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Final decision on billions of plastic pellets washed ashore due to ship disaster awaited

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A part of pellets collected on the Western coast (file photo)

By Ifham Nizam

The final decision on billions of plastic pellets washed ashore following the Singapore-flagged MV X-press Pearl disaster would be taken on the instructions of the Attorney General and the committee appointed in this regard, Environment Minister Mahinda Amaraweera said yesterday.

Amaraweera said via ZOOM that a large stock of plastic pellets had been collected and stored under the supervision of the Central Environmental Authority.

He said so while attending a progress review meeting yesterday on the ecological damage caused by the X-Press Pearl.

CEA officials said a stock of nearly 1400 tons of plastic pellets had been deposited in about 40 containers and kept in a yard in the Hendala area.

During the discussion, the Minister said that the stock of pellets could be used for plastic production and some manufacturing companies had offered to buy them.

However, he stressed that a final decision on the stock of plastics would be taken only on the recommendation of the Attorney General and the committee appointed by the President to look into the damage caused by the X-Press Pearl.

Amaraweera said the plastic stockpile was important as a court production in the ongoing legal proceedings over the damage caused by the X-Press Pearl. He said that he had instructed the CEA to ensure the safety of the stock, and that the officials were doing a very good job.

Justice Minister, Ali Sabri PC chaired the Progress Review Meeting. The programme also had the input of various stakeholders, including the Ministry of Fisheries, National Aquatic Resources Agency, the Marine Environment Protection Authority and the Central Environmental Authority.

According to Friends of Earth, Chairman, Hemantha Withanage,  some 39 containers of oil (lubricant oil, gear oil and brake oil), one container of batteries, one container of nitric acid and 349 containers of epoxy resin were on board the ill-fated vessel.

Nearly 9,800 metric tonnes of toxic epoxy was also on board. According the UN Environment Programme: “The ship’s cargo included 25 tonnes of nitric acid, 348 tonnes of lubricant oil and, according to independent estimates, up to 75 billion small plastic pellets known as nurdles that has created a pollution crisis – one that could plague Sri Lanka for years.”

MEPA has mobilised the Navy, Air Force and the coast guard and they have so far collected more than 53,000 bags of pellets, burnt plastic and other debris mixed with sand. This is around 40 per cent of the plastic nurdles transported on the ship.

According to the cargo list, 46,980 (25 kg) bags and unknown quantities of 20 containers of low density and high density polyethylene nurdles were on the ship. Plastic nurdles were found from the Vankalai Ramsar Wetland to the Rekawa turtle sanctuary, which is almost 700 km of the coastal belt.



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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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