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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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Avishka and Sadeera power Jaffna Kings to nine wicket win

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Half tons by Avishka Fernando and Sadeera Samarawickrema powered Jaffna Kings to a nine wicket win over Dambulla Aura in the 3rd match of the LPL2022  at MRICS Hambanthota on Wednesday (07)

Dambulla Aura 121/9 in 20 overs (Jordan Cox 43; Maheesh Theekshana 3/20, Vijayakanth Vijaskanth 3/24, James Fuller 2/16, Zaman Khan 1/28)

Jaffna Kings 122/1 in 15.4 overs (Avishka Fernando 51 , Sadeera Samarawickrema 62 not out; Noor Ahamed 1/28)

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Govt. says selling state assets only way to build reserves and prevent crippling shortages

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

Cabinet spokesman Minister Bandula Gunawardena yesterday (06) said Sri Lanka wouldn’t be in a position to be part of the international trading system unless it boosted its foreign reserves by selling some of its assets. Gunawardena, who also holds media and transport portfolios said so at yesterday’s post-Cabinet press briefing.

Responding to a query about the government’s decision to divest vital national assets, the Minister said that if Sri Lanka did not shore up its reserves to the tune of over three billion dollars, international companies would not accept the letters of credit given by Sri Lankan banks.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe, in his capacity as the Finance Minister, has proposed privatising of several state enterprises including Sri Lanka Insurance and Sri Lanka Telecom.

“Former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga sold a number of state owned enterprises. If we don’t increase our reserves, to over three billion USD soon, we will have problems importing fuel, and other essential items. Last week, Fitch again reduced our rating. No matter who governs Sri Lanka, they will all face the same problem. We need to build our reserves,” the Minister said.

Minister Gunawardane said that the need of the hour was to sell some assets and boost Sri Lanka’s reserves.

“China, India, Vietnam, and Malaysia are attracting a lot of investors. Only we have failed to do so, and we need to think why this is. Even our entrepreneurs are leaving for other countries. We need to change the way we think, if we want to attract investors to Sri Lanka,” he said.

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Ven Siridhamma, Mudalige granted bail; latter re-arrested

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Convenor of Bhikku Balamandalaya affiliated Inter University Students Federation (IUSF) Ven. Galwewa Siridhamma Thera leaving Court yesterday (06) after Kaduwela Magistrate Chanima Wijebandara granted him bail. The Thera was held under the Prevention of Terrorism Act for causing damages to public property during a protest opposite the Education Ministry, over three months back. The Magistrate ordered the Thera released after the police failed to identify the monk at an identification parade. However, IUSF Convenor Wasanatha Mudalige, who was also released by the Magistrate, after the police couldn’t identify him, was taken into custody in connection with some other case.

Pics by Kamal Bogoda

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