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Environment Minister opposes arming farmers to fight crop damage caused by wild animals



.. wants more humane methods like controlling their breeding

By Ifham Nizam

Arming farmers is not a solution to the problem of crop damage caused by various animals, Environment Minister Mahinda Amaraweera says.

Amaraweera says he strongly believes that prior to making such decisions, relevant institutions should conduct a proper study on the latest scientific and traditional methods of warding off animals that damage crops.

“It has been revealed that about 40 percent of the crops grown by farmers in our country are destroyed annually by wild animals such as monkeys, peacocks, wild boar and Rock Squirrels and porcupines.”

Answering queries, the minister said that even though farmers had requested air rifles or shotguns, he had not complied with their request.

The minister said methods that could reduce their breeding rather than killing wildlife and new technologies that could and should be used by way of a solution.

An electrical device introduced in Kahathewela, Bandarawela to chase away wild animals has been a success. The use of the machine had helped minimise crop damage. The government should provide firearms to farmers only if the relevant farmers had cultivated more than one hectare.

The issuance of firearms should be done strictly on the recommendation of the Grama Niladharis, Divisional Secretaries and District Secretaries. They should also regulate the manner in which the weapons were used. No one should be allowed to kill innocent animals just because they were given a weapon, the Minister said .

“However, I do not think this method is a solution. The extinction of predators is the reason for the increase in the population of some animals, coupled with relentless deforestation, land grabbing, and destruction of  animal habitats by humans. Therefore, the officials of the relevant institutions should try out new technologies. Then crop damage caused by animals can be minimised.

As the Minister of Environment, I see a solution only through the implementation of a balanced programme in which human beings and animals can coexist,” he said.

Conservation Organisations Against Environmental Destruction, consisting of all leading science/environmental organisations in Sri Lanka last week came together to condemn land grabbing calling it as an environmental catastrophe.

Recent proposal by Agriculture Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage to provide shotguns to farmers with more than one acre of land was a very short-sighted move, they said.

“Can Minister Mahindananda or the government guarantee that those guns will not only endanger the lives of animals but also the lives of human beings,” environmentalists queried.

The groups consist of Centre for Environmental Justice, Protect Sri Lanka, Otara Foundation, Rally for Animal Right & Environment, Federation of Environmental Organizations, Wildlife & Nature Protection Society, Research Circle, Leopocon Sri Lanka, Arunodaya Environmentalist, Movement of Land & Agriculture Reform, Sri Lanka Nature Group FIAN Sri Lanka, Lanka Nature Conservationist, Wild forum, Rain Forest Protectors and Young Zoologists Association of Sri Lanka.

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Lawyers request CJ to decide if political victimisation PCoI report amounts to contempt of court



by A. J. A. Abeynayake

Four lawyers yesterday complained to Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya, requesting an investigation to determine whether the recommendations of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry, which probed political victimisation under the previous government, amount to contempt of court.

The four petitioners, Senaka Perera, Achala Seneviratne, Namal Rajapaksa and Thambiah Jeyaratnaraja have, in their complaint, stated they are of the view that the final recommendations of the Commission, which probed the period from January 8, 2015 to November 19, 2019, amounted to contempt of court and were inimical to the judicial system.

The lawyers have also requested that the Chief Justice pay attention to the recommendation by the commission that R. Duminda Silva be exonerated from all charges against him and the recommendation that Attorney General request that a full bench of the Supreme Court conduct a judicial review of the death sentence passed on Silva.

The lawyers pointed out that if an accused is not satisfied with a judgement delivered against him, he could request for a fuller bench to hear his case, but a third party cannot request a review of the verdict. The petitioners have also said that the Commission with its recommendations has caused an affront to the dignity of the court, its independence and the trust of the people.

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Amaraweera plans to ban certain types of plastic, polythene



Environment Minister Mahinda Amaraweera examining some eco-friendly products that can be used in place of polythene and plastic.  Picture shows some such products.

Been there, heard that – environmentalists

By Ifham Nizam

The Environment Ministry yesterday reiterated that steps would be taken to ban the use of several types of plastic and polythene in the country from the end of this month.

Contacted for comment, environmentalists said that they had heard similar pledges to ban those products by previous Environment Ministers, but there had been no bans.

Previous Environment Minister Maithripala Sirisena, who even promised to ban asbestos besides harmful types of plastic and polythene had done absolutely nothing, they said adding that “He as the President of the country failed to ship back even the toxic garbage containers dumped here by the UK”.

Environment Minister Mahinda Amaraweera yesterday said the items to be banned would include disposable polythene and plastic, PET bottles (Poly Ethylene Terephthalate), lunch sheets thinner than 20 microns, sachets, excluding Food and Drug packaging, cotton buds, and inflatable plastic toys.

Amaraweera said that the focus of businesses on new alternatives to plastics and polythene was seen as a way to protect the environment.

The release of excessive amounts of plastics and polythene materials into the environment caused environmental degradation, the Minister said.

The Environment Ministry is having discussions with various stakeholders to introduce eco-friendly alternative products.

Amaraweera last week had a meeting with several private sector entrepreneurs.

Some industrialists also presented to the Minister some of the eco-friendly products they were using.

Plans are afoot to prepare a list of several plastic and polythene products, to be banned from March 31. About 350 products would be banned before the end of the current year, the Minister said.

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Fishing cats victims of mistaken identify 



Villagers kill them as they resemble leopard cubs

By Ifham Nizam

The killing of fishing cats (Prionailurus viverrinus) is on the rise countrywide mainly because they resemble leopard cubs. They also end up as road kill.

The Sinhala term for fishing cats–– ‘Handun Diviya’––gives the jitters to many villagers who fear that the animals are leopards and a threat to them, according to researcher cum conservationist Chaminda Jayasekara.

Following the death of a farmer in a leopard attack recently, fishing cats are also being increasingly targeted and killed especially in some parts of the hill country.

“In some parts of Nawalapitiya, children fear to go out when word gets around that ‘Handun Diviyas’ were lurking in the vicinity,” Jayasekera said.

The killing of fishing cats happen primarily because some people assume that they could harm them as the animals are often misidentified as leopard cubs. This happens especially in the tea plantation areas due to the lack of knowledge of the species, Jayasekera stressed.

A large number of reptiles, small mammals and birds continue to perish on roads because when highways and other roads are built, only the safety of humans is taken into consideration, according to Jayasekera.

Naturalist cum author, Rajika Gamage yesterday told The Island that when highways were constructed here unlike in other parts of the world green highway concept was ignored. “There should be tunnels to give safe passage for small animals,” he said.

More than dozens of fishing cats were being killed recently in road accidents or in attacks by villagers, he too said.

A dead fishing cat had been found last week near the Log Hill tea estate belonging to the Mayfield estate in Kotagala, Hatton, Dimbula Police said.

Police believe the animal may have died in a road mishap.



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