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Environmentalists want road constructions and cattle grazing stopped in Flood Plains National Park

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Seeks President’s intervention

by Ifham Nizam

Some environmental and science based organizations have sought President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s intervention to halt road constructions and the practice of allowing cattle to graze in the Flood Plains National Park as it could aggravate the human-elephant conflict.

Flood Plains National Park is situated in the flood plain of the Mahaweli river and is one of the four national parks designated under the Mahaweli river development project.

Situated 222 kilometers from Colombo, the park is a rich feeding ground for elephants and also serves as an elephant corridor for the grey giants migrating between Wasgamuwa national park and the Somawathiya national park.

Chairperson, Biodiversity Conservation and Research Circle of Sri Lanka, Supun Lahiru Prakash, said the Flood Plains are identified as national protected areas and is the home range for more than 30 per cent of Sri Lanka’s elephant population.

He said that by allowing cattle to graze on vital nutrients at the parks, elephants will be forced to raid crops.

“If this trend continues, it would be disastrous”, he warned.

There are moves to promote agricultural and other cultivation projects in the surrounding areas, he noted.

He urged President Rajapaksa to put an end to the proposed road development as it would destroy the Flood Plains National Park.

The Flood Valley National Park was declared on August 7, 1984, with the protection of the floodplain of the Mahaweli River, a unique ecosystem created by the Mahaweli, the longest river in Sri Lanka, as its main objective.

Another objective is to provide a habitat for many wildlife species, including wild elephants, which lost their traditional habitats due to the Mahaweli Development Scheme.

Covering an area of 17,350 hectares, the national park is home to beautiful landscapes and ecosystems. It provides prey for a large animal community.

According to renowned environment lawyer, Dr. Jagath Gunawardena, the area was declared a National Park under Section 2, subsection 1 of the Flora and Fauna Protection Ordinance (FFPO).

Therefore, any area declared under this section can have state land and land other than that of the state. According to Section 5, no person can enter or remain within a nature reserve except under the authority and in accordance with the conditions of a permit issued by the prescribed officer on payment of the prescribed fee. Section 6 refers to acts that are prohibited within a Strict Natural Reserve, National Park and other protected areas, he said.

Therefore, nobody will be allowed to destroy the land, make any forest clearings, clear or break up any land for cultivation, mining or any other purposes, fell, girdle, tap, burn or in any way damage or destroy any plant or take, collect or remove any plant, Gunawardena explained.

There are clear violations set out in Sections 5 and 6. If Section 6 is violated, a perpetrator could be arrested without a warrant and it is a non-bailable offense, he continued.

Public Service Trade Union Federation, Chairman W. H. Piyadasa said that Forest Department repossessed the land on court orders after reporting the construction of an illegal road from Manepitiya to Yakkugar through the Polonnaruwa Floodplain National Park and the illegal cultivation in the wildlife reserve.

Centre for Justice, Executive Director, Hematha Withanage has also taken up the matter with the President.



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Pakistan Navy ship arrives in Colombo

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Pakistan Navy Ship (PNS) Taimur arrived, at the port of Colombo, on a formal visit, yesterday morning (12). The visiting ship was welcomed by the Sri Lanka Navy, in compliance with naval traditions.The 134m-long ship is commanded by Captain M. Yasir Tahir and it is manned by 169 as the ship’s complement.

The Commanding Officer of PNS Taimur is scheduled to call on Commander Western Naval Area, at the Western Naval Command Headquarters, today. The ship is expected to remain in the island, until 15th August, and the crew of the ship will take part in several programmes, organized by the Sri Lanka Navy, to promote cooperation and goodwill between the two navies.

PNS Taimur is also expected to conduct a naval exercise with the Sri Lanka Navy in western seas on its departure on 15th August.

Meanwhile, PNS Tughril, an identical warship belonging to the Pakistan Navy, arrived in Sri Lanka on an official visit on 13th December 2021 and conducted a successful naval exercise with SLNS Sindurala off the western coast on 16th December. Naval exercises of this nature with regional navies will enable each partner to overcome common maritime challenges in the future, through enhanced cooperation.

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Stalin reads riot act to govt. over proposal to allow schoolchildren to work part time

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Alliance of Trade Unions and Mass Organisations yesterday warned that the government’s decision to allow schoolchildren, between the ages of 16 and 20, to work part time, would have disastrous consequences.Addressing the media on 11 Aug., General Secretary of the Ceylon Teachers’ Union, Joseph Stalin, said that the government was planning to amend laws, allowing schoolchildren to work in the private sector for 20 hours a week.

“Now, this may look like a progressive idea. A lot of families are

struggling and if another family member can chip in, it would be a great help. I am sure a lot of children feel the same way. It is also true that there may be children who will find great jobs and horn their skills,” he said.However, these proposals have come at a time when education is in crisis and the schools are on the verge of collapse.

“During the last two and a half years, most children have learnt nothing. But children who go to elite schools are doing better. These schools have systems in place, but most others don’t. Children who do not go to tier one schools have suffered and most children who do not go to such elite schools will not find part time work that will prepare them for the jobs of the future,” he said. “It’s not easy to balance school work with vocation training, especially physically intensive work. Most people will drop out and social mobility will further stagnate. Fix the education system first and create a more level playing field,” Stalin said.

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Harsha: Will RW use Emergency to steamroller his economic reforms?

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By Saman Indrajith

SJB MP Harsha de Silva yesterday asked President Ranil Wickremesinghe whether the latter was planning to use Emergency powers to suppress the people who might oppose his economic reform agenda.

“It is being asked why the government wants to continue the State of Emergency. The anti-government protesters have gone home. There is no unrest. There are those who say that the President wants to keep the Emergency laws to carry out economic reforms. Does that mean the President will use these laws to scare people into submission if they do not accept his economic reforms? I don’t think people can be intimidated. I want the President to answer this question,” he said.

MP de Silva said that the government did not have public support and that it was obvious that the spectre of the Rajapaksas was haunting the government.

“I agree that Wickremesinghe was appointed constitutionally. We have to work within the Constitution. However, the 134 votes he received on 20 July were not realistic. They have managed to manipulate the Constitution, but the government doesn’t have the support of the people. The problem is can the government win the support of the people,” he said.The SJB lawmaker added that Sri Lanka needed to restructure its debt. However, the country had not even started the process.

“One of the consultants we hired, Lazard, says that we have to start with China because it is new to debt restructuring. But we have not done so. Not only that, we have in fact started a diplomatic issue with China. What’s the front page news today? Can this government solve this sensitive international issue? Can it carry out the necessary economic reforms?” he asked.

MP de Silva said that the government had to work with the people and that it had to be honest with them. The government needed to present a common programme on which an all party government could be established.

“In 2020, we said that the government was on the wrong path and that we needed to seek IMF assistance. The government didn’t listen. We need an all-party programme to go before the IMF and get a decent deal. Today, I present to Parliament an economic recovery plan we have prepared. When we decided to throw our weight behind SLPP MP Dullas Alahapperuma, I was entrusted with the task of making an economic plan. We have run it through experts too. I ask the MPs to look at this and suggest improvements.”

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