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Sri Lanka: Mass Media a Top Source of Info on Climate Change

Mass media is top source of information on climate change for Sri Lankans, reveals survey

Colombo, Sri Lanka: Most Sri Lankans had first heard about climate change from the mass media, or while in school.

Mass media is also where they would most look for the latest information on what can be done about climate change -- and how to do it. The next most preferred sources are state agencies dealing with the subjects (environment, meteorology), and people’s own peer circles.

‘Not having enough technical or specific information’ is the biggest reason for non-action by those who are concerned about climate change and want to do something about it.

Broadcast television is Sri Lankans’ primary source of information on current news and events, followed by radio, newspapers and magazines (see box for details).

These are among the key findings from a new survey on public perceptions on climate change in Sri Lanka.

The large sample survey, conducted in mid 2010, covered 1,000 men and women aged above 18 years, in urban and rural areas across all 25 districts of Sri Lanka. It was carried out by the reputed market research company, Survey Research Lanka (Pvt) Limited, on behalf of the Sri Lankan Ministry of Environment under a technical assistance project supported by the Asian Development Bank. They survey was facilitated by TVE Asia Pacific (TVEAP).

Survey summary at: Full survey report at:

“The survey sought to map out perceptions and opinions among ordinary Sri Lankan people on changes in their environment, and to find out how aware they are about climate change,” says TVEAP Director Nalaka Gunawardene, who designed and provided technical supervision for the survey. “We didn’t try to assess or evaluate any individual’s factual knowledge on the subject.”

The survey found that most Sri Lankans – nearly 9 out of 10 across the country -- have heard of climate change and/or global warming.

“However, not everyone clearly understands what exactly this means,” says Dr Buddhi Weerasinghe, TVEAP Board Member who was communication specialist of the project.

He adds: “The survey has captured impressionistic views of the voluntarily participating respondents. These are broadly indicative of the current levels of understanding, or the lack of it, on various changes in weather, climate and physical environment.”

Among those who have heard of climate change, 36 per cent are ‘strongly concerned’, while another 57 per cent are ‘somewhat concerned’ about how climate change can personally affect themselves and their families.

The impacts they most fear are water and food shortages, and the spread of diseases due to weather anomalies.

Yet, hopefully, many believe that ‘there is still a chance to prevent the worst impacts -- if we act fast’. They feel that both the government and people should be involved in responding to the climate crisis, and in taking better care of the environment.

Among the most favoured climate-friendly actions are tree planting, forest conservation and proper disposal of waste.

This survey was commissioned under the ADB Technical Assistance Project titled ‘Strengthening Capacity for Climate Change Adaptation’, based at Climate Change Secretariat, Ministry of Environment, Sri Lanka.

The survey fed into the preparation of an information, education and communication (IEC) Strategy which is part of the draft National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy (NCCAS) to help Sri Lanka meet and overcome the massive challenges of climate change. Link: <

The Strategy was unveiled and presented to stakeholders at a national workshop held on 16 November 2010.

Once formally adopted by the Government, the NCCAS is expected to stimulate improved environmental management and better preparedness in all sectors to cope with climate change. Such careful planning and investment could help Sri Lanka turn current threats into future opportunities.


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