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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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22A: Jayasumana asks govt. to stick to SC ruling, warns against moves detrimental to unitary status

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Prof. Jayasumana

Dissident SLP MP Prof. Channa Jayasumana has said that the government will not be allowed to use the proposed 22 Amendment to introduce anything detrimental to the country.

The Anuradhapura District MP said that it would be advisable for the ruling party to refrain from proposing amendments at the committee stage, other than what were authorised by the Supreme Court.

The Parliament is scheduled to debate the 22 Amendment tomorrow (06) and the day after (07).

Recently, the Supreme Court ruled that the Bill seeking the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution could be adopted with a two-thirds majority in the House, though some clauses would require a nationwide referendum.

The rebel MP said that the clauses, inconsistent with the Constitution, should be left out of the Bill.

Responding to The Island queries, the former State Minister said that they would defeat whatever attempts to undermine Sri Lanka’s unitary status at a time the country was struggling to cope up with a deteriorated economic situation.

The lawmaker said that it would be nothing but treachery to allow opportunists to exploit the recent developments. Prof. Jayasumana intends to take up the issue at hand with the 13-member rebel group, ahead of the two-day debate.

“Obviously, the SLPP is divided over the issue at hand,” the academic said, adding that the election of UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, as the President, to complete the remainder of Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s term, highlighted sharp divisions within the party over policy and strategy.

The SLPP won 145 seats at the last parliamentary election, though over 20 members have now declared they wouldn’t follow dictates of the party.

Prof. Jayasumana said that he publicly discussed the issue at hand recently following a gathering at Horowpothana, Morawewa.

Meanwhile, Ven. Professor Induragare Dharmarathana Thera said that the Jathika Mahajana Sabhawa would launch a protest campaign today (05) at the Independence Square, at 8.30 am.

The Ven. Thera alleged that they feared an attempt would be made to fully implement the 13th Amendment to the Constitution that was enacted way back in the late 80s to appease those pushing for division of the country, on ethnic lines (SF)

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State FM: Treasury needs to increase revenue by Rs 400 bn

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The Finance Ministry yesterday (04) quoted State Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya as having said that the Treasury faced the daunting task of increasing the revenue by Rs 400 bn.

Siyambalapitiya said that both the government and the Opposition had acknowledged the urgent need to enhance revenue. The Minister said that their efforts to save foreign exchange by restricting imports had been quite successful and that the government had been able to reduce imports by 25 percent, in July this year, when compared with figures for the same month in the previous year.

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GL fires broadside at SLPP-RW govt., calls for accountability

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

Dissident SLPP lawmaker Prof. G.L. Peiris has alleged that the Rajapaksa-Wickremesinghe administration has allocated 320 vehicles for the recently appointed 38 State Ministers and their staff.

In addition, those who had been appointed District Coordinators had also been allocated vehicles, the former External Affairs Minister told the media on Monday (03). The ruling SLPP secured the lion’s share of state ministerial portfolios, as well as lucrative appointments as District Coordinators, the former minister said.

Addressing the media at the rebel group’s office, at Nawala, the SLPP National List MP and the party Chairman flayed what he called the Rajapaksa-Wickremesinghe government for squandering taxpayers’ money to appease a section of the Parliament at a time the vast majority of people were struggling to make ends meet.

Pointing out that in terms of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, the government could appoint 30 cabinet and 40 non-cabinet rankers, Prof. Peiris said that it was only a matter of time before the government increased the number of Cabinet ministers to 30. At the moment, the Cabinet comprised 18 ministers, including Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena.

Prof. Peiris said that in the wake of the Parliament approving the Social Security Contribution Levy Bill, the cost of living would go up further. The Parliament recently announced the Treasury intended to collect Rs 140 bn, annually, through the implementation of the new Bill.

The one-time Education Minister explained the current economic difficulties the student populationis facing. The retired top academic expressed serious concern over quite a number of students giving up education.

Commenting on the inordinate delay in conducting Local Government elections, Prof. Peiris alleged that the government feared facing the electorate for obvious reasons. Declaring that the Election Commission now had the power to call for Local Government polls, Prof. Peiris urged the EC to ensure the public received an opportunity to exercise their franchise.

“The EC shouldn’t disappoint the public,” the SLPP Chairman said, declaring their intention to move Court in case the government sought to further postpone the much-delayed Local Government polls. Prof. Peiris stressed their determination to vigorously oppose the government strategy to indefinitely put off Local Government polls. This should be examined against the backdrop of none of the Provincial Councils having elected members for several years now.

At the onset of the briefing, Prof. Peiris declared that the Opposition scored a significant victory when President Ranil Wickremesinghe was compelled to rescind his controversial Gazette notification on the setting up of High Security Zones in Colombo. The President wouldn’t have done so if not for heavy attacks mounted by all concerned. Prof. Peiris paid a glowing tribute to the media for relentlessly pursuing the issue until President Wickremesinghe had no option but to annul the dictatorial law. If the government strategy succeeded, Colombo city would have been transformed to a cantonment, the former Law Professor said, flaying Media Minister Bandula Gunawardena’s recent declaration that the electronic media needed to be regulated.

Referring to the recent warning issued by the Public Administration Ministry, to public servants, that they would be appropriately dealt with over social media posts/statements, Prof. Peiris said such a strategy wouldn’t work now. Reiterating the national economy was in such a desperate state, Prof. Peiris said that serious allegations, pertaining to procurement of coal for the Lakvijaya Coal-fired Power Plant, as well as crude oi,l couldn’t be suppressed.

Responding to a query on Sri Lanka’s position at the ongoing 51 sessions of the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council, the former Foreign Minister faulted the government for arresting anti-government, activists under the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA).

Prof. Peiris said that in his former capacity as the External Affairs Minister he assured the UNHRC, in June this year, that the PTA wouldn’t be used while the government undertook a comprehensive study on a new security law. But, the government indiscriminately used the PTA in cases not related terrorism at all, Prof. Peiris said, questioning the rationale in Premier Dinesh Gunawardena’s declaration that those arrested in terms of the PTA wouldn’t be charged under the same law.

The Premier owed an explanation, the former minister said, pointing out the UNHRC was concerned over the utilization of the PTA.

The former minister said that if the UNHRC adopted a new resolution in respect of Sri Lanka, it could have a detrimental effect on ongoing negotiations with the IMF, the GSP plus as well as efforts to attract foreign investment. Prof Peiris insists: “What we really need is adequate investment, not more loans.”

Prof. Peiris said that the National Council was nothing but another talk shop. The government could have proved its sincerity by giving the leadership of parliamentary watchdog committees, the COPE and the COPA, to Opposition lawmakers, the MP said. Instead, the SLPP was hell-bent on suppressing those who dared to dissent, regardless of the consequences, the former Minister said, vowing to push for the restoration of parliamentary democracy.

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