, emphysema, bronchitis, lung diseases and respiratory problems.

5. The health effects caused by air pollutants may range from subtle biochemical and physiological changes to difficulty in breathing, coughing, wheezing, and aggravation of existing respiratory and cardiac conditions.

6. These effects can result in increased medication use, increased doctor or emergency room visits, more hospitalizing and premature deaths. The human health effects of poor air quality are far reaching, but principally affect the body’s respiratory system and the cardiovascular system. Individual reactions to air pollutants depend on the type of pollutant a person is exposed to, the degree of exposure, the individual’s health status and genetics.



7. The effects of air pollution on health of residents in an industrial areas in Colombo city using a cross-sectional design and reported that the adult population living in the industrial area was more likely to have unexplained episodic cough and a significant reduction in expiratory flow as compared to the adult population living in a non-industrial area. The younger population (≤ 12 years) living in the industrial area were times more likely to have rhinitis as compared to the younger population living in the non-industrial area.

8. School children are another group exposed to high levels of pollutants exaggerated by overcrowding of major schools in cities, especially in Colombo. The prevalence of respiratory symptoms among school children attending a school in Colombo situated close to a busy main road was significantly higher than that of children attending a school situated in a rural area.

9. Based on data of the Colombo Fort monitoring station, episodes of bronchitis, emphysema and other chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases had a strong association with PM10 levels. Nearly 20% of asthma patients who visited the Lady Ridgeway Hospital for Children in Colombo in 2005 could be attributed to exposure to PM10 in Colombo based on the health impact assessment software developed by WHO. Although the location of the Colombo Fort monitoring station may not represent the entire area of study population, this study provides evidence for implementation of early mitigation strategies.

10. Air pollutants were measured using passive samplers in Mount Lavinia, a metropolitan area bordering Colombo, to measure the 24-hour average levels among city dwellers engaged in different occupation. Bus drivers were exposed to more NO2 and SO2 as compared to three-wheeler drivers, shop keepers and outdoor vendors. The highest prevalence of respiratory symptoms was reported among bus drivers.


11. Following the introduction of unleaded gasoline, atmospheric lead levels reduced by 81.5%, 82% and 84% in three locations in Colombo measured blood lead levels of a sample of children living near a traffic congested junction in Colombo in 1998 and then one year after the introduction of unleaded gasoline. In 1998, 6% of children had blood lead levels above 10 μg/dL; in 2003, not a single child had a blood lead level >10 μg/dl (range 1.67 μg/dl to 9.7 μg/dl).

12. The mean blood lead levels in traffic and non-traffic policemen were 7.47 μg/dl and 7.06 μg/dl, respectively. Abdominal discomfort, tremor and hypertension were higher in traffic policemen as compared to non-traffic policemen, although the differences were not significant. There may be exposure misclassification as non-traffic policemen are duty bound to control traffic during busy hours.


13. Low air quality, from traffic pollution or high ozone levels, has been repeatedly associated with increased asthma morbidity. Recent studies show a relationship between exposure to air pollutants (e.g. from traffic) and childhood asthma. This research finds that both the occurrence of the disease and exacerbation of childhood asthma are affected by outdoor air pollutants.


14. Studies of the American Cancer Society cohort directly link the exposure to particulate matter with lung cancer. For example, if the concentration of particles in the air increases by only 1%, the risk of developing a lung cancer increases by 14%. Further, it has been established that particle size matters, as ultrafine particles penetrate further into the lungs.

15. The majority of the population (more than 50%) was between the ages of 41-50 years and male; the majority of the cases were directly exposed to tobacco smoke (48%). There was an association between smoking and lung cancer but not with biomass fuels use.


16. Banning of importation of two-stroke engine three- wheelers: One of the main accomplishments in improving air quality in Sri Lanka is Banning of importation of two-stroke engine three- wheelers since 2006. The Government banned the importation of two-stroke petrol three-wheelers from 1 January 2008 and prohibited the import of full engine, engine blocks and cylinder heads after 2011 in order to avoid the local assembly of two-stroke engines.

17. Implementation of vehicle emission testing program: Sri Lanka is in the process of implementing the Vehicle Emission Testing program. The Program was launched on 15 July 2008. Several agencies play an important part in its implementation. The Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources developed the emission standards; the Department of Motor Traffic is the nominated implementing agency of the program. This program is designed as a public-private partnership and is a centralized

System with two large private sector companies contracted to conduct the vehicle emission tests. Two private sector companies have been selected to set up testing centers in all the main cities of Sri Lanka. The testing centers in the main cities are already in place.

18. Under the Program, vehicle owners must secure an emission certificate because it is a necessity to obtain the annual revenue license in Sri Lanka. After the vehicle is tested, the owner of the vehicle gets an emission certificate which states the emission levels of the vehicle. If the vehicle meets the standards, the owner of the vehicle gets a pass certificate; if he fails, he has to repair the vehicle and go back to the testing center for a re-test.

19. Amendment of National Ambient Air Quality Standards: Considering the latest revised WHO guideline values, Sri Lankan authorities reviewed the National Ambient Air Quality Standards and incorporated PM10 and PM2.5. Sri Lanka set the interim targets 2 as given in the Global update of WHO Air Quality Guideline in 2005.

20. Preparation of National Action Plan for Air Quality Management (Clean Air 2015): Clean Air Sri Lanka and the Air Resource Management Center of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Development have prepared the Clean Air 2015 action plan to manage the air pollution in Sri Lanka. The main areas under the action plan have been identified as priorities, action plans prepared and work started for each: Monitoring Emissions of Power Plants and High Polluting Industries, Monitoring and Reducing Vehicle Emissions, Provisions of Cleaner Fuels for Motor Vehicles, Prepare and Maintain Emissions Inventory, Monitoring Ambient Air Quality, Enhance Public Awareness and carry out health impact assessments and Providing an Indoor Air Pollution Management Programme.

21. Strategic Plan for Traffic Management in Greater Colombo Area (2008-2010):

The Supreme Court of Sri Lanka has ordered the preparation and implementation of the Strategic Plan for Traffic Management in Greater Colombo Area. Therefore, the National Transport Commission of the Ministry of Transport has conducted wider discussion with stakeholders and prepared an action plan. This action plan includes several interventions such as the formulation of an urban transport policy, set up of an urban traffic coordinating mechanism, operation of a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), operation of at least two new multimodal terminals and introduction of the advance traffic control system etc., for completion by 2010.




1. In the past in Sri Lanka there were a number of statues with scattered provisions pertaining to Environmental protection and Pollution control. Following are the Acts and regulations published in Sri Lanka in order to prevent air pollution.


National Environmental Act No. 47 of 1980

National Environmental (Amendment) Act, No. 56 of 1988

National Environmental (Amendment) Act, No. 53 of 2000


Motor Traffic (emission control) Regulation Number 817/6 dated 3rd May 1994.

Ozone Depleting substances and Natural Environmental (Ambient Air Quality) Regulations 1994. Gazette Notification Number 850/4 dated 20th December 1994.

Amendment to National Environment (ambient air quality) Regulation 1994. Gazette Notification Number 1562/22 dated 15th August 2008.

Amendment to Gazette Notification Number 1295/11 dated 30th June 2003.Gazette Notification Number 1557/14 dated 19th July 2008.

Amended Regulations (Air Emission, Fuel and Vehicle Importation standards) Gazette Notification Number 1137/35 dated 23rd June 2000.

National Environmental (Air Emissions, Fuel HYPERLINK “http://www.cea.lk/pdf/reg1295-11.pdf”&HYPERLINK “http://www.cea.lk/pdf/reg1295-11.pdf” Vehicle Importation standards) Amended Regulations. Gazette Notification Number 1295/11 dated 30th June 2003.

2. When compare with many other South Asian countries, Sri Lanka has the best environmental protection regulations. However the enforcement is very unsatisfactory. Sri Lanka has a good National Environmental Act and Environmental Impact Assessment process. However its implementation is rather weak.

3. As an example we can take the vehicle emission test of Sri Lanka. As per the questionnaire distributed among the vehicle drivers in Colombo city it is found that the emission test certificate can be obtain without required standard of the vehicle. The drivers confirmed that they have experience for such incidents.

4. Further, during the research it was found that the only one monitoring site in Colombo is not in a position to check the every pollutant due to the system failure since April 2010. CEA hasn’t taken any action to reactivate the system up to now. This shows the least priority given by the government towards the air pollution


5. . The National environmental act of Sri Lanka approved in 1980 and it was again amended in 1988 and 2000. For the last 30 years amendments were not in a considerable frame and there are many lapses in the amendments. This shows the least priority given by the ruled governments at that time towards the air pollution. The citizens who were participated in this research also clearly indicated this in the questionnaires.

2. When considering the countries, which achieved less air pollution percentage, there were the separate air pollution act and activating it in a proper manner. A separate authority was established to facilitate in administrational functions. Sri Lanka is still relying on the common environmental act. Due to the prevailing situation in Sri Lanka, it is very essential to have a separate act with special laws to reduce the air pollution in the country as well as the Colombo city.

3. The hierarchy of the Central Environment Authority of Sri Lanka are appointed by HE the president in consultation with the environmental minister of the ruling government. Therefore, a question emerged regarding the impartiality of the members of Central Environmental Authority. All the decisions made by the government may be approved by the CEA in this nature.

4. Authority of issuing licence and approving projects had been granted to the minister of environment by the amendment to the NEA in year 2000. As a result of this amendment the minister has sole authority to activate any harmful project to the environment if the government required it. Further this amendment has increased the validity time of the licence for the projects from one year to three years. The suspension and cancellation the licence, given to the minister from this amendment. If the minister insist it, the owner can continue his project without any interference.

5. The prior way of urban air pollution is the use of motor vehicles.


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