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Govt foot dragging on implementing solution to Human-elephant conflict

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by Ifham Nizam

The government is still foot dragging on implementing a solution to the Human-elephant conflict (HEC) although there is a comprehensive action plan in hand, says one of the policy makers and a researcher on Sri Lankan elephants.Biodiversity Conservation and Research Circle Convener, Supun Lahiru Prakash, told the Sunday Island that after deciding to stop digging trenches as a preventive measure, the Secretary to the Ministry of Wildlife and Forest Resources Conservation stated that the ministry will develop and implement appropriate measures to control this problem in accordance with international standards and locally identified strategies as well as strategies to be identified.”Therefore, it is clear that the government is still wasting time while hundreds of human and elephant lives are being lost each year,” says Prakash.The National Action Plan for the Mitigation of Human-Elephant Conflict prepared under the direction of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was pigeonholed by the authorities for more than a year now, he said.The Action plan has been prepared by a multi-stakeholder committee chaired by eminent Asian Elephant researcher and expert, Dr. Prithiviraj Fernando, and handed over to the government on December 17, 2020.

“After more than a year, nothing has been done as recommended there while the problem grows countrywide. The Secretary does not even have a sense of the action plan and he says that they will develop and implement appropriate measures in the future. This is nonsense.”I should highlight that while the authorities sat on this plan 375 elephants and 142 humans were killed during 2021,” he added.”Officials need to understand that HEC mitigation should be an integrated effort that is beneficial for both humans and elephants because both must be protected. Different actors have different roles to play to make this effort a success. Without considering this reality the authorities rely on physical barriers in order to mitigate the conflict.”Firstly they erected electric fences wasting billions of rupees. Then they tried to dig trenches as an alternative. We have evidence many of these efforts are useless. Wildlife conservation and management as well as human-wildlife conflict management is a scientific matter but all this is above the heads of the concerned authorities including the Department of Wildlife Conservation. That is why they repeat the same mistakes and waste public funds.”The researcher strongly believes that if the lessons of the past have been properly learned, it could be easily realized that physical barriers are unable to confine bull elephants to the assigned area and they manage to cross these barriers one way or another.Some of these bull elephants are the problem and they endanger human life and property. It is clear that these trenches are unable to address the problem. They confine herds of females and calves to a part of their home range, depleting the food supply and eventually starving them. This weakens the national conservation effort.

The President has received a good action plan prepared by a group of experts in the field who believe that it will be able to minimize the conflict significantly.It has short, medium, and long term recommendations that can convert conflict to co-existence. However, the authorities have not even looked at it so far and it has been set aside for more than one year. What is being attempted is a mere waste of public money.”Our studies found that this is a huge socio-economic problem affecting the public in more than 130 Divisional Secretariat divisions in 19 districts of Sri Lanka. I think the general public should understand this reality and present a common front against these useless attempts to combat the problem,” he added.



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UNDP: Rs 600 bn tax cut a huge mistake

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Director of the Sustainable Finance Hub of the UNDP Marcos Neto has called the decision to do away with a range of taxes here a fundamental mistake committed by Sri Lanka.The comment was made at the Parliament complex during an interactive dialogue on ‘Revenue Generation as a Pathway to Sri Lanka’s Economic Recovery’ on Tuesday (09). It was organised on a request by Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, former Chairman of the Committee on Public Finance to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The Opposition as well as several other parties alleged that the government had lost as much as Rs 600 bn due to the controversial decision to do away with a range of taxes including PAYE, NBT (Nation Building Tax), Withholding tax, Capital Gain tax imposed on the Colombo Stock Exchange, Bank Debit tax and unprecedented reduction of VAT (Value Added Tax). The 15% VAT and the 2% NBT which amounted to 17% imposed on all goods and services were unified and reduced to 8%, effective from the first of December 2019.

The decision was taken at the first Cabinet meeting of the Gotabaya Rajapaksa government on 27 Nov. 2019.Governor of the Central Bank Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe is on record as having said that the powers that be ignored the IMF warning not to do so and also the immediate need to restructure Sri Lanka’s debt (SF)

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Debate on power tariff hike on 29 Aug.

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Party leaders have decided to debate the electricity tariff hikes in parliament on 29 August.The date was fixed for the debate following a request by the main opposition SJB.The debate will be held from 9.30 am to 4.30 pm on 29 August.

Chief Opposition Whip Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella told Parliament on Wednesday (10) that as per the proposed tariff hike the monthly electricity bill of domestic consumers would increase by 75 percent to 125 percent. “This is unbearable. This is like sending the people to an electric chair while they are struggling to make ends meet amidst a massive increase in cost of living.

How does this government expect people would be able to pay such an exorbitant price for electricity? We demand a debate in parliament before this proposed tariff hike is implemented,” Kiriella said.

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British national to be deported

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Department of Immigration and Emigration has ordered Kayleigh Fraser, a British national whose passport has been taken into custody after she posted on social media anti-government protests, for violating her visa conditions, to leave the country by 15 August. The Department has already cancelled her visa.

Earlier this month Immigration and Emigration officials visited Fraser at her home and took her passport into custody. The Department said Fraser had been in Sri Lanka for medical reasons since 2019. She had returned home several times, it said.

The Immigration and Emigration officers told her to visit them within the next seven days.Fraser on 02 August said that a group of immigration officers had visited her and asked for her travel document. She said that officials told her that they would return her passport when she visited the Department of Immigration and Emigration.

Fraser added that she had received an anonymous call asking her to leave Sri Lanka as soon as possible before facing ‘big problems.’ Immigration officials visited her house a few days after the call.

Fraser has shared a number of photographs and videos from the ‘Gota Go Gama’ site. Human Rights groups and activists have accused the Sri Lankan government of using Emergency regulations to harass and arbitrarily detain activists seeking political reform and accountability for the country’s economic crisis.

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