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CEJ says proposed Mannar wind power plant endanger lives of migratory birds

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Developers assure no threat as wind turbines automatically shut down

By Ifham Nizam

The proposed Mannar wind power plant poses a threat to the lives of pelicans as the project is situated along the birds’ migration route from India to Sri Lanka, Hemantha Withanage, Executive Director of the Center for Environmental Justice (CEJ), said.

With around 10% of pelicans dying annually, the wind power plant, scheduled to be operational soon, poses a potential threat to these birds, he cautioned. “The project’s Environmental Impact Assessment reports have also sounded a warning on this score”.

He said CEJ and several other environmentalists raised objections to the danger posed to the birds by the wind power project. However, the developers assured that all wind turbines automatically shut down when a flock of birds pass by the radar signals located on Adam’s Bridge. An actual bird watching radar system has now been included in the design of the Mannar wind power generation project to minimize bird collisions.

The Department of Wildlife Conservation has released details on 435 bird species, including 110 migratory species. These birds, during the migration period from November to February, fly across to Sri Lanka on three major routes via the Eastern, Western and Andaman Islands.

Bundala National Park, Anavilundawa Sanctuary, Bellanwila – Attidiya Sanctuary and the Muthurajawela Sanctuary are habitats for migratory birds. Bundala National Park and Anavilundawa Sanctuary are Ramsar sites.

Withanage urged conservationists to educate the people on bird conservation and commemorate the value of migratory birds in countries, cities and villages around the world, as well as to understand this biodiversity by observing as many birds as possible and take necessary steps towards conservation.

The theme of this year’s World Migratory Bird Day is ‘Birds Connect Our World’. It has been chosen to highlight the importance of preserving and restoring the integrity of environmental relationships and systems. Migratory birds are part of our natural heritage and depend on a network of sites for their breeding, feeding, resting and feeding routes.

Amy Frankel, executive secretary of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals – CMS said: “World Migratory Bird Day – October 10- reminds us that now more than ever, that we need to speed up our efforts to protect migratory birds and their habitats. Many bird species around the world are declining and the continuing extinction of nature is linked to the infectious diseases we are now fighting.”

Last year alone, more than 870 migratory bird events were registered. Compared to the past, the global celebration of the victims of our bird menace, and their impressive annual migration, will look even different this year due to the global health crisis the world is facing due to COVID-19, he noted.

Years back, Sri Lanka’s foremost authority on biodiversity, Dr. Rohan Pethiyagoda questioned a poorly researched Initial Environment Examination Report (IEER) saying it poses a threat to the Vankalai Sanctuary near Mannar.

During an interview with the writer a few years back, the biodiversity expert stressed “I maintain that the proposed trace of the transmission line through or near Vankalai Sanctuary should not be allowed.”

According to him, it is illegal under the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance (FFPO) and there is no provision for the Wildlife Conservation Department to sanction it.

Furthermore, it negatively impacts tourism, especially nature-tourism, which has potential in this region, which is urgently in need of economic development and the full utilization of all its natural resources for the benefit of the local people, he noted.

The IEER provides almost no evidence that the unique natural heritage offered by the Vankalai Sanctuary will be preserved as a result of the project, especially with regard to bird life with the proposed transmission line, he said.

Every year millions of birds fly down the Indian peninsula and then funnel through the four km wide Talaimannar panhandle to reach food-rich wetlands such as Vidattaltivu and Vankalai on Sri Lanka’s north-west coast.

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Special COVID-19 probe crippled by infections among CCD sleuths: AG calls for new police team

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

Brandix Apparel Limited yesterday (29) said that the company would fully cooperate with relevant authorities in the investigation ordered by the Attorney General (AG). A spokesperson for the company said so when The Island sought a clarification with regard to AG Dappula de Livera, PC, directing the police to launch a criminal investigation into the alleged lapses on the part of the company as well as those officials leading to the devastating COVID-19 outbreak.

The Minuwangoda eruption, which happened in the first week of October is widely believed to be the cause of the fast expanding Peliyagoda cluster.

Asked whether the police had contacted the Brandix management as regards the investigation and sought access to Brandix management and workers at its Minuwangoda apparel manufacturing facility as well as records at the Minuwangoda facility, the spokesperson said: “We will work with the relevant authorities in this regard”.

The Colombo Crime Division (CCD) tasked with the probe has suffered a serious setback due to a section of its officers being tested positive for COVID-19. Authoritative sources said that the CCD lacked sufficient strength to carry out the investigation.

AG de Livera early this week told DIG Ajith Rohana that a progress report should be submitted to him by or before Nov. 13.

Sources said that the badly depleted CCD was not in a position to conduct the high-profile investigation, in addition to other ongoing inquiries. The AG has directed the Acting IGP to constitute a special team of law enforcement officers to conduct the investigation. Sources acknowledged the urgent need for a thorough inquiry into the far worse second corona wave. Sources said that the AG issued fresh instructions in that regard after the crisis in the CCD was brought to his notice.

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Most garment workers under self-quarantine left to fend for themselves

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

A large number of garment workers who were undergoing self-quarantine in Minuwangoda did not receive any assistance, Chamila Thushari of the Dabindu Collective, a labour organisation that works with garment workers, told The Island yesterday.

She said that those who were under self-quarantine did not have money to purchase food and even those who were willing to help could not reach them.

“Some of them have received food parcels from their work places but that is not adequate. Most others have not received any assistance. Matters will only get worse after curfew is imposed throughout the Western Province,” Thushari said.

Most of these workers are undergoing self-quarantine at their boarding places, which also house individuals who still work in garment factories. “Although there is a curfew, they can go to work. These are perfect incubators for the virus,” she said.

Thushari said that every day between 20-30 workers under self-quarantine, tested positive for COVID-19.

There were no public health inspectors to monitor the boarding houses of garment workers to ensure that COVID-19 prevention measures were being followed, she said.

“Not even Grama Niladaris visit them,” Chamila said.

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SJB requests separate seats for its dissidents

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Chief Opposition Whip and Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella has written to Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena requesting him to make arrangements to provide separate seats to the nine MPs who had voted with the government for the 20th Amendment to the Constitution recently.

The letter dated yesterday said that the SJB parliamentary group had decided to expel MPs Diana Gamage, A. Aravind Kumar, Ishak Rahuman, Faisal Cassim, H. M. M. Haris, M.S. Thowfeeq, Nazeer Ahmed, A.A.S.M. Raheem and S.M.M. Musharaf and it requests the Speaker to make separate seating arrangements for these MPs in the Chamber.

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