4 March 2016, Colombo & Sabaragamuwa, Sri Lanka - Two small grant projects aiming to improve the resource efficiency and waste management in Sri Lankan universities, as well as to introduce the topic of sustainable consumption and production (SCP) in university curriculum, are well underway. The projects are funded by the EU-programme SWITCH-Asia and implemented by Upendra Arjeewani and Uthpala Sankalpani, both alumni of the e-learning course UNITAR/UNEP "Introduction to SCP in Asia". During the course, which took part in autumn 2015, the two ladies received a small grant to help them turn their ideas into a reality.  Their inspiring story is picked up and re-told in a dedicated article published recently on the SWITCH-Asia website. We are happy to re-print it and share it now through the UNITAR website.

See the original article on the SWITCH-Asia platform here: SCP Champion Series: Sri Lanka’s Upendra Arjeewani and Uthpala Sankalpani

A UNITAR article published at the start of the project implementation is available here: Sri Lankan Universities Go Green

SCP Champion Series: Sri Lanka’s Upendra Arjeewani and Uthpala Sankalpani

This story was originally posted on the SWITCH-Asia website (http://www.switch-asia.eu/news/scp-champion-series-sri-lankas-upendraarjeewani-and-uthpalasankalpani/)

Welcome to the first edition of SWITCH-Asia’s SCP Champion Series! These short profiles feature members of the SWITCH-Asia RPSC community who are actively working to promote Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP) in their countries. We are so excited that our policy advocacy in the region has equipped individuals to begin curating change where they live. We would like to take the opportunity to share their stories with you. Without further ado, we would like to introduce you to Sri Lanka’s Upendra Arjeewani and Uthpala Sankalpani!

Sri Lanka is one of 19 countries in the SWITCH-Asia Programme. A teardrop-shaped island surrounded by turquoise waters that is known for tasty dishes that tantalize the taste buds, Sri Lanka is increasingly becoming a popular tourist destination. Perhaps in part because of this, its interest in protecting its breathtaking scenery has recently become a national priority. Sri Lanka is the first country in the South Asian sub-region to receive national policy support assistance under the SWITCH-Asia Policy Support Component.  It has been awarded a 4-year (2015-2019) EU-funded ‘technical assistance programme’ to support the strengthening of the overall government policy and institutional framework for implementation of SCP at the request of the Ministry of Mahaweli Development and Environment.

It stands to reason that Sri Lanka’s national focus on SCP is related to citizens like Upendra Arjeewani and Uthpala Sankalpani.  Both these women are employed as Resource Efficient Cleaner Production (RECP) technologists at the National Cleaner Production Center Sri Lanka (NCPC SL). Their passion for the environment, however, notably goes above the call of duty.  SWITCH-Asia RPSC first met Upendra in 2014 when she attended the first edition of SWITCH-Asia and UNEP’s Winter School on Sustainable Consumption and Production at the Asian Institute of Technology in Thailand.

Upendra ‘s first foray into SCP capacity development was not to be her last:“I learned so much about SCP and Resource efficiency at the Winter School. Working with other students from the region was definitely one of the best parts. I came to see the region’s issues differently and I left with a thirst to learn more. I wanted to refine a plan on how I could personally use this knowledge in Sri Lanka.”

Upendra went on to successfully apply for SWITCH-Asia RPSC’s e-learning course “Introduction to SCP in Asia” offered in conjunction with partner UNITAR.  This time she was joined by her colleague and friend Uthpala. Uthpala describes herself as an “Environmentalist by profession who strives to promote Sustainable Development Goal  12: ‘Ensure Sustainable Consumption and Production Patterns’ through multifaceted ways.”

It would seem that the two students shared the same interest and their passion on the subject only grew. Uthpala details: “As we were completing the e-learning course we were armed with so much knowledge. We were extremely enthused and wanted to implement this knowledge in a practical way. When our facilitators at announced that a small grant that was available for a SCP Action Plan, we jumped at the chance!”

Despite both of their histories with SWITCH-Asia’s educational programs, it was no easy task to secure the $7000 USD in funding that was available to implement an action plan within 3 months. A total of 16 competitive project proposals were submitted. The evaluation process was designed and carried out by UNITAR in close consultation with SWITCH-Asia’s RPSC, UNEP. The first-round of evaluation produced a short-list of five projects, including proposals from: India, Bangladesh, Mongolia, and Sri Lanka. In the second-round of the selection process, specific clarification questions were sent to each of the five projects.

It was here that the pair rose to the occasion and shone, “Uthpala’s and Upendra’s answers to the 2nd round of questions were both comprehensive and compelling, placing their projects for greening university campuses and educating students in Sri Lanka well ahead of the competition.” Ms. Maya Valcheva, UNITAR’s Training Assistant on Green Development and Climate Change.

Upon their completion of their grant proposal, both Upendra and Uthpala still wanted more.  The pair went on to complete SWITCH-Asia’s BLISS 2015: SDG 12 – 'Ensuring Sustainable Consumption and Production Patterns'at TERI University in India, effectively further strengthening their knowledge. When they were announced as the grant winners they had an even firmer educational foundation beneath them. This proved highly useful as they prepared to help educate students in their home country.  Through their grant-winning project aimed at greening Sri Lankan schools,Upendra and Uthpala were able to raise SCP Awareness in almost 400 students ranging from school-aged children to university staff.

“As SWITCH-Asia’s RPSC, UNEP is extremely pleased to have been a part on these outstanding champions’ journey. SWITCH-Asia’s SCP capacity-building courses strategically aim to shape tomorrow’s policymakers. Upendra and Uthpala are one stellar example of the cumulative effects of education.” UNEP Programme Officer, Ms. Sara Castro.

It is key to acknowledge that while employed full time by the National Cleaner Production Center Sri Lanka, one of the foremost sustainable solution providers in the nation, these two women felt compelled not only to expand their own knowledge base, but also to find a way to spread that knowledge and train other future policy makers. Keep up the great work SCP Champions!

Share with