The President of Sri Lanka, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, at a recent meeting, highlighted the need to shift towards organic fertilizers (OF) and decrease the usage of chemical/inorganic fertilizers. Application of OF has many advantages. Among these are increasing soil porosity, enhancing the capacity to retain water and nutrients. OF promotes growth of soil macro organisms such as eathworms. Micro organisms such as N fixing bacteria are also promoted by OF. In addition, OF supply micronutrients such as iron, manganese, etc., which are essential for crop growth. However, not using inorganic fertilizers in crop production has many disadvantages.
The Soil Science Society of Sri Lanka (SSSSL), the membership of which includes soil scientists representing the university academia, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Export Agriculture, research institutes and the private sector, in a letter sent to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, has expressed its concerns over the proposed move to shift towards organic fertilizers. According to the Soil Science Society of Sri Lanka, banning import of inorganic fertilizers will have disastrous effects on the crop sector. SSSSL indicates that Compost-only nutrient-management practices will not be economical. .
Sri Lanka Agricultural Economics Association (SAEA) is the professional body, representing the agricultural economists of Sri Lanka. The SAEA, too, predicts massive economic losses due to potential yield losses, in the absence of proper substitutes for chemical fertilizers and pesticides, with the implementation of the import ban on fertilizers and pesticides. The immediate adverse impacts on food security, farm incomes, foreign exchange earnings and rural poverty can be detrimental.
A number of scientist in the field of agronomy, soil science, and entomology, in articles published in newspapers, during the last two weeks, have highlighted the undesirable effects of banning agrochemicals. Already paddy and vegetable farmers, in many parts of the country, are facing immense problems due to non-availability of inorganic fertilizers and other agrochemicals. According to them, yields are going to be reduced and pest and disease problems will have undesirable effects on crops.
There is a move to import organic fertilizers, with a ban on importing inorganic fertilizers. There is a grave risk in using imported organic fertilizers which is likely to have seeds of weeds, pathogenic bacteria, fungi, nematodes, etc. Such organisms could cause disease outbreaks in crop, livestock and human society, leading to heavy economic losses. Imported organic fertilizers pose a high risk of contaminating our soils and water resources. Once the pollutants enter into our eco-system and destroys it, it is not easy to recover from the damage.
We spend nearly Rs. 300 billion annually to import food. Banning inorganic fertilizers, and other agrochemicals, will reduce local food production, resulting in a need to increase our food imports, causing expenditure on imports to rise. Our annual export earnings from tea is around Rs. 200 billion and non-availability of inorganic fertilizers will also reduce tea production which will cause a decline in export income, resulting in a rise in the Trade Deficit which at present is around Rs 2,000 billion. Reduction in local food production will affect food supply, making the less-privileged people under-nourished. It is essential that the relevant authorities seriously consider all the repercussions of banning the import of inorganic fertilizers, and other agrochemicals, and take appropriate action. If not the country is going to be doomed.
MPs can show their colours
I refer to this article, ‘Covid bonanza for….’ by Shamnidra Ferdinando.
It was obvious that the LC could not easily be cancelled. It will be interesting to know when the LC was actually opened; before or after Cabinet approval? The answer will be revealing.
Now that the vehicles will come in, come hell or high water with burning ships, there is a simple solution.
If the government is sincere in its intentions to reverse this totally unnecessary expenditure, which the country cannot afford, scraping the bottom of the vangediya as it is, then the vehicles can be sold in the open market, in a transparent manner and at a profit, too, and the wasted funds reimbursed to the Treasury. Personally, I know this will not happen, seeing what we are helplessly seeing being enacted in the country yesterday, today and alarmingly, tomorrow, too.
The next best option is for those MPs who oppose this criminal waste of public funds, to work out a method by which they can sell the vehicles presented to them by the starving masses, in a transparent manner and utilise the proceeds again in a transparent manner to uplift the lives of the millions of poor citizens in their electorates.
ACabinet given opportunity for Members of Parliament to show their true, even if highly faded and smudged, colours!
Gazette Bill in blatant conflict with Constitution
The Colombo Port City Special Economic Zone (SEZ) Bill had been gazetted on March 24 after Cabinet approval, and placed in the order paper of Parliament on April 9. Normally, before placing a Bill on the order paper of the Parliament, it goes through the levels of the Legal Draftsman, Attorney General, Ministry of Justice, and the Cabinet of Ministers.
According to a news item that appeared in the Daily News, on April 27, the Attorney General has informed the Presidential Secretary that the Port City Economic Commission Draft Bill is not inconsistent with the Constitution. But the same Attorney General has advanced the submissions and amendments in court, during the hearing of 18 petitions filed by members of civil society alleging the Bill is inconsistent with the Constitution.
The Supreme Court has found more than one third of its clauses are conflicting with the Constitution – the supreme law of Sri Lanka. Thus, it has been proved the Gazette Bill was in blatant conflict with the Constitution.
High officials of the Ministry of Justice, the Attorney General and the Legal Draftsman who are supposed to have been involved in the drafting of this Bill are professionals of recognized capability. They are committed to follow the best practices of their professions and should adhere to standards in procedural manuals and professional codes of conduct and ethics. They are bound by the oath taken by them in line with the Constitution and the accountability of the offices they hold. They also would have been supported by several legal eagles and experienced politicians in the Cabinet.
Citizens are confused as to how on earth such a Bill, in blatant conflict with the Constitution, could have been approved by the Attorney General and be drafted by the Legal Draftsman. 149 Members of Parliament have voted to amend 26 clauses of 75 clauses of the Legal Draftsman’s Bill. This is tantamount to a No Confidence Motion on the Legal Draftsman.
Probe into expressway construction and floods
The news item appearing in your issue of 10th June, regarding the Expressway Construction and Floods, is of interest to me, as I had handled Road Projects when attached to the then Department of Public Works [PWD] and later the Ministry for Highways.
It’s stated that Minister Johnston Fernando had instructed his Ministry Secretary to investigate immediately, whether there was any truth in the claim that some areas in Gampaha were inundated owing to the construction work, in the first phase of the Central Expressway, from Kadawatha to Mirigama; and continues to say ‘Yahapalana adjustments to the construction master plan may have lead to the present situation’, which could be insinuated as placing the blame on the previous Yahapalana government. This is the usual blame-game adopted by bankrupt politicians. It will not be surprising if the present government will be blamed when a new government is formed, for mismanagement of projects carried out now.
As far as I know, while construction is on, there comes up certain problems, which may necessitate altering or deviating from the original design. Hence the responsibility lies entirely on the Engineer, and not on any politician or government in power. Here the integrity of the Engineer counts. Sad to say, there have been accusations where professionals have given way to political pressure and projects have become failures. I would like to quote Moeller’s theory “One of the major reasons for a country to be subjected to bad governance is when its professionals do not speak out, but worst still, these professionals actually gang up with those committing anarchy for their own benefit. What the professionals do not realize is that in the long term, they too would be subjected to the worst treatment by these despotic dictators whom they were keen to protect. Moeller’s theory being proved time and again consorting with an autocratic regime is a worst act of treason against one’s own country and its people”
To the credit of Minister Johnston Fernando, he also mentions the likelihood of this flooding by saying “We must keep in mind that the highest rainfall in the known history was reported from this area”. Whatever, the findings of the investigations be, the accusation should be taken as fault finding of Engineers, and they should now come forward to protect their prestigious profession and give reasons, which lay, incompetent politicians, do not have the capacity to understand. Hope the Sri Lanka Institute of Engineers will expose the viles of politicians to steer this country in the correct direction. This goes for other professions as well.
G. A. D. SIRIMAL
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