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About 20,000 tonnes of Red Sanders were smuggled from India between 2016 and 2020:Report

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The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) recorded 28 incidents of confiscation and seizure of more than 19,049 tonnes of Red Sanders logs. These had been exported from India, between 2016 and 2020, after being illegally extracted from the wild, according to a new factsheet.

Red Sanders (Pterocarpus santalinus), also called Red Sandalwood, is a species found in the southern tropical dry deciduous forest of Andhra Pradesh. The tree reaches an average height of 10 to 15 metres.With 53.3 percent of logs being shipped to China, it is the biggest importer of these illegally harvested logs of Red Sanders, noted the document, released by TRAFFIC and WWF-India, on February 2, 2023.

The species is listed as ‘Endangered’ in the International Union for Conservation of Nature and falls in Appendix II of CITES. In India, it has been enlisted under Schedule IV of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.The heartwood of Red Sanders is in demand, in the domestic and international markets, for making furniture, handicrafts and musical instruments in China and Japan. The red dye, obtained from the wood, is used as a colouring agent in the textiles, medicine and food industries.

“Red Sanders is reported to be one of India’s most exploited tree species and is under severe pressure from illegal logging and harvesting. Rampant illegal logging has been reported across its range state,” said Merwyn Fernandes, coordinator of TRAFFIC’s India Office.Under the foreign trade policy of India, the import of Red Sanders is prohibited, while export is restricted.

China remains the largest importer with more than 13,618 tonnes of the products, followed by Hong Kong at 5,215 tonnes and Singapore at 216 tonnes, according to the factsheet.

“India reported an export of more than 19,049 tonnes of logs. In comparison, the importing countries reported about 4,610 tonnes of logs, 127 tonnes of sawn wood, 20 tonnes of transformed wood and 980 kg of wood products, clearly indicating a discrepancy in reporting of Red Sander trade,” read the factsheet.

Rampant illegal logging and smuggling of trees have been reported in Chittoor, YSR Kadappa, Nellore and Kurnool districts, according to the AP Forest Department.To curb this illegal logging of the endangered species, the AP Forest Department formed a Red Sanders Anti-Smuggling Task Force in 2014, which has made several seizures of the wood. – DTE



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President orders probe into notification issued by Department of Immigration and Emigration

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It has been reported that President Wickremesinghe ordered an investigation into the notification issued by the Department of Immigration and Emigration requesting all  Russian and Ukrainian tourists to leave the country within 14 days.

According to the President’s Media Division (PMD), the relevant notification was issued without prior approval from the Cabinet of Ministers.

The decision had reportedly been taken as certain foreign tourists are running illegal businesses in the country.

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Contentious Chinese research vessel docks in Maldives

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Xiang Yang Hong 03 has previously visited Indian Ocean on several other occasions

A contentious Chinese research ship reached the Maldives on Thursday in the latest sign of the archipelago’s diplomatic reorientation towards Beijing and away from its traditional benefactor India.

Local residents said they had spotted China’s Xiang Yang Hong 3 at the Thilafushi industrial port near the capital Male.The 100-metre-long (328-foot) vessel was at an anchorage near Male on Thursday evening, according to the website Marinetraffic.

The Maldives’ pro-Beijing government said earlier the vessel was docking for a port call to rotate crew and take on supplies, on the condition that it would not conduct “research” while in its territorial waters.

Media reports in India had suggested that the vessel was conducting surveillance for Beijing.

India is suspicious of China’s increasing presence in the Indian Ocean and its influence in Sri Lanka and the Maldives, which are strategically placed halfway along key east-west international shipping routes.Relations between Male and New Delhi have chilled since pro-China President Mohamed Muizzu won elections last year.

Muizzu has asked India to withdraw 89 security personnel based in the Maldives to operate reconnaissance aircraft by March 15.But the president has also insisted he does not want to upend ties with New Delhi by replacing Indian troops with Chinese forces.

Sri Lanka refused entry to Xiang Yang Hong 3 after two other port calls from Chinese vessels since 2022 raised objections from India.That included the ship Yuan Wang 5, which specializes in spacecraft tracking and which New Delhi described as a spy ship. (AFP)

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MP Harsha in Australia as “Special visitor”

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Harsha de Silva

Opposition MP and Chairman of the Committee on Public Finance (COPF) Harsha de Silva is currently in Australia as a special visitor.

Taking to ‘X’, the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) MP said he had embarked on a nine-day visit on an invitation extended by the Government of Australia.

“My engagements with policymakers, academics, scientists and investment managers began in Melbourne and will continue in Adelaide and then public officials and politicians in Canberra,” he added.

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