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Earth Day 2020: empowering future generations to preserve the environment in Sri Lanka

Posted: 22 April 2020

Sri Lanka, Impact, Linkages, Videos,

Around the world, April 22 is celebrated as Earth Day, an annual event to demonstrate support for environmental protection. The theme for this year’s Earth Day is climate action: a topic of utmost importance to many in the Australia Awards community in South and West Asia, including Dr Pradeepa Jayaratne.

As a concerned citizen, Australia Awards alumna Dr Jayaratne feels a sense of responsibility to help protect our earth and preserve Sri Lanka’s environment for future generations.

She says, “Sri Lanka’s economy mainly depends on the export of agriculture products; however, in recent years there have been significant declines in the income generated from agriculture products. This is mainly because the temperature and, in return, the soil composition of our lands have changed. The lack of awareness amongst our citizens on climate change is hugely impacting our economy.”

As a solution, Dr Jayaratne and fellow alumni started a project called ‘Cradle to Cradle: Empowering schoolchildren to be catalysts for preserving the environment and tackling climate change in Sri Lanka’ with the help of an Australia Awards grant.

Dr Pradeepa Jayaratne, an Australia Awards alumna with a passion for protecting the environment

This awareness project supported schools to become climate-friendly by adopting sustainable lifestyle measures, and encouraged students to be agents of change in building a climate-resilient society.

“Through our project, we were able to change the mindset of these young children, motivating them to take measures for environment protection, thus giving them hope for a better future,” she explains.

Dr Jayaratne and her team members Nishadi Liyanage and Saliya Jayathilaka delivered a presentation on the outcomes of this project at the Australia Awards – South and West Asia Regional Alumni Workshop 2018 in Bhutan. Another team member, Dr Randika Jayasinghe, provided support to the team from afar. This presentation was part of a Pitch Competition for alumni groups at the workshop to communicate their environment and climate action initiatives to an audience that included a panel of judges.

At the Regional Alumni Workshop in Bhutan in 2018. From left to right: alumnus Saliya Jayathilaka, Dr Jayaratne, Ailsa Lamont (Pomegranate Global), Rod Hilton (Australian Deputy High Commissioner to India and Bhutan), alumna Nishadi Liyanage, and Rod Sollesta (Australia Awards – South and West Asia)

‘Cradle to Cradle’ was one of the winning projects at this Pitch Competition, and as a result the team had the opportunity to nominate a representative to attend the Climate Reality Leadership Corps training last year in Brisbane, Australia. Dr Jayaratne was nominated by her fellow team members to participate. The training helped further build her capacity to continue creating awareness and changing the lives of youth in Sri Lanka.

Talking about the training, she says, “I was very fortunate to receive the opportunity from Australia Awards to attend the Climate Reality Leadership Corps training. Such forums are crucial in facing the current environmental issues around the globe, which are having a significant impact—particularly on small islands like Sri Lanka.

“Attending this event and listening to experts from around the world was truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I can use my learning and experience from this training to help my country to take positive measures to think and act against global climate change.”

Dr Jayaratne engaging with Rebecca Hall (Australian Trade and Investment Commission) and Ailsa Lamont (Pomegranate Global) at the Climate Reality Leadership Corps training last year in Brisbane, Australia

About Dr Pradeepa Jayaratne

Dr Pradeepa Jayaratne completed her Master of Science in Logistics, graduating with a distinction from the University of Wollongong, Australia, in 2007. She completed her PhD in Supply Chain Management/Logistics in 2015 from the same university, through an Australia Awards Scholarship, with research mainly focused on the operational sustainability of the tea industry in Sri Lanka. She has been an active member of Australia Awards alumni activities since her return to Sri Lanka in 2015, including serving as the President of the Sri Lanka Association of Australia Awards Alumni last year.

Dr Jayaratne has consulted widely on transport, supply chain and logistics, including to the Sri Lankan Ministry of Transport, the World Bank and UN-Habitat, and remains active in professional organisations. She has worked as an academic with universities such as the University of Moratuwa, Ocean University of Sri Lanka, Colombo International Nautical and Engineering College Maritime Campus, Sydney Business School and University of Wollongong.