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



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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SL gets Rs 452 mn for saving ill-fated tanker: Rs. 3.4 bn asked for



By Ifham Nizam and Rathindra Kuruwita

The Marine Enviro-nment Protection Authority (MEPA) yesterday received Rs. 452 million from London for having saved MT New Diamond, a super oil tanker that caught fire in the Sri Lanka’s territorial waters last year.

MEPA General Manager, Dr. P. B. Terney Pradeep Kumara told The Island that Rs. 442 million had come for the services rendered by the Sri Lanka Navy, MEPA and Rs. 10 million by way of a fine imposed on the Ship’s Captain.

However, Sri Lanka has to receive a much larger amount for the damage caused to the marine environment, Dr. Kumara said. Following the incident, Sri Lankan authorities filed charges against the Captain of the ill-fated vessel and made a claim for $2.4 million from the ship’s owners for the firefighting and pollution prevention efforts.

Twenty experts from the Universities of Moratuwa, Ruhuna and Sri Jayewardenepura submitted their recommendations as regards the damage to the environment, to the Attorney General. Based on the report, the Attorney General’s Department had asked for Rs. 3.4 billion (around USD 19 million) as compensation for environmental damage, the Coordinating Officer for the Attorney General, state counsel Nishara Jayaratne said.

Soon they would have discussions with the lawyers of the shipping agent concerned on compensation for environmental damage caused, she said.

Dr. Kumara, who is the former Head of the Department of Oceanography/Marine Geology of the Ruhuna University, said that the incident had caused deaths among marine species due to spillage of some toxic fuel from the vessel.

The MT New Diamond crude oil tanker was transporting 270,000 MT oil from the port of Meena Al Ahmadi in Kuwait to the Port of Paradip in India when a fire broke out in its engine room as the vessel was passing the eastern seas of Sri Lanka on September 3, 2020.

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PSC on gender equality meets for the first time



State Minister, Fernandopulle flanked by two other PSC members

Special attention on microfinance

The Parliamentary Select Committee appointed to further gender equality, to investigate instances of discrimination against women and to present recommendations to Parliament, focused on microfinance loans that are currently affecting a large number of women in Sri Lanka, when they met for the first time in Parliament recently.

The meeting was chaired by the State Minister of Primary Health Care, Epidemics and COVID-19 Disease Control Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle.

It was also revealed that the Cabinet had approved the re-establishment of an institution to regulate Microfinance loans in Sri Lanka.

The MPs also discussed the role of the Select Committee. They decided that the primary role of the Committee should be to investigate women’s grievances and all forms of discrimination based on gender, including workplace violence.

Another task before this committee is to examine and review laws that can be used to enhance gender equality, encourage relevant ministries and authorities to formulate plans to further gender equality and to allocate financial resources.

The Committee will also try to encourage greater women’s representation in decision-making bodies at the national and provincial levels as well as in government, civil society and the private sector.

MPs Rohini Kaviratne, (Dr.) Harini Amarasuriya, M. Udayakumar, S. Sritharan, Rohana Bandara and the Secretary to the Committee, Deputy Secretary General and Chief of Staff of the Parliament Kushani Rohanadheera were also present at the meeting.



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A/L Examination from October 04 to 30



The 2021 GCE Advanced Level examination would be held from October 4 to 30, Education Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris said yesterday addressing the media at his Ministry.

Minister Peiris said the examination was earlier scheduled to be held in August.

The Grade 5 scholarship examination would be held on October 03 and the 2021 GCE Ordinary Level (O/L) examination in the last week of January 2022, the Minister said.

“Usually, schools are open for academic activities for around 200 days a year. But in 2020, schools were open for about 150 days. It was around 130 days in the Western Province. We were not able to fill this gap with online classes due to lack of internet facilities in many parts of the country,” he said.

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