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Dire consequences of import ban on fertiliser and agrochemicals

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Farmers protesting the fertiliser issue

 

Based on research studies, it is well known that organic manure in combination with chemical fertiliser will give the optimum results and that organic manure alone cannot lead to high yields, unless you add very large amounts ( > 5 mt/ha.).It is best if such manure is prepared in situ, on-farm in order to avoid the cost and hassle of transporting such large amounts. Of course, to meet the needs of urban growers and very small holdings, small packs are already available in the market. It is also known that organic manure/material is a soil conditioner which improves soil structure and the water holding capacity of the soil, aiding in nutrient absorption by the plant roots. However, it is chemical fertiliser that provides plant nutrients to plants in appreciable amounts, to enable them to respond favourably by way of yield, in keeping with their genetic potential.

Enough has been written to the press in recent times by a number of scientists of repute, highlighting the consequences that will have to be faced due to the overnight import ban on fertiliser, supported by scientific facts of relevance. But it is apparent that the Government which is also obsessed with an un-scientific notion that chemical fertilizer contains poisons, is adamant on the decision to ban the import of fertiliser. This means Sri Lanka will have to face dire consequences arising from that very soon, which will melt down to a marked drop in crop production across the board, that will adversely affect national food security, farmer incomes and livelihood, plantation sector performance, national income levels plus a number of other factors. There will soon come a time when substantial quantities of food will have to be imported, to keep up with food security and the savings in foreign exchange made through banning of fertiliser imports will be counterproductive.

In the emerging pathetic scenario, as a retired Agriculturist from the Government sector, I noted with utter disdain, the silence of the authorities in charge of the key Government institutions responsible for the crop sector, viz. Department of Agriculture (DOA), Department of Export Agriculture, Department of National Botanic Gardens, Tea Research Institute, Rubber Research Institute and the Coconut Research Institute, going by the lack of any evidence of voices, if any, raised by them, or Associations of professional officers working for these institutions, in response to this import ban, which will affect all crops adversely.

What we see in the media are only the scenes of the poor farmers protesting to high heavens almost daily these days, about their terrible plight in view of this import ban, to no avail. After all, they are the frontline recipients of this big blow to their enterprise and sheer livelihood as they feel the brunt of it and know through experience for sure, that fertiliser is a must to go for a good yield, given the other factors. Apparently, these poor farmers have no one to go to, and there is no Government institution to take up their cause, thus leaving them helpless.

In the midst of this, I ventured to casually contact a former boss of mine, in the DOA, in the early 1970s, who later became the Director of Agriculture (Head of the DOA), and retired many years ago. I inquired from him, about steps, if any, that he would have taken if the then Government decided to ban the import of fertiliser at the time he was the Director Agriculture. He said that he would have definitely taken up the matter and recorded his protest with facts, as fertiliser is such a vital input for all crops under the purview of the DOA. He also said that at present, relevant officials are “keeping mum” and that he is surprised about it.

Based on the foregoing, this is a very unfortunate situation at a time when we apparently do not have Government officials who will stand up to what is right for the country, based on scientific facts, and consequently the affected farmers are left high and dry in this instance, while the whole country too will have to face the consequences.

Import ban on agrochemicals will also be detrimental to crop production, to say the least and the importance of agrochemicals will be felt hard, more during pest outbreaks, which come on and off and we will be taken unawares, without stocks of required agrochemicals in such instances. Of course, it will be the duty of the relevant extension staff to ensure that farmers use agrochemicals judiciously, and excessive un-necessary use is avoided, through their programmes including Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and those aimed at minimizing the use of weedicides, as implemented since many years ago.

I thought it is nothing but right to highlight these issues under the circumstances, hoping that this will catch the eyes of the decision-makers in this regard, to enable whipping up discussion about the same, so that saner counsel will prevail, to facilitate a feasible resolution, sans an import ban on fertiliser and agrochemicals, even at this late stage.

 

A. Bedgar Perera

(Retired Director/Agriculture Development,

 Ministry of Agriculture)

 

 



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Opinion

Mrs Paripooranam Rajasundaram- A Gracious Lady

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I first came to know Mrs Pariapooranam Rajasundaram, who was born in Singapore on October 25, 1935 while serving a short stint in Jaffna with police intelligence. Her late husband who called her “Pari” was my very close friend, Mr. Vaithilingam Rajasunderam, the former principal of Victoria College, Chullipuram who was introduced to me by my friend and police batch mate, late Tissa Satharasinghe, who was the Personal Security Officer, to the late Mr T.B. Ilangaratne in 1971.

Mrs Rajasundaram was blessed with three sons and a daughter and several grandchildren and can be truly described as a very faithful spouse and dedicated mother, mother-in-law, grandmother and a great grandmother to the family of which she was matriarch.

My short spell in Jaffna in 1973 brought me closer to the Rajasunderams who celebration their 25th wedding anniversary in 1974. Theirs was an open house and my wife and sisters too came to know them well.

Mrs Rajasundram and her husband were good hosts and his assassination was a shock to all of us. It was then she became part of our family as she lived with us briefly till she obtained a UK visa to join her daughter and son-in-law there.

Many years later when she was living in England, I had joined KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and my family used to spend vacations with them in Cockfosters in North London. Mrs Rajasundaram treated us to sumptuous meals lavishing attention on us. She was very fond of my wife and two children and had a heart of gold. A devout Hindu she never failed in her religious obligations, lived within her means and was never greedy for what she could not afford. She firmly believed in being patient and willingly gave to those in need.

She was a lady who was selfless, full of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, very virtuous, and full of love and character. I can say of her: “People may forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel!”

My prayer as a Christian is that God grants you eternal rest.

NIHAL DE ALWIS

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Opinion

Independence celebrations for whose benefit?

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Celebrating what? Bankruptcy, corruption and nepotism to name a few. Surely isn’t there one MP among 225 who feel we have nothing to celebrate. We say we cannot pay govt. servants’ salaries in time, the pensioners’ their entitlements. A thousand more failures confront us.

In our whole post-independence history such a situation has never arisen. We should be mourning our lost prestige, our lost prosperity our depleting manpower. Our youth in vast numbers are leaving the country for greener pastures. We should be conserving every cent to live, not to celebrate a non-existent independence. We should be mourning, walking the streets in sack cloth and ashes in protest at this wanton waste of money by an irresponsible government.

I can’t understand this mentality. The forces are also our young men who feel for their fellow men and women. Maybe their lot is a little better than the rest of us. But how can you order them to go parade? They cannot refuse. It is an unwritten or written code that they have to obey orders without question. I feel sorry for them. All that spit and polish – for whose benefit? Definitely not ours. We will be mourning in silence in our homes.

Padmini Nanayakkara.

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Opinion

Aftermath Of Mr. Ranjan Wijeratne’s Assassination

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It was on Saturday March 2, 1991 when that fateful LTTE bomb blast shattered the life out of Mr. Ranjan Wijeratne, Minister of Plantations and Deputy Minister of Defence, in front of the Havelock Road University Women’s Hostel opposite Keppetipola Mawatha.

Mr. Wijeratne used to take the same route from home to office every day. The LTTE had monitored his movements and found that it would be easy to target him on his way to office from a strategic point after receiving the information of his departure from home.

The LTTE targeted his vehicle right in front of the University of Colombo Women’s Hostel opposite Keppetipola Mawatha. The suicide bomber crashed into the Deputy Minister’s vehicle and killed the Minister instantaneously.

I had dropped our elder son at Royal College for scouting and then went to the public library to return some books and borrow new ones. After having done that, I was returning home when I saw a large cloud of black smoke going up from somewhere on Havelock Road. As I neared Thummulla junction, a university vehicle (I was Registrar of the Colombo University) was going in the opposite direction.

I stopped it and asked the driver what had happened. He said the Shanthi Vihar restaurant at the Thummulla had been set on fire. The police did not allow vehicles into Havelock Road from Thummulla. I parked the car on Reid Avenue between Thummulla and Lauries Road and walked down the Havleock Road to see what exactly had happened.

As I got onto Havelock Road, a policeman accosted me and told me that I cannot be allowed to proceed. Fortunately, at that moment the OIC of the Bamabalapitiya Police station, Mr. Angunawela, came to that spot and recognizing me told the police constable to allow me to proceed.

As I walked down I saw the damage caused. But there were no signs of any vehicle or any dead bodies as the police had got everything removed. There was a large gaping hole on the road where the blast had occurred. But immediately this was filled up and that section of the road carpeted.

I do not know who had ordered it and why it was done in such a hurry. There were pieces of human flesh hanging from the overhead telephone wires. The blast had also affected the house in front where there was a P& S outlet and a lady who had come to buy something had got her eyes blinded by the shrapnel thrown by the blast.

The parapet wall and the Temple flower (araliya) trees that had been grown just behind the wall were all gone. As I went into the hostel, I saw that the front wall of the hostel building badly damaged. When I went in the girls in the hostel were looking terrified and shivering with fright.

Two of the undergraduates who had gone out of the hostel as they had to sit an examination in the university had got very badly injured and they been rushed to the national hospital. Later one girl who was from Kobeigane, a remote village in the Kurunegala area, succumbed to her injuries. The university paid for her funeral. The security guard who had been close to the gate was thrown up and landed back on the ground. Fortunately, he had no injuries other than feeling groggy.

The next job was to evacuate the hostelers from the building. I telephoned the university office and found the Senior Assistant Registrar in charge of examinations was in office. I told her what had happened and to come to the hostel in a van. Thereafter both she and I packed all the hostelers in the van and sent them to the Bullers Lane Women’s hostel. This was done in three trips.

On inspecting the damage done to the hostel I thought the building would have to be demolished and a new building constructed to replace it. However, I contacted an Engineer, Mr. Upasena, at the Central Engineering Consultancy Bureau (CECB,) who came, inspected the damage to the building and stated that he will get it repaired to be stronger than what it was.

He stated that it might cost around Rs, 20,000/- to get the repair done. I contacted NORAD and they agreed to give the funds required for the repair and renovation. Mr. Manickam from NORAD came and inspected the building and agreed to get much more done than what we wanted repaired and renovated. The repair and renovation were done very quickly and the hostelers were able to move in again.

The reopening ceremony was attended by the then Ambassador to Norway, Mr. Manickam and the Vice-Chancellor. The Vice- Chancellor thanked the Ambassador, Mr. Manickam and the CECB for getting the hostel repaired and renovated to be used again. He never mentioned what I had done to get this hostel repaired and habitable again. That is gratitude!

HM NISSANKA WARAKAULLE

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