When Worlds Collide, by Nalaka Gunawardene

Text of my ‘When Worlds Collide’ column published in Ceylon Today Sunday newspaper on 8 July 2012

Sometimes well-meaning yet ill-informed environmentalists can be their own worst enemy. By barking up the wrong tree, they distort public sentiments and even affect policy responses.

Take air pollution in Sri Lanka, for example. For decades, the greens have vilified factories as the principal source. In reality, over 60% of outdoor air pollution is now caused by vehicle emissions.

Over a decade ago, when I first wrote about diesel fumes being potentially cancer-causing, some greens urged me not to take on ‘the poor man’s fuel’. On a similar reasoning, successive governments have subsidised diesel prices to the tune of billions.

It’s time to rethink. In early June 2012, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared that diesel engine fumes can certainly cause cancer, especially lung cancer, in humans.

The International Agency for Research…

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