Dr Sarala Fernando
In today’s world of the Covid pandemic and climate change disasters, the increase of human violence is seen in the many family murders and child abuse cases reported in the Sri Lanka press. Nevertheless the government has not hesitated to take strong policy decisions in the right direction, raising the age of employment for children, cracking down on child abuse and internet trafficking, etc.
In the same way, when the Covid crisis has led to a noticeable increase in poaching of wild animals, will the government, recalling the teachings of the Compassionate One, move to ban cruel and indiscriminate devices for killing like trap guns, hakka patas and leopard snares? Will our young members of parliament take the lead to protect the biodiversity treasure which is our heritage and provide the spark for the new thinking and national conservation efforts?
In a predominantly Buddhist country it is incomprehensible that so many deadly devices are in common use for killing wild animals in the most gruesome way, causing maximum pain and suffering. In the case of trap guns and hakka pattas, these indiscriminate traps also end up harming humans. Recently a young entrepreneur was walking around his own land in Kurunegala when a trap gun set up by poachers exploded causing the bullet to explode in his leg requiring urgent surgery and a painful process of recovery thereafter. He was lucky that he didn’t lose the leg. Hakka pattas are known to have exploded while they are being put together, and there are cases where children have been severely injured after picking up what looks like fruit without knowing it contains explosives. Numerous baby elephants have died in great suffering from hakka patas while foraging, being low off the ground and ignorant of man’s cruelty.
Moreover, there is a security risk, why are we allowing people to get familiar with indiscriminate weapons and making explosives in killing devices? Surely after three decades of armed conflict and the proliferation of locally manufactured bombs, land mines and other explosive traps, we would know better than to encourage such expertise at the village level?
Recently there was wide publicity on International Day of the Leopard, highlighting the value of the Sri Lanka leopard (Panthera pardus kotiya) as a specific sub-species. An Australian zoo announced the success of its captive breeding programme mentioning that only 800 such leopards existed in the wild. Yet of late there have been many reports in Sri Lanka of leopard killings. The discovery of a plethora of leopard noose snares in the upcountry suggests a new element, that a criminal gang linked to the illegal trade in wild animal parts for traditional Asian medicine may be in operation as some animals have been found with their teeth and claws removed. The sighting of a rare black leopard was reported and within a few weeks was found noosed to death- no one knows whether the body parts, worth hundreds of thousands of rupees, were removed or how they were disposed of. Will the wild life department or police provide any answers?
During the armed conflict when there was awareness of the dangers of weapons proliferation, a national commission was set up under then Secretary of Defence, Gotabaya Rajapaksa to deal with the proliferation of illicit small arms and light weapons, the first in the region. It was able to seek out, confiscate and destroy 35,000 small arms in a public event in 2005. Yet today this threat to national security seems all but forgotten with one Minister in charge of Wildlife, a former Army Commander, even suggesting that hundreds of guns be bought and placed in the hands of Civil Defence forces to solve the human-elephant conflict, drawing huge protests from environmentalists. Added to this is the new -fangled rush to promote pistol shooting in schools, setting up of pistol shooting ranges and even bringing back spearfishing, all in the name of “adventure” sports. Look at the present situation in the US where the powerful NRA gun lobby has managed to stall every initiative on gun control despite the horrific shootings and deaths reported from schools around the country. Is this what we want in Sri Lanka?
Now that there is a growing constituency among the youth in this country to promote environmental protection, heritage and healthy life styles like yoga, why not the young members of parliament get together across the benches, to make a start to prioritize these matters ? They should push for inclusion of a specific reference in the new constitution which resembles the Indian clause 51- A(g) which states “It shall be the duty of every citizen of India to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife and to have compassion for living creatures.”
While waiting for the new Constitution (which may or may not come), an alternative practical approach is to enact the basic legislation for the protection of animals, the Animals Rights Bill, which has been stagnating for years without getting through Parliament. Will the young parliamentarians lead the way in getting this important legislation through?
Calling for a ban on animal slaughter is a good step towards encouraging compassion towards animals, reminding also of the appeal for the “kiri amma” popularized by former Speaker Lokubandara. But has such a policy been carefully processed for implementation? For example how will this work with simultaneously encouraging dairy farming for local production of milk and what does one do with the released cattle? In India, shameful to relate, it has been reported that while cows may not be slaughtered, these animals are sent over the border to their death in Bangladesh and even strung on wires and hauled across at the boundary.
Sri Lanka lags behind South Asian countries like India, Bhutan and Maldives in respect of priority given by policy makers to environmental and wild life protection. In India, Prime Minister Modi who loves the wild, has led the way in a national campaign to protect the tigers, giving authority to local wild life officers to strictly control traffic including tourists and re-locate villages where required, even to close certain roads to the public after dark; these efforts have succeeded to such an extent in increasing tiger numbers that there is now a new project to bring back the cheetahs. Bhutan and Maldives have built their tourism and won international recognition while earning valuable foreign exchange by strong environmental safeguards displaying sensitivity to the carrying capacity of the land while protecting the natural heritage of mountains (in Bhutan) and the marine environment and surrounding seas (in Maldives).
The opposite has happened in Sri Lanka, where basic efforts even to control the number of jeeps going into Yala have been stymied by political pressure. Now it seems new roads and construction activity are planned for Yala in the name of tourism, ignoring existing protection legislation and adding to the pressure on the animals. Sri Lanka tourism is giving priority to open up more land in ecologically sensitive areas for new hotel construction, in this time of natural disasters and climate change, with rocks rolling down and earthslips frequently recorded in the sensitive hill areas, what is this lunacy for Sri Lanka tourism to even entertain such projects as building cable cars for tourists in those areas?
Even as the government seems interested only in maximizing tourist flows and the revenue from our national parks, sadly even the international lending agencies are supporting more institutional development for wild life officers, rather than encouraging active field work to protect the parks and animals. In the past, those officers in charge of the parks may not have had degrees and diplomas, but they had walked and patrolled every foot of the range under their watch and took good care of the land to ensure it could provide the necessary food and water for the animals so that they did not need to go crop raiding outside the parks. Even during the armed conflict when Yala was overlooked by the STF under an inspired security leader, the needs of the animals were protected from both terrorists and poachers.
Today it has fallen to the private sector led by concerned young environmentalists who have begun the clearing of invasive species from the parks to allow the grasses to grow and the surrounding trees and shrubs to return to life . The rescue of Bundala many years ago was inspired by MAS joined by HNB and have led to similar initiative today in Minneriya under the Federation of Environmental Organizations which is now working to remove invasive species from Lunugamvehera, providing much needed grasses and food for the elephants. Perfect platform for public-private partnership and sustainable tourism?
(Sarala Fernando, retired from the Foreign Ministry as Additional Secretary and her last Ambassadorial appointment was as Permanent Representative to the UN and International Organizations in Geneva . Her Ph.D was on India-Sri Lanka relations and she writes now on foreign policy, diplomacy and protection of heritage).
Post-war reconciliation: Lanka ready to accept support of int’l partners
UN-Prez tells UNGA
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa yesterday (22) declared his readiness to engage all domestic stakeholders, and to obtain the support of international partners and the United Nations, in the post-war reconciliation process.
Addressing the 76th UNGA, President Rajapaksa said that it was his government’s firm intention to build a prosperous, stable and secure future for all Sri Lankans, regardless of ethnicity, religion, or gender. “However, history has shown that lasting results can only be achieved through home-grown institutions reflecting the aspirations of the people.
The following is the full text of President’s speech: “The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on humanity. I sympathise deeply with all who have lost their loved ones during the pandemic. I thank frontline healthcare and essential workers around the world for their dedication and commend the World Health Organisation for its crisis response.
I also greatly appreciate the rapid advances made by the scientific and medical communities in devising vaccines and treatment protocols to combat the virus.
At the same time, we must recognise that the challenges surrounding production, distribution, deployment and acceptance of vaccines must be overcome urgently if the spread of dangerous new virus strains is to be prevented.
Ensuring that everyone, everywhere, is vaccinated is the best way out of the pandemic.
Although still a developing nation, Sri Lanka has been very successful in its vaccination programme.
We have already fully vaccinated nearly all those above the age of 30.
Everyone over the age of 20 will be fully vaccinated by the end of October.
We will start vaccinating children over 15 years of age in the near future.
The rapid progress of vaccinations was enabled by coordinated efforts between healthcare workers, Armed Forces and Police personnel, Government servants, and elected officials.
In collaboration with the WHO, Sri Lanka is establishing a Regional Knowledge Hub to facilitate exchange of lessons learnt from COVID-19 and support countries to recover better.
Sri Lanka also benefitted greatly from financial and material support provided by bilateral and multilateral donors to manage the pandemic.
I thank these nations and institutions for their generosity.
The increased global cooperation visible during this ongoing crisis is greatly encouraging.
However, there is still more to be done.
The economic impact of the pandemic has been especially severe on developing countries.
This has placed the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals at considerable risk.
It is vital that more initiatives including development financing and debt relief be adopted through international mechanisms to support developing nations and help them emerge from this uncertain situation.
Sri Lanka too has suffered greatly due to the pandemic.
In addition to the tragic loss of life, our economy has been deeply affected.
The lockdowns, together with general movement restrictions, reduced international travel, and slower global growth have affected nearly all sectors of our economy.
Tourism, one of Sri Lanka’s highest foreign exchange earners and a sector that supports nearly 14% of the population, has been devastated.
This industry, together with small and medium businesses in many other sectors, received Government support through interest moratoriums and other financial sector interventions.
Daily wage earners and low-income groups were also supported through grants of cash and dry rations during lockdowns, adding significantly to state expenditure.
In addition to their immediate impact, these economic repercussions of the pandemic have limited the fiscal space available to implement our development programmes.
As devastating as the consequences of the pandemic have been to humanity, the world faces the even greater challenge of climate change in the decades to come.
As emphasised in the recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the unprecedented effect of human activity on the health of the planet is deeply worrying.
Addressing the grave threats posed by climate change and the loss of biodiversity requires decisive and urgent multilateral action.
As a climate-vulnerable country, Sri Lanka is deeply aware of the dangers of climate change.
Sri Lanka’s philosophical heritage, deeply rooted in Lord Buddha’s teachings, also emphasises the vitality of preserving environmental integrity.
It is in these contexts that Sri Lanka is a Commonwealth Blue Charter Champion and leads the Action Group on Mangrove Restoration.
Through the adoption of the Colombo Declaration on Sustainable Nitrogen Management, which seeks to halve nitrogen waste by 2030, Sri Lanka has also contributed to global efforts to reduce environmental pollution.
Having participated virtually in the Pre-Summit held in April, I trust that the United Nations Food Summit later this month will result in actionable outcomes to promote healthier, more sustainable, and equitable food systems globally.
Such outcomes will be crucial to human health as well as to the health of our planet.
Sustainability is a cornerstone of Sri Lanka’s national policy framework.
Because of its impact on soil fertility, biodiversity, waterways and health, my Government completely banned the use of chemical fertilisers, pesticides, and weedicides earlier this year.
Production and adoption of organic fertiliser, as well as investments into organic agriculture, are being incentivised.
I appreciate the encouragement received from many global institutions and nations for our efforts to create a more sustainable agriculture in Sri Lanka.
The conservation of our environment is one of our key national priorities.
We aim to increase forest cover significantly in the coming decades.
We are also working to clean and restore over 100 rivers countrywide, and to combat river and maritime pollution.
We have also banned single use plastics to support ecological conservation.
Sri Lanka recognises the urgent need to reduce use of fossil fuels and support decarbonisation.
Our energy policy seeks to increase the contribution of renewable sources such as solar, wind and hydropower to 70% of our national energy needs by 2030.
Sri Lanka welcomes the support of the international community as it engages in the task of reviving its economy and carrying out its national development programme.
We intend to make full use of geostrategic location and our robust institutions, strong social infrastructure, and skilled workforce, to attract investment and broaden trade relationships.
My Government is focusing on extensive legal, regulatory, administrative and educational reforms to facilitate this, and to deliver prosperity to all our people.
Sri Lanka has enjoyed universal adult franchise since pre-Independence.
The democratic tradition is an integral part of our way of life.
My election in 2019 and the Parliamentary election in 2020 saw Sri Lankan voters grant an emphatic mandate to my Government to build a prosperous and stable country, and uphold national security and sovereignty.
In 2019, Sri Lanka experienced the devastation wrought by extremist religious terrorists in the Easter Sunday attacks.
Before that, until 2009, it had suffered from a separatist terrorist war for 30 years.
Terrorism is a global challenge that requires international cooperation, especially on matters such as intelligence sharing, if it is to be overcome.
Violence robbed Sri Lanka of thousands of lives and decades of prosperity in the past half century.
My Government is committed to ensuring that such violence never takes place in Sri Lanka again.
We are therefore acting to address the core issues behind it.
Fostering greater accountability, restorative justice, and meaningful reconciliation through domestic institutions is essential to achieve lasting peace.
So too is ensuring more equitable participation in the fruits of economic development.
It is my Government’s firm intention to build a prosperous, stable and secure future for all Sri Lankans, regardless of ethnicity, religion, or gender.
We are ready to engage with all domestic stakeholders, and to obtain the support of our international partners and the United Nations, in this process.
However, history has shown that lasting results can only be achieved through home-grown institutions reflecting the aspirations of the people.
Sri Lanka’s Parliament, Judiciary and its range of independent statutory bodies should have unrestricted scope to exercise their functions and responsibilities.
Mr. President, Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates.
If, in keeping with the theme of our General Debate today, we are to truly build resilience through hope, we must all strive towards the common good.
It is the role of the United Nations to facilitate this by treating all sovereign states, irrespective of size or strength, equitably, and with due respect for their institutions and their heritage.
I request the United Nations and the international community to ensure the protection of the Buddhist heritage of Afghanistan.
I call on the member states of this august Assembly to work together in a spirit of true cooperation, generosity, goodwill, and mutual respect to foster a better and more sustainable future for all humanity.”
Acquisition of Yugadanavi power plant and right to build new LNG terminal: US firm says agreement finalised
US based energy firm, New Fortress Energy Inc. on Tuesday (21) announced that it had executed a definitive agreement with the Sri Lankan government for New Fortress’ investment in West Coast Power Limited, the owner of the 310 MW Yugadanavi Power Plant based in Colombo, along with the rights to develop a new LNG Terminal off the coast of Colombo.
Issuing a press release, New Fortress Energy Inc., said as a part of the transaction, New Fortress will have gas supply rights to the Kerawalapitya Power Complex, where 310 MW of power is operational and an additional 700 MW scheduled to be built, of which 350 MW is scheduled to be operational by 2023.
Given below is the statement: “New Fortress will acquire a 40% ownership stake in WCP and plans to build an offshore liquified natural gas (LNG) receiving, storage and regasification terminal located off the coast of Colombo. New Fortress will initially provide the equivalent of an estimated 1.2 million gallons of LNG (~35,000 MMBtu) per day to the GOSL, with the expectation of significant growth as new power plants become operational.
“The 310 MW Yugadanavi Power Plant currently has a long-term power purchase agreement to provide electricity to the national grid that extends through 2035. This power plant consists of General Electric turbines and is configured to run on natural gas in a combined cycle.
“”This is a significant milestone for Sri Lanka’s transition to cleaner fuels and more reliable, affordable power,” said Wes Edens, Chairman and CEO of New Fortress Energy. “We are pleased to partner with Sri Lanka by investing in modern energy infrastructure that will support sustainable economic development and environmental gains.”
“The Kerawalapitya Power Complex is the foundation of the baseload power that serves the country’s population of 22 million people. Delivering cleaner and cheaper fuels to Sri Lanka will support the country’s growth for years to come.”
Sri Lanka a dumping ground for toxic burnt oil from ship engines !
By Ifham Nizam
Environment Minister Mahinda Amaraweera has questioned some Central Environmental Authority (CEA) officials for permitting more than 20 individuals to collect waste burnt out oil from ships without having facilities to purify it.
However, it was claimed that most of those individuals were backed by some senior politicians and the Authority didn’t have any say.
The Minister has decided to conduct a comprehensive investigation into the toxic waste oil racket through the Presidential Special Investigation Division.
Amaraweera said the racket had been going on for a long time. “This racket is causing a huge amount of foreign exchange loss to the country and causing huge environmental damage,” he added.
Accordingly, steps would be taken by the Presidential Investigation Division to stop the racket and investigate the huge amount of money that has changed hands, the Minister said.
“After the President returns from his visit to New York, I will hold discussions with him and submit a factual report on the amount of money lost to the country in dollars through this racket,” Minister Amaraweera said.
The CEA has so far issued 27 permits for the disposal of waste fuel oil. However, only four companies have the facility to refine it. About 20,000 to 25,000 tonnes of burnt out waste oil are shipped into the country annually. But the country has capacity to refine only 4,800 tonnes a year by licensed companies. It is not clear what happens to the remaining 15,200 tons of waste oil.
The Minister said that issuing licences to companies and individuals who did not have fuel refining facilities was wrong.
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