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Change in gas composition main cause of explosions

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Presidential spokesman Kingsley Ratnayake (left) and Litro Chairman Theshara Jayasinghe meeting the media

Presidential Committee contradicts Litro Chairman

By Rathindra Kuruwita and Shamindra Ferdinando

A simmering controversy over gas-related explosions has taken an unexpected turn with Prof. Shantha Walpolage, the Chairman of the Committee appointed by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to probe the recent gas explosions, concluding that the change in the composition of gas was the primary reason for the recent gas-related explosions,

They came to the conclusion following theoretical and on-site inspections, Prof. Walpolage said.

“The composition of the gas had changed but cylinders, regulators, stoves and other equipment have not,” he noted.

Since November 2021 around 900 gas related explosions have taken place.

A Committee was appointed by the President on November 30 to look into those incidents.

Attorney-at-Law Nagananda Kodituwakku moved the Supreme Court against the gas suppliers recently. The case is pending in courts.

However, the Presidential Media Division on Monday (20) quoted Litro Gas Limited Chairman Theshara Jayasinghe as having said that there was no change in the composition of Litro Gas and steps had been taken to obtain recommendations from foreign experts in that regard and that the people should not have any undue fear when using LP (Liquefied Petroleum) Gas. The Chairman said this while speaking at a media briefing organised by the Presidential Media Center on Monday (20). President’s Media Spokesman Kingsly Rathnayaka moderated the media briefing. Though some factions had suggested that the cause of the gas leaks and explosions was a change in its composition, it had now been confirmed that none of the incidents reported so far had been caused by a change in the composition of LP gas, Jayasinghe said.

The Chairman of Litro Gas Limited said that the company had agreed to provide an insurance cover of one million rupees per person if such an incident is reported due to the poor standard of the gas.

Former Executive Director of the Consumer Affairs Authority (CAA) Thushan Gunawardena several months ago warned of the danger posed by the change of the composition of gas. Gunawardena told The Island that he had brought the crisis to the attention of Trade Minister Bandula Gunawardane, Consumer Affairs State Minister Lasantha Alagiyawanna and other officials.

Gunawardena, who quit his post on 22 Sept. over a dispute with Trade Minister Bandula Gunawardane and Co-operative Services, Marketing Development and Consumer Protection State Minister Lasantha Alagiyawanna following the exposure of the garlic scam at Lak Sathosa said that months before his resignation he brought the situation to the notice of the two ministers. Litro suppressed the change of composition ratio of Butane and Propane in domestic LPG cylinders. The change of composition posed a grave danger, Gunawardena said, pointing out that his repeated warnings were discarded.

The CAA Chairman retired Maj. Gen. Shantha Dissanayake ignored his concerns as regards the grave danger posed by increasing the propane ratio in the composition. Gunawardena made available to The Island the entire set of e-mails exchanged among officials in this regard in the wake of Litro introducing what it called a new premium hybrid 18 litre LPG (9.18 kg) cylinder priced at Rs 1,395 in April this year. Litro withdrew the new product several weeks later in the wake of media outcry over Litro actually over charging hapless consumers Rs. 151.96 per kilo whereas the regular 12.5 kg gas cylinder at that time cost Rs.1, 493. In Oct the price of a 12.5 kg domestic gas cylinder was increased by Rs. 1,257 and the major domestic cylinder sold at Rs. 2,750.

Responding to another query, Gunawardena said that when the CAA raised the composition of domestic gas cylinder, Litro deliberately deceived the regulator. Declaring that tests proved the Litro had lied to the regulator regarding the relatively sharp increase in the propane ratio in the composition at the expense of safety and security of the consumer, Gunawardena emphasized the failure on their part to take tangible measures.

In addition to the Cabinet minister and the State Minister, the unprecedented threat posed by change in Propane and Butane ratio in LPG cylinders was also brought to the notice of the President’s Office, the Attorney General’s Department, Board members of the CAA, Trade Secretary and Co-operative Services, Marketing Development and Consumer Protection State Secretary, Gunawardena said.



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Booster shots: Poor public response makes GMOA contemplate legal remedy

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

Lack of enthusiasm among the public to receive the booster dose was disconcerting, given that Sri Lanka had a long-established and highly functional immunisation programme, the Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA) said yesterday.

By 20 January 2022, 64.56% of Sri Lankans had been fully vaccinated, but only 22.47% had received the booster dose, the GMOA said.

“At the early stages of vaccination against Covid-19 the public response was favourable. However, the current waning of interest might be driven by the myths and rumours regarding the vaccines. It is important to take measures to counter such misinformation by raising public awareness of the ongoing vaccination programme.”

“Legal action against those responsible for the spread of communicable diseases can be taken under the Penal Code”, GMOA Secretary Dr. Senal Fernando said. “Provisions of the Quarantine Ordinance can be used against persons who do not comply with directions given by the proper authorities under the Quarantine Ordinance,” he said.

The GMOA said that several countries had made it mandatory to have proof of vaccination for entry into public places. The same thing could be done in Sri Lanka to ensure that more people got vaccinated.

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Govt., SJB haggle over procedure to rescue country

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By Saman Indrajith

The SJB on Sunday said that it was wrong for the President and the government to seek the assistance of the Opposition to steer the country out of the present crises without creating a proper forum to obtain such assistance.

Addressing the media at the Opposition Leader’s Office in Colombo, Chief Opposition Whip and Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella said President Gotabaya Rajapaksa delivering the latter’s third Policy Speech in Parliament last week had sought the assistance of the Opposition. “His speech is full of excuses. He sought our assistance but there is no forum to offer our assistance. The government too has asked for the same several times. If the government needs the Opposition’s assistance, what it should do is to declare a state of national disaster situation so that the Opposition could make use of Parliament as the forum for our contributions. That has not been done so far. The President and the government could make use of the provisions of the Disaster Management Act No 53 of 2005 to form a disaster management committee comprising the government and opposition MPs.

The President is the ex-officio Chairman of the committee, the Prime minister and the Opposition leader are there with 24 government ministers and five opposition MPs. In addition to that there are provisions to the involvement of the Chief Ministers of Provinces in the committee. If the government genuinely needs our support it should have started forming that committee. There are laws enabling the formulation of mechanisms to help people the government does not make use of them. We have been repeatedly asking the government to appoint that committee.

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Lord Ahamad plants kumbuk tree sapling during visit to Bellanwila – Attidiya Bird Sanctuary

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By Ifham Nizam

Lord Tariq Ahmad of Wimbledon, Minister for South Asia, the United Nations and the Commonwealth at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office of the UK, planted a Kumbuk (Terminalia arjuna) sapling at the Bellanwila – Attidiya Bird Sanctuary last week.

The Department of Wildlife said Lord Ahmad had been joined by the British High Commissioner in Colombo Sarah Hulton, Hasanthi Urugodwatte Dissanayake, Acting Additional Secretary of Ocean Affairs, Environment and Climate Change at the Foreign Ministry, Saman Liyanagama, Wildlife Ranger of the Colombo Wildlife Range, Department of Wildlife Conservation and Professor Sevvandi Jayakoddy, Senior Lecturer of the Wayamba University.

The planting activity was followed by a brief visit to the wetland and Prof. Jayakoddy, and Liyanagama explained the importance of wetland ecosystems as well as challenges in conservation and maintenance, while Dissanayake briefed him on the Sri Lanka’s pioneering work related to mangrove restoration and conservation, both at policy level as well as at the ground level.

Hasini Sarathchandra, Publicity Officer, Department of Wildlife Conservation said British High Commission in Colombo with the International Water Management Institute Headquartered in Sri Lanka, had already launched a project under the Darwin Initiative at the Baddegana Wetlands.  Similar collaborations are envisaged involving the Bellanwila – Attidiya Bird Sanctuary.

Wetlands play an important role in our natural environment. They mitigate the impacts of floods, absorb pollutants and improve water quality. They provide habitat for animals and plants and many contain a wide diversity of life, supporting plants and animals that are found nowhere else. Colombo is a city built on and around wetlands. Despite progressive loss and degradation, wetlands still cover some 200 km2 of the Colombo metropolitan area and suburbs.

The wetlands are fundamental to the well-being of the people of Colombo and its suburbs. The wetlands can reduce extreme air temperatures and make the city more live able due to evaporative cooling. The wetlands provide a critical land-mass which helps to maintain the richness of Colombo’s biodiversity.

The Bellanwila-Attidiya wetlands was declared as a bird sanctuary on 25 July 1990, due to biodiversity of the area and its contribution to controlling floods. The wetlands, which span over 930 acres, host endemic species and is a paradise for migratory birds. 44 species of fish including 06 which are endemic to the country have been identified in the Bolgoda River which flows through the wetlands. The wetlands are also home to 21 reptilian species, 17 species of mammals and 10 butterfly species. Bellanwia-Attidiya sanctuary falls within the upper catchment of the Bolgoda river basin. The Department of Wildlife Conservation manages the Bellanwila-Attidiya Sanctuary.

Selection of the location was also due to the close collaboration that Sri Lanka has with the Government of the UK on conservation of mangroves and wetlands.

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