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Dredging of Tissa Wewa halted amidst protests by environmentalists

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By Ifham Nizam

 

Environmentalists yesterday welcomed Archaeology Director General Senior Professor Anura Manatunga’s intervention  to halt the removal of soil and mud from the Tissawewa at Tissamaharama, by a Chinese company

Social Scientist and  environmentalist Dr Ravindra Kariyawasam  told The Island that be it an American or Chinese company, they were here for a reason and they were least concerned about local ecosystems or archaeological sites.

Dr. Kariyawsam, who is also the Convener of the Centre of Environment and Nature Studies, stressed that Sri Lanka’s tank system was internationally known.

“The Chinese don’t know about our eco systems. Otherwise, they would not have built the Port City here.  Tissawewa  is about 1,000 years old has a unique eco system, which will be destroyed by haphazard dredging.

Kariyawasam said that in 2010, the World Food Programme and World Health Organisation ranked Sri Lanka as the fourth country with the highest rate of deforestation, a position that it still hold today,.”

“Decisions like this can set a bad precedent for future threats to our forests and nature,” he asserted.

Meanwhile, a senior  archeologist said that any renovation work on the Tissawewa should be approved by the Archaeological Department and that a Chinese company had dredged the reservoir using heavy machinery without permission. “We are told a senior minister is behind such a move, the Department had taken up the matter with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa.”

Hambantota District Assistant Director of Archeology Wasantha Alahakoon has written to the Irrigation Department requesting that the project be halted until permission is obtained from the Archaeological Department; the work was suspended on Friday.

The Department of Irrigation had not yet sent a letter requesting permission for such activities, he said.

Senior Professor of Archeology Raj Somadeva said he believed  that the ancient city of Magama had been located near this reservoir and many artifacts may have got washed into the reservoir.

He said that thousands of Gaja Lakshmi coins had been found during previous excavations and that the removal of mud from the Wewa must be done after investigations by the Archaeological Department.

In March,  government initiated a programme to clean 103 rivers and strengthen the banks of tanks in the country.,

The  Chinese joint venture to renovate irrigation tanks here was launched on Monday (21) and the opening stage will see the renovation of the Tissawewa.

“The water released from the Uma-Oya project will reach the Anuradhapura District soon. Therefore, it is our responsibility to ensure that we store this water in our irrigation system, without allowing it to reach the sea,” Minister Chamal Rajapaksa said during the launch of the project.

According to the Minister, the government of Sri Lanka is not incurring any cost for the installation of the machine.

“We are not paying to install this machine. They have to remove silt from the tank and pay us as well for it. They can take the sand and clay removed from the tank and sell it,” the Irrigation Minister said.

The Tissawewa is believed to have been constructed by King Yatala-Tissa who established the Ruhunu Kingdom or his uncle, King Devanampiyatissa who ruled the Anuradhapura Kingdom during the 03rd century BC.

The furor caused by the Ministers comments resulted in a press statement issued via the Department of Government Information, in which the Ministry of Irrigation affirmed the government will act responsibly towards addressing the drinking water crisis as well as protecting rainforests which are home to national water resources.



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Lanka, Turkish FMs powwow in NY

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Sri Lankan and Turkish FMs meet (pic courtesy Foreign Ministry)

Concerns over selective use of human rights by section of int’l community

Foreign Minister G.L. Peiris has expressed condolences on the death of two Turkish nationals as a result of the Easter Sunday terrorist attacks when he met the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavusoglu at the Turkish House, the Chancery building of the Turkish Permanent Mission, in New York, for a bilateral meeting between them, on the sidelines of the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly.

Prof. Peiris is on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s delegation to New York.

Prof. Peiris has given an update on the investigations underway and the legal processes being taken to try those that were involved that had linkages to extreme groups. The two Ministers expressed the need to confront terrorism in all its forms as well as linkages to the rise of extremism and spoke against the politicization of human rights and selective use of human rights as tools by some parties, and pledged to expand international cooperation in the United Nations and other fora.

The following is the text of the statement issued by the FM: “Foreign Minister Çavusoglu recalled fondly his fruitful two-day visit to Sri Lanka in 2016. The Minister appreciated the arrangements extended to him during the visit. Foreign Minister Peiris also fondly recalled a number of visits to Turkey and commented on the rich experiences he had. The Foreign Minister of Turkey was happy to observe that a Hony Consul of Sri Lanka would take office shortly in his hometown.

In evaluating their mutual visits, the two Foreign Ministers noted that it would be an opportune time to enhance further contacts by visits and interactions at other levels, to strengthen the excellent ties of friendship between the two countries, particularly economic and trade ties. Foreign Minister Çavusoglu noted that despite the two countries being geographically far, the ties between the two were very close.

Foreign Minister Peiris noted the generous assistance given to Sri Lanka from Turkey during the COVID-19 pandemic with the provision of ventilators and other equipment and appreciated that Turkey had also extended support in the aftermath of the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami where housing was provided. The Ministers appreciated that bilateral trade between the two had steadily increased from US 100 Million and was projected to reach US 200 million in the current year.

Foreign Minister Peiris highlighted that there was a need for Sri Lankan exports to Turkey to diversify from its 80% consisting of tea and noted that there was tremendous potential between the two countries to boost economic, trade and investment in growth areas such as construction and the pharmaceutical industries, where Turkey had expertise and Sri Lanka was looking at developing this area by having specific economic free zones for the manufacture of pharmaceuticals for the local market and beyond. The Turkish Foreign Minister underscored that the Turkish construction sector was the world’s second largest and that they had a number of projects globally and not just in their region.

The two Ministers expressed interest to finalise important agreements on Avoidance of Double Taxation and on Investment Promotion and Protection that could serve to provide opportunities for joint projects, investments and initiatives between both countries.

The Foreign Minister of Turkey noted their experience of successful Private to Public Projects for infrastructure, such as Turkey’s second international airport that would boost their role as an important global international hub.

The two Ministers also discussed enhancing people to people contact, including possibilities of exploring air connectivity between Ankara and Colombo and code-share flights to the region that could boost linkages and ties to new levels, including exchanges between the respective Chambers of Commerce and business sectors. Both sides undertook to expedite respective agreements that had been finalized and were at the last stages of implementation.

Foreign Minister Çavu?o?lu noted that he was to visit Sri Lanka, but that the visit had to be postponed due to the COVID pandemic. Foreign Minister Peiris extended an invitation for the Turkish Foreign Minister to visit Sri Lanka in the near future.

The two Ministers looked forward to expanding the friendly and close ties and expressed hope that further interaction may commence in the aftermath of the covid pandemic.”

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Shortage of 120,000 Sputnik V second jabs causing heartburn to many in Kandy District resolved

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By Chaminda Silva

Another consignment of the Russian-made Sputnik V anti-Covid vaccine purchased by Sri Lanka was brought to the country on Sunday (19).

A batch of 120,000 doses of the vaccine was flown to the Katunayake Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) by an Emirates cargo plane from Dubai. The consignment was transported from Moscow, Russia, to Dubai, and from there to the BIA.

They were transported to the Colombo Central Vaccine Storage Complex by refrigerated trucks of the Sri Lanka Pharmaceutical Corporation.

Minister of Health Dr. Keheliya Rambukwella last week said the 120,000 doses of Sputnik-V vaccine would be given to the people of the Kandy District who received the Sputnik-V vaccine as the first dose.

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Lanka receives another 20 railway passenger coaches from India

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A railway passenger coach being unloaded from a ship at the Colombo Port.

SriLanka has received another 20 state-of-the-art railway passenger coaches from India as part of the supply of 160 coaches to the Sri Lankan Railways by the Rail India Technical and Economic Service (RITES), which is being financed through an Indian Line of Credit.”In line with India’s continuing commitment to assist Sri Lanka in the development of its railway infrastructure, a consignment of 20 railway passenger coaches supplied by Rail India Technical and Economic Service (RITES) Ltd, reached Colombo Port on September 17, 2021,” Indian High Commission in Colombo said in a press release.

It said: This consignment is a part of the contract to supply 160 passenger coaches to Sri Lanka Railways, funded under an Indian Line of Credit of USD 318 million. The value of this contract is USD 82.6 million.With this consignment, a total of 60 coaches out of 160 have been supplied to Sri Lanka and 20 more coaches are ready to be shipped from India. The first lot of passenger coaches had arrived in Sri Lanka in March 2021, following which requisite trials were conducted.

These ‘India-made’ modern passenger coaches have been custom made and built as per the requirements of Sri Lanka Railways. Under the Line of Credit of USD 318 million, RITES Ltd is also scheduled to supply two AC diesel multiple units (DMU) to Sri Lanka Railways. The first AC DMU set (13 coaches) is ready for shipment from India and is waiting for nomination of a ship by Sri Lanka.

Other projects under this line include Up-gradation of the Railway Line from Maho to Omanthai (128 kms), Maho-Anuradhapura Signaling project, Double Tracking of Railway Line from Polgahawela to Kurunegala, etc.

It may be noted that RITES Ltd has previously supplied 6six DMUs (contract completed in October 2019) and 10 Diesel Locomotives Railways (contract completed in June 2020) to Sri Lanka, funded under a separate Line of Credit. India’s overall development assistance to Sri Lanka is close to USD 3.5 billion. This includes projects/initiatives under Lines of Credit as well as grant. Development of railway infrastructure in Sri Lanka is a sector of special focus, in line with the priorities of the Government and people of Sri Lanka.In this connection, reconstruction of railway lines (268 Kms), installation of signal and telecommunication systems (330 Kms), and upgrading of coastal railway line (118 KM) have already been completed. Various other projects are at different stages of implementation.

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