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Forest Department draws up plan for replanting destroyed Kallaru forest

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By Ifham Nizam

The Forest Department would decide with a team of legal experts how to implement a recent Court of Appeal judgment order the reforestation of the Kallaru forest reserve in the Wilpattu National Park buffer zone, a senior Department official said.

When contacted, Forest Conservator General W.A. C. Weragoda told The Island that they were in the process of working out a plan, which would be ready as per the court ruling.

Weragoda said that initially money had to be deposited in a government account. However, he said that the amount had to be estimated first.

In response to a query regarding damage that had been caused to the biodiversity, especially to fauna, he said animals would return when the forest was regrown.

The Centre for Environmental Justice Executive Director Hemantha Withanage told The Island that the cost of replanting the forest would be double as it was in the dry zone and the saplings had to be taken care of for at least for ten years.

He estimated it to cost roughly around Rs. 5,000 million, but said it could be more.

Environment Minister Mahinda Amaraweera said the government would not hand over the task of replanting saplings in the destroyed Kallaru forest to MP Rishad Bathiudeen, who is responsible for the destruction of the forest.

“We are also preparing a report the forest destruction. We will also submit a report on the cost. Some ask me if I will hand over the task of planting saplings in the destroyed Kallaru forest to Bathiudeen.”

According to the court order, all he had to do was to pay the amount estimated by the Department of Forest Conservation, the Ministry of Wildlife and the CEA.

Replanting of Kallaru forest would be done by the Forest Department, Minister Amaraweera said, adding that the Ministry of Environment and the CEA would oversee it.

The Minister praised the Chairman, Executive Director and other officials of the Centre for Environmental Justice, who fought to the court case.

He also said that the judgment had set a good precedent on how to take action against those who relentlessly destroyed the environment.

“Some people think that they can get away with their crimes with the help of thier wealth. Due to the factual reporting carried out by all the media in this country on the destruction of the Wilpattu forest, the issue received wide publicity and justice was served.”



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Six nabbed with over 100 kg of ‘Ice’

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By Norman Palihawadane and Ifham Nizam

The Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB) yesterday arrested six suspects in the Sapugaskanda Rathgahawatta area with more than 100 kilos of Crystal Methamphetamine also known as Ice.

Police Media Spokesman, Deputy Inspector General of Police, Ajith Rohana told the media that the PNB sleuths, acting on information elicited from a suspect in custody had found 91 packets of Ice.

A man in possession of 100 kilos of heroin was arrested in Modera during the weekend and revealed that a haul of Ice had been packed in plastic boxes.

The PNB seized more than 114 kilos of Ice from the possession of a single drug network.

According to the information elicited from the suspects, more than 100 kilos of Ice were found.

The PNB also arrested six persons including two women with 13 kilos of Ice, during an operation carried out in the Niwandama area in Ja-Ela on Sunday.

DIG Rohana said the ice had been packed in small plastic boxes and hidden in two school bags.

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PM intervenes to iron out differences among coalition partners

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By Norman Palihawadane

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday said that he was confident that differences among the constituents of the SLPP coalition as regards the May Day celebrations and the next Provincial Council elections could be ironed out soon.

Leaders of all SLPP allied parties have been invited to a special meeting to be held at Temple Trees with the PM presiding on April 19.

Prime Minister Rajapaksa said it was natural for members of a political alliance to have their own standpoints and views on matters of national importance. “This is due to the different political ideologies and identities. It is not something new when it comes to political alliances world over. In a way, it shows that there is internal democracy within our alliance.

The PM said: “As a result of that the allied parties may express their own views on issues, but that does not mean there is a threat to the unity of the alliance. An alliance is more vibrant and stronger not when all the parties think on the same lines but when the member parties have different ideologies.”

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Thilo Hoffman remembered

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A copy of the book “Politics of a Rainforest: Battles to save Sinharaja” was handed over to Dominik Furgler, the Swiss Ambassador in Sri Lanka by the author of the book, Dr. Prasanna Cooray at the Swiss Embassy in Colombo last Tuesday, to be sent to the family of the late Thilo Hoffman in Switzerland.

Hoffman, a Swiss national, who made Sri Lanka his second home for six decades, was a pioneering environmental activist who led the battles to save Sinharaja from the front in the early 1970s, abreast with the likes of Iranganie Serasinghe, Kamanie Vitharana, Lynn De Alwis and Nihal Fernando of the “Ruk Rekaganno” fame. That was the era when the trees of Sinharaja were felled for the production of plywood by the then government. Hoffman was also a livewire of the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society (WNPS) for a long time. Hoffman died in 2014 at the age of 92.

The book includes a chapter on Thilo Hoffman.

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