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Environmentalists sound alarm bells over ‘dangerous proposals’ pertaining to Knuckles Range

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By Ifham Nizam

Environmentalists said yesterday that three dangerous proposals that could have a disastrous impact on the biodiversity of the Knuckles Range were to be presented to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the ‘Gama Samaga Pilisandara’ programme which would be held today (13) at Meemure.

Supun Lahiru Prakash, Convener – Biodiversity Conservation and Research Circle, said: “There is a proposal for constructing an eight-kilometre road from Meemure village to Laggala-Pallegama, which will fragment the Knuckles Forest. In addition there is a proposal to distribute 90 acres of densely forested land in an irrigation reservation among political henchmen for paddy cultivation. There is an attempt to grow cardamom in the area once again.”

The Knuckles forest range was added ti the 56,844 ha of Sri Lanka’s highlands UNESCO world heritage site declared in 2010. The property comprises the Peak Wilderness Protected Area, the Horton Plains National Park and the Knuckles Conservation Forest.

These mountain forests, where the land rises to 2,500 metres above sea-level, are home to a wide range of flora and fauna, including several endangered species such as the western-purple-faced Langur, the Horton Plains slender Loris and the Sri Lankan leopard. The region is considered a biodiversity hotspot. It also included Buffer zone of 72,645 ha. 64% of the amphibians and 51% of the reptiles in the Knuckles Conservation Forest are endemic. More than half of Sri Lanka’s endemic vertebrates, half of the country’s endemic flowering plants and more than 34% of its endemic trees, shrubs, and herbs are restricted to these diverse mountain rain forests and adjoining grassland areas.

Prakash said: “We strongly oppose all these three demands which will severely affect the biological diversity of the Knuckles range. The loss of land and fragmentation of the rest of the forest will push, further, the critically endangered wildlife to the edge of extinction. As we are aware these demands do not represent the genuine needs of the villages and these will only be benefited to a few politicians and administrative officers. Therefore, we kindly request the President to be mindful of this and support the conservation of natural habitat in Sri Lanka.”



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Embassy officer arrested at BIA remanded

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The Embassy official who was attached to the Sri Lanka Embassy in Oman who is accused of being involved in a human trafficking racket was arrested by officers of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and remanded till the 13th of December when he was produced before the Colombo Chief Magistrate

The official was arrested on his arrival at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) this morning (29 November).

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Easter Sunday terror attack suspect hacked to death

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By Norman Palihawadane

A 38-year-old Easter Sunday terror attack suspect was hacked to death yesterday morning (28) in Mattakkuliya.

The victim, Mohamed Badurdeen Mohamed Harnas, was a resident of Safiya Avenue, Mattakkuliya, police said.

A suspect in the Easter Sunday terror attacks, he had been released on bail.

The suspect was rushed to the National Hospital, Colombo, after three individuals, who arrived in a car around 10. 00 am, attacked him.

Two persons attacked the man while the other was keeping the car engine running, according to eyewitnesses. The attackers thereafter fled in the same car.

Harnas was pronounced dead on admission to hospital.

Further investigations in this regard are currently underway.

The victims family members said that Harnas had been taken into custody, following the 2019 Easter Sunday attacks, but later released as there was no evidence of his involvement in terrorist activities.

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Rail service between Mahawa and Jaffna to be suspended for five months

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Transport Minister Bandula Gunawardena told Parliament yesterday that the railway services between Mahawa and Jaffna will be suspended for a period of five months in 2023.

The Minister said that operations will be suspended from January 15, 2023.

The Minister said it was to repair work on the railway line.

He said so in response to a question raised by Vanni District MP Selvam Adaikalanathan.

“We are focusing our attention on the request made by you. We have to halt railway operations between Mahawa and Jaffna for five months from January 2023. Train services have been continuously operating to Jaffna, but now we have faced a situation as we have not been able to carry out any repair work thus far,” the Minister said.

Assuring that this issue can be rectified in five months, Minister Gunawardane said that, thereafter, a good railway service can be provided for this route.

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