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Fresh appeal to President to have rape of Dahaiyagala sanctuary halted



By Ifham Nizam

Nearly 20 leading environmental/wildlife organisations have teamed up to make an appeal to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to ensure the environmental security and rights of future generations of Sri Lanka by immediately putting an end to the ongoing forest destruction in the Dahaiyagala sanctuary.

Environmental Scientist Hemantha Withanage yesterday said environmentalists and wildlife enthusiasts countrywide urged the government to end the ongoing environmental destruction in the country, allegedly being undertaken in the name of chena cultivation, agriculture expansion and lands for housing, etc.

“We are greatly concerned about your apparent endorsement of land grabbing, and encroachment on forests, thereby destroying precious wildlife habitats and water catchment areas,” the team has said in a letter to President Rajapaksa.

Withanage said Sri Lanka had less than 17% of true forests remaining; the rest being degraded lands or tree plantations. The remaining forest habitats were home to over 7, 500 species of flora and over 15,000 species of fauna – much of this was endemic to Sri Lanka.

Small forest corridors such as the Dahaiyagala sanctuary, the Flood Plains Reserve, etc., were very important for all wildlife and especially for elephant migration, he said.

The ongoing forest destruction was an issue the country had to deal with as it was working towards achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) targets, senior environmentalist Dr. Jagath Gunawardena said, adding that Sri Lanka had to go for foreign loans based on the performance of the17 SDGs.

There was no such thing as other forests. “Sri Lanka laws do not provide for utilising lands coming under the Fauna and Flora Ordinance Act for other purposes”.

Gunawardena, who is a lawyer, said the President, Prime Minister, Wildlife Minister or the Director General had no right to go beyond the existing laws.

Gunawardena also expressed concern about experts and professionals keeping quiet about the distribution of forest lands.

Representing Lak Sobha Sanrakshanaya (Senior Group of YZA), Samantha Gunasekera said the current development move would not eradicate poverty here, but further aggravate the existing economic problems.

Citing examples, he said the country should focus on tapping natural resources, citing examples, a mere 10 grammes on bio resources would fetch USD 3,300.

He said that Pulmuddai was full of natural resources and if nano technology was used in exploiting them in an environmentally friendly manner, Sri Lanka could be on par with Singapore economically.

The former Customs Department, Biodiversity Head also warned that forest land distribution would lead to floods and drought.

Environmentalist Nayanaka Ranwella, who returned from Dahaiyagala, yesterday, said 14 groups were carrying out forest clearance and most of them were outsiders.

“President Gotabaya Rajapaksa should be held responsible for this forest rape. We urge President Rajapaksa not to do a Donald Trump. I remember what happened to President Mahinda Rajapaksa in 2015 and what happened to the disastrous combination President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.”.

The Wildlife and Nature Protection Society (WNPS), Centre for Environmental Justice (CEJ), Environmental Foundation Limited (EFL), Federation of Environmental Organizations (FEO), Movement for National Land and Agriculture Reform (MONLAR), Protect Wilpattu, Wildlife Conservation Forum (WCF), Rainforest Protectors of Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka Climate and Forest Action Network (SLCFAN) , Wildlife Conservation Society of Galle, Center for Conservation and Research (CCR), Biodiversity and Elephant Conservation Trust (BECT) , Biodiversity Conservation and Research Circle (BCRC), Friends of Wilpattu (FOW), Elephant Forest and Environment Conservation Trust (EFECT) and Young Zoologists Association of Sri Lanka have jointly launched a public signature campaign in protest against the destruction of forests.

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‘Those who fear exposure making a din over Easter Sunday carnage PCoI report – PM



Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa said that some of those who fear that they will be held accountable under the law for the Easter Sunday attacks are now making a big noise over the report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the carnage.

“They know that they will be exposed. That’s why they are making a din in the belief they could escape being taken to task under the law”, the premier told The Sunday Island.

Meanwhile, Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith has declared March 7 as ‘Black Sunday’ to demand justice to the victims of the attacks by bringing before the law those responsible for the carnage.

Church leaders have their congregations to be attired in black when they attend mass on Sunday. Church bells will toll at 8.45 am, the time of the near-simultaneous attacks, and special prayers will be offered for justice for the victims.

Trade Minister Bandula Gunawardena said that the CID will begin investigations shortly to initiate the process of filing legal action against those responsible for the Easter Sunday attacks.

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Sri Lankan High Commission in India remains headless for 14 months




Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, March 5:

The Sri Lankan High Commission in India has remained without a Head of Mission for 14 months now.

Veteran civil servant Austin Fernando, who was posted here as the High Commissioner, went back home in January last year.

Former Minister Milinda Moragoda was appointed as the new High Commissioner with a Cabinet rank late last year, and India has accepted the appointment shortly thereafter.

But Moragoda is yet to take charge. It is not clear when he is planning to arrive in India.

Being a large neighbour and in view of excellent relations between the two countries, India is important for Sri Lanka.

Besides, as many as 92 New Delhi-based Ambassadors and High Commissioners are also concurrently accredited to Sri Lanka. Only 41 countries maintain their diplomatic missions in Colombo.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, direct flights between the two countries were suspended early last year. But Air India has been running special flights at regular intervals from Colombo to New Delhi and other cities to bring back Indian nationals stranded in Sri Lanka while on a holiday or a business trip.

India has also created air bubbles to allow flights to over 20 countries, including Bangladesh. But Sri Lanka is not one of them. Negotiations are said to be in progress to make this happen in due course of time.

Sources in Colombo said Moragoda is expected to leave later this month.



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WFP and Korea to Help Supply Thriposha to Children and Mothers



COLOMBO – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) are supporting the Government of Sri Lanka with funding worth USD 600,000 (LKR 117 million) to procure maize for the production of Thriposha.

The funding will be used to produce Thriposha, a maize-based fortified food product, which will be provided to 1.1 million mothers and children. The grant from Korea helps ensure continuation of the Thriposha programme, which the Government of Sri Lanka has been conducting for almost 50 years to provide nutrition to undernourished children and pregnant and lactating women.

Thriposha, which means triple nutrients, is a locally produced supplementary food product, provided free of charge to children below 5 years of age who are underweight or with a slow rate of weight gain and pregnant and lactating women with a low body mass index (BMI), through the public health system.

“The world is facing unexpected circumstances while battling with the pandemic,” says Kang Youn Hwa, KOICA Sri Lanka Office Country Director. “The contribution from KOICA for the Thriposha National Programme was extended with the objective of improving the nutritional status of vulnerable people, especially children and pregnant/lactating women who are disproportionately affected by Covid-19. KOICA stands in solidarity with the Government of Sri Lanka during this difficult time.”

This latest contribution forms part of the activities carried out by KOICA — the Official Grants Division to the Embassy of the Republic of Korea — in response to Covid-19. KOICA has been present in Sri Lanka for over two decades, with programmes that support a variety of sectors including education, health, rural development, water management and transportation. One such intervention is the “R5n” programme, a joint project conducted with WFP since 2019. “R5n” aims to improve the lives and livelihoods of rural smallholder farmers by strengthening their resilience to recurring climate shocks, especially drought. KOICA’s support for the procurement of maize to produce Thriposha complements its on-going assistance to the Government of Sri Lanka.

Covid-19 has brought about fresh challenges in the country, including an estimated rise in unemployment and reduced incomes. This affects a family’s ability to access nutritious food and threatens to have long-lasting impacts on the health and nutrition standards in the country. The Thriposha programme provides a readily accessible source of nutrition to mothers and children when they need it the most.

The Ministry of Health requested WFP’s support in ensuring a continuous supply of Thriposha. In response to this, WFP together with KOICA, arranged to provide funding to bolster the Thriposha programme and help safeguard the health and nutrition of women and children.

“WFP has been supporting the Thriposha programme for over a decade, as part of its efforts to improve nutrition standards in the country,” says Andrea Berardo, Deputy Country Director of WFP Sri Lanka, highlighting that Sri Lanka ranks among the countries with the highest rates of wasting, known as thinness, among children under 5 years of age (15 percent). “This latest contribution reflects our long-standing support to the government to not just treat, but also prevent these high rates of malnutrition and importantly, safeguard development gains made within the country.”

In 2021 and beyond, WFP will continue to work with the government to enhance the national health system as part of its efforts in achieving Sustainable Development Goal 2 of enhancing food security and improving nutrition in the country.

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