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UNEP and Sri Lanka announce a new collaboration to fight plastic pollution in rivers

  • UNEP and Sri Lanka announce new collaboration to fight plastic pollution in rivers
  • The Japan-funded CounterMEASURE project works to identify sources and pathways of plastic pollution in river systems in Asia, particularly the Mekong and the Ganges.
  • The project has developed plastic leakage models for localities in 6 different countries using an innovative and replicable approach. Deploying technologies like GIS, machine learning and drones has allowed the CounterMEASURE team to augment ground-level research in an efficient and scalable way.
  • This scientific knowledge can then be used to inform policy decisions and actions to beat plastic pollution and ensure rivers are free of plastic waste.

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With new research showing the major role that rivers play in bringing plastic pollution to the oceans, countries are looking for ways to tackle the root causes of the problem in their own waterways. In response, the Sri Lankan government is set to partner with the UN Environment Programme’s (UNEP) CounterMEASURE project to track down sources and pathways of plastic waste in the country’s rivers.

The CounterMEASURE project has developed a unique approach to tracking plastic pollution, using frontier technology like machine learning, GIS mapping, drones, microplastic sampling and citizen science. The methods and models have been tested and deployed along the Mekong River in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand, Viet Nam and along the Ganges and its tributaries in India. Findings are used to develop bespoke policy recommendations for lawmakers and regulators at local, regional and national levels.

“CounterMEASURE’s approach has been proven to be an efficient and effective way for policymakers to understand how the plastic pollution problem affects rivers in their countries,” said Dechen Tsering, UNEP’s Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific. “We’re proud to be able to work with Sri Lanka on this important issue.”

“This project is timely and complements the Government initiative to introduce an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) system for post-consumer plastic waste and prohibit number of plastic products that are harmful to the ecosystem,” said Dr. Ananda Mallawatantri, Country Representative of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), a partner organization to the UN Environment Programme’s CounterMEASURE implementation in Sri Lanka.

Dr. Anil jasinghe, Secretary for Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Environment stated: "The CounterMEASURE project will be a boost to the Surakimu Ganga program initiated by the Ministry of Environment to make all our rivers clean. The objectives of CounterMEASURE are very much in line with Sri Lanka’s efforts to minimize ocean plastic pollution through land based activities. It requires the active participation of the public and private sectors, supported by a strong awareness. The Government cannot do this alone and we appreciate the UN Environment Programme’s initiative to bring global experience on hotspot analysis and cutting-edge technology."

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