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Environmental damage continues unnoticed

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M V Xpress Pearl disaster

By Rathindra Kuruwita

The huge environmental damage caused by the MV X-Press Pearl had been eclipsed by other issues, Sajeewa Chamikara of the Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR) told The Island yesterday.

The government was entirely focused on compensation and seems to have no interest in managing the continuing environmental destruction, Chamikara said.

“MV X-Press Pearl was carrying a large cargo of toxic chemicals and it sank in shallow waters and in a high bio diversity area after a fire. This will have significant long-term impacts not only on environment but also on fisheries and tourism,” Chamikara said.

The ship sank in Thambagala area – and it was one of the sites from where sand was excavated for the Port City. The area had a number of rock and sand ecosystems and seagrass beds, he said. Many marine animals lay eggs and breed in the area, he said.

“This area attracts a lot of marine animals who come to feed on small fish. This is why there are many dolphins and whales in the area. Five turtle species can also be found in this area. When the area is polluted it will affect these species. Turtles and other marine mammals are protected by Flora and Fauna Protection Ordinance (FFPO.) However, since the accident thousands of marine species have died.”

Chamikara said close to 300 bodies of turtles had washed ashore and the post mortems showed that they had died of exposure to toxins and oil.

“When such a large group of animals die this lowers the density value of the species. When the animal density drops beyond a certain limit, they will go extinct,” the activist pointed out.

“Dredging of sand for the Port City had already affected the area. When things started recovering, this disaster happened. There is a possibility of the area losing its biodiversity and that in turn will affect fisheries and tourism.”

Senior Advisor to the Centre of Environmental Justice (CEJ) Hemantha Withanage said that oil had been leaking from the X-Press Pearl ship for at least a month and nothing had been done to fix the leak.

“The government has been informed. But it is waiting till end of the stormy season and by that time all the oil will have been released into the ocean.”



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Central Bank urged to save collapsing local industries

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The National Freedom Front (NFF) has requested the immediate intervention of the Governor of the Central Bank Ajith Nivard Cabraal to save micro, small and medium scale industries badly affected by the current economic downturn caused by the Covid-19.

The NFF parliamentary group comprises six members, including one National List.

Industries Minister Wimal Weerawansa, on behalf of the SLPP constituent parties, has warned of steep increase in unemployment, drop in the contribution made by small and medium scale industries to the national economy and the further widening of the gap between the rich and poor.

Party sources told The Island that the NFF had decided to take up the urgent matter because, in spite of repeated promises, those who had been severely affected were yet to receive assistance. Minister Weerawansa has urged the Central Bank to restructure loans obtained by affected industries and also extend the moratorium.

Weerawansa has in a letter dated Oct.18, told Cabraal that according to a survey conducted by the Industrial Development Board, micro, small and medium enterprises suffered serious setbacks. However, of the loans made available through the banking sector, a substantial segment had been disbursed among major players, the Minister said, while pointing out that in other countries in the region more than 50 percent of total loans were made available to micro, small and medium industries.

Unfortunately, here in Sri Lanka they received approximately 15 percent of the total given as loans, the minister said.

Minister Weerawansa said that though industries suffered, almost all state and private banks had recorded much improved performances with significant profits.

The Minister said that following his intervention with the cabinet of ministers, the government agreed on a plan of action to deal with the situation. It would be the responsibility of the Central Bank to implement the agreed proposals, he said.

(SF)

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So far no side effects among Pfizer vaccinated 15,000 A/L students

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

Over 15,000 GCE AL students had been vaccinated with Pfizer and there had not been any side effects, Colombo District Director of Health Dr. Dilip Liyanage told the media yesterday.

He said that the Ministry of Education had given them a list of 20,688 that needed to be vaccinated.

“We would like to assure parents that there is no need to worry. Over 15,000 children have been vaccinated and there have been no problems so far. Trust the health professionals and vaccinate your child at the first opportunity you get,” he said.

Dr. Liyanage added that children who missed their chance to get vaccinated on weekdays, can get vaccinated at the MOH office near their home.

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Govt. approves prohibition of cattle slaughter

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The government has approved the prohibition of cattle slaughter. The decision was announced at the weekly Cabinet meeting at the Information Department yesterday (19). The government said the relevant laws and regulations, including those passed by Local Government authorities would be amended for that purpse.

The Legal Draftsman has drafted Bills to amend the following acts and ordinances.

• Authority 272 of the Cattle Slaughter Ordinance No. 9 of 1893

• Act No. 29 of 1958 Concerning Animals

• Municipal Councils Ordinance – Section 252

• Section 255 of the Municipal Councils Ordinance

• Ordinance No. 15 of the Urban Council Act of 1987

The Attorney General has certified that the said Bills do not clash with the provisions of the Constitution.

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