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Another land grab about to take place at Flood Plains National Park today?

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By Ifham Nizam

There was a plan to clear a swath of the Manampitiya-Yakkure forest for road development through the Flood Plains National Park and some local politicians were going all out to fell trees, a senior official of the Department of Wildlife Conservation said yesterday.

Senior environmentalists also told The Island that they hoped President Gotabaya Rajapaksa would intervene to prevent the destruction of the forest.

President Rajapaksa over the weekend refused to endorse the request for cleaning a three- kilometre stretch of forest to construct a road, saying he would consult a team of experts first.

Centre for Environmental Justice, Environmental Scientist, Hemantha Withanage alleged that with the introduction of 1/2020 circular nearly 700,000 acres of forests had become vulnerable.

“When Forest and Wildlife officers visit these areas, they are helpless. They have been forced not to enforce the laws and even remove long standing cases,” Withanage added.

“We got to know that the Secretary to the State Minister of Land Management, State Enterprises Land, and Property Development was to go for a site visit yesterday and a meeting would be held today (09) at Yakkure and a decision would be made to allow road development inside the National Park,” a senior environmentalist claimed.

Further, the lands belong to Flood Plains National Park at Weheragodayaya running to more than 2000 acres would be released for agriculture purposes, said Supun Lahiru Prakash, Convener, Biodiversity Conservation and Research Circle of Sri Lanka.

He told The Island that “In addition Handapan villu, Manampitiya villu, Palle villu, Karapola villu, and Muthugala villu are to be released for agriculture purposes.”

Loss of huge amounts of land from the Flood Plains National Park and Fragmentation of the rest of the land by road construction would severely affect the flora and fauna of the park, Prakash said.

The flood plains are a unique ecosystem type found in downstream Mahaweli River; they will disappear, if the decision is made to expand agriculture, environmentalists warn.

“We kindly request the President to pay immediate attention to the matter and prevent the destruction of the forest.

According to environmental lawyer, Dr. Jagath Gunawardena, the area was declared a National Park under Section 2, subsection 1 of the Flora and Fauna Protection Ordinance (FFPO).

Therefore, nobody could make any forest clearings, clear or break up any land for cultivation, mining or any other purposes, fell, girdle, tap, burn or in any way damage or destroy any plant or take, collect or remove any plant, Gunawardena said.

There are clear violations set out in Sections 5 and 6. If Section 6 is violated, a perpetrator could be arrested without a warrant, and it was a non-bailable offence, he said.

Public Service Trade Union Federation, Chairman W. H. Piyadasa said that the Forest Department had taken over the land on court orders after reporting the construction of an illegal road from Manepitiya to Yakkure through the Polonnaruwa Flood Plain National Park and the illegal cultivation in the wildlife reserve.

 



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Six member committee appointed to inquire into Sri Lanka Cricket Team’s conduct in Australia

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Minister of Sports and Youth Affairs Roshan Ranasinghe has appointed a six member committee headed by Retired Supreme Court Judge Kusala Sarojini Weerawardena to inquire into the incidents reported against some members of the Sri Lanka Cricket team that participated at the ICC T20 World Cup in Australia.

 

 

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SJB MP: Most parents have to choose between food and children’s education

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By Saman Indrajith

Most Sri Lankan parents are compelled to choose between food for their families and their children’s eduction, SJB Matale District MP Rohini Kumari Wijerathne told Parliament yesterday.

Only a few parents were able to feed and educate their children the MP said, participating in the debate on Budget 2023 under the expenditure heads of Ministries of Education and Women and Child Affairs.

“An 80-page exercise book costs Rs. 200. A CR book costs Rs 560. A pencil or pen costs Rs 40. A box of colour pencils costs Rs 570 while a bottle of glue costs Rs 150. If the father is a daily wage earner he has to spend one fourth of his salary on a box of colour pencils for his child. A satchel now costs around Rs 4,000. A pair of school shoes is above Rs 3,500. The Minister of Education knows well how many days a child could use an 80-page exercise book for taking notes. Roughly, stationery cost is around Rs 25,000 to 30,000 per child, MP Wijerathne said, adding that only Rs. 232 billion had been allotted for the Ministry of Education by Budget 2023.

“After paying salaries of teachers and covering officials’ expenses, etc., there will be very little left for other important matters,” the MP said, noting that Sri Lanka would soon be known as the country that made the lowest allocation of funds for education in the South Asian region.

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All crises boil down to flaws in education system, says Dullas

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By Saman Indrajith

All the crises Sri Lanka was beset with were due to the country’s outdated education system, MP Dullas Alahapperuma told Parliament yesterday.

“The political and economic crisis we are facing is the direct result of our education,” he said.

The Sri Lankan education system had not changed with global developments. Our system is not even geared for employment. Our examination system is antiquated and our classrooms are in the 19th Century.

However, the students belong to the 21st century. How can you cater to 21st Century children under an outdated system?” he queried.

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