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JVP stance on debt traps, fertilizer import bans, ports and PC elections



by Saman Indrajith

The JVP says that the country is caught-up in what it calls ‘debt-trap diplomacy’ and warns that Sri Lanka is poised to lose more national assets in the immediate future. “Several rating agencies downgraded Sri Lanka’s sovereign credit ratings, the long-term foreign-currency issuer and senior unsecured ratings, while the long-term foreign-currency issuer default rating signalling concerns about the country’s ability to fulfil foreign debt repayments. In the face of this crisis, the government will either have to print more currency, borrow more or sell off national assets,” says former JVP Kalutara District MP and Politburo member Dr Nalinda Jayatissa in an interview with the Sunday Island.


Q: Some ministers have made statements about the possibility of holding elections for provincial councils. Is your party ready for provincial council elections?

A: They started speaking of provincial council elections only after Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla’s recent visit. The visit has jolted the government into action. The elections are to be held not because people have asked for them but because India wants the government to have them. This indicates the present plight of our nation. In 2019, Gotabaya Rajapaksa came to power under the slogan of ‘Rata Rakina Viruva’ (The hero who protects the country). Now that same hero has succumbed to pressure from India, the US and China and many other foreign powers.

Q: Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila says that Trincomalee oil tank farm had been given to India by former governments in 1987 and 2003. The present government tries to show they are on a mission get the tanks back from India. What is your party’s stand on this?

A: We believe that Trincomalee harbour and the oil tank farm were the reason for India shoving the Indo-Lanka Accord down our throat in 1987. The then President was supportive of US camp while India was supporting the USSR bloc. President Jayewardene was considering giving Trincomalee to the US. India was upset and invaded the air space of this country, dropped parippu and sent Indian ships to our waters to terrorize that government and coerce it to sign the Indo-Lanka Accord.

The correspondence between Jayewardene and Rajiv Gandhi before the signing of the Accord shows that India would not let Lanka make independent decisions about the use of Trincomalee harbour without India’s concurrence. But such conditions are not included in the agreement. In 2003, Ranil Wickremesinghe’s government leased 99 oil tanks for 35 years to India for an annual fee of 100,000 US dollars. A Memorandum of Understanding was signed to reach an agreement in six months. It is only with the signing of such an MoU that the lease would have had legal effect. However there has been no such agreement since 2003. Therefore, India does not have any legal hold of the oil tanks and that land. Yet, they have paid the annual fee for the past 18 years.

Gammanpila is only putting up a show. The former ministers who had the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) under their purview, Susil Premjayantha, Anura Priyadarshana Yapa and Chandima Weerakkody, got cabinet papers passed in 2011, 2014 and 2016 stating that those oil tanks belong to the Lankan government. India continues to hold those tanks illegally. One of our trade unions in 2017 filed a case at the Supreme Court against this. The decision is pending.

In terms of the provisions of the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation Act No. 28 of 1961, only the CPC can import petroleum to this country. Ranil Wickremesinghe broke that monopoly in 2004 and gave permission to Lanka Indian Oil Corporation (LIOC) to import fuel for 20 years with effect from January that year. That permission expires in December, 2023. Then the monopoly of petroleum importing, exporting, storing, refining, distributing and selling will return to the CPC. If government would not extend this permit, then India will lose its argument for the need to use Trincomalee Tank Farm. India’s present need is to get the oil tanks and the land they stand on for another 50 to 60 years. That was the primary objective of the Indian Foreign Secretary’s visit. Their actual target is the Trincomalee harbour and the oil tank farm gives them a foothold to move in that direction.

Q: So it’s all about Trincomalee harbour?

A: Yes, it is. Not a single harbour but many. The harbour in Trincomalee is considered one of the finest deep-sea, natural harbours in a strategic location. Sri Lanka’s geostrategic location is vital not only for the Asia-Pacific region but for the entire world. The importance of that location finally depends on the control of our harbours. We have three main harbours in Colombo, Hambantota and Trincomalee. What has happened to them? Hambantota is now owned by China for 198 years. It is China that controls the Hambantota port and its surrounding land of 15,000 acres. The Trincomalee harbour is being eyed by India. Then we have the Colombo Port, which is considered one of the busiest harbours in the Indian Ocean and is at No. 24 in the Top 50 World Container Ports list.

This position could be bettered if we could increase the depth of the access route to that port, deepen and expand the terminals and berths and increase the number of terminal operations opening the way for the world’s largest vessels to enter the Colombo Port. Now South Asia Gateway Terminal (SAGT) with berth of 18 meter depth is controlled by China. Mahinda Rajapaksa gave it to China for 35 years in 2012. Basil Rajapaksa recently brought a cabinet paper to give 13 acres of adjacent land to China to set up an operational and service center. So, even when the 35-year period ends, China will still have control there.

When China is given such hold, other countries also try to get a piece of the pie. The Selendiva project will enable selling many adjacent areas covering the Grand Oriental Hotel, Gafoor Building, York Building, Foreign Ministry and the old GPO. The Bank of Ceylon (York Street) is earmarked to be moved to Battaramullla, so that land too could be sold. There had been an attempt to give away the East Container Terminal (ECT) to an Indian company but it was suspended owing to protests. SAGT could be taken back by the Ports Authority in 2028. Currently it is under John Keells Holdings which is the local agent of India’s Adani Group that is involved in the West Container Terminal (WCT) development. After building that terminal, the two most important terminals of the Colombo Port will be controlled by China and India. This process shows how we have lost control of the three most important terminals during the past ten years. The income they earn is taken by foreigners to their countries leaving us with little.

Historical records show that the harbours have been among the most important feature in our civilisation. Recent archaeological findings yield evidence to prove that the Anuradhapura civilisation had been founded on the Mathota harbour which is said to be in Mannar. It was this harbour that supported the thriving Anuradhapura civilisation that constructed giant stupas and tanks during the 400 years from 150 AD to 250 AD.

During that period, South Indian traders invaded the Anuradhapura kingdom and ruled it intermittently when they had the control of Mathota and its resources. King Elara ruled that kingdom for 44 years and took away what it generated to South India. Later five other South Indian rulers before King Vattagamani Abhaya did the same. They took home what was earned from that harbour. They (the harbours) have been a principal prop of our civilisation.

Even when the Portuguese came here, they asked the King of Kotte only for one thing – that was to build a fort near the Colombo port. The present day rulers are depriving this country and its people the ownership of those harbours and thereby we lose the country’s geostrategic importance.

Q: The government describes those transactions as investments. Do not we need such investments?

A: China spent only USD 500 million to develop South Terminal of Colombo Port. The Lankan government took a loan of USD 1,400 million to build the Hambantota port. If the government took a loan of USD 500 million instead and developed the South Terminal of the Colombo Port, then we would have earned profits from there. China or India will not come here to invest in our health, transport or education sectors. Their investments have the objective of snaring us in a debt trap and taking control of our assets.

Even the previous governments used to have similar excuses. They used to say there were loss making enterprises which needed to be privatized. That has no place in the present times, so they use the word investments. For example, 40 percent of the Kerawalapitiya power plant is being sold to America’s New Fortress Energy (NFE). That plant is built and we could earn profits in the years ahead. Now it is being sold. The government is handing over the gas pipeline and floating storage system for the Kerawalapitiya power plant with the entire supply of gas to the NFE for a period of 10 years. There is massive waste, fraud and corruption in awarding this contract.

A contract has been awarded to the company without a tender to supply liquefied natural gas for 10 years at a cost of US$ 6 billion. Usually, we need electricity from the Kerawalapitiya power plant only between 6.00 pm and 12.00 pm. The ‘Take or Pay’ (TOP) deal to which we have committed ourselves is hugely disadvantageous as we will be paying for LNG we will not be using because we don’t need it. Could such deals be called investments?

This power plant is to supply around 35 percent of the power generated to the national grid. So NFE will have a near power supply monopoly in this country. It will also have the opportunity to place ships for floating storage near Colombo harbour permanently. These are not investments. If they really are investments, the government should have called for separate tenders for the floating storage and the pipeline and kept the ownership of the plant 100 percent. Gas could have been purchased at the world market prices through spot tender or term tender processes.

Q: The government says that there is economic instability therefore they are compelled to take such decisions. Is this true?

A: It is those whoz had governed this country since Independence, who should be held responsible for the current economic instability. As of now the country’s sum total of debt is nearly 17,000 billion rupees. Our total revenue is not sufficient to pay the loan and interest instalments. In this scenario, the government has solutions such as printing money, taking more loans and selling off national assets to pay the loans. It is said that the government has printed currency notes worth Rs 1,400 billions during the past 20 months. It is a sum equal to total government revenue for a year. This would certainly result in inflation.

People should ask the question why we have borrowed so much. We as a nation are trapped in debt raised for loans taken for mega projects some of which were not our priorities. A country with an economy like this should never have borrowed to build an International Cricket Stadium at Sooriyawewa, an International Convention Hall at Hambantota or the Lotus Tower in Colombo. These are neither essential nor priorities. The loans taken to pay for them were many times their actual cost with commissions ending up in the pockets of politicians. Whenever there are international exposés such as the recent Pandora Papers, many names of Lankans surface. They show how such commissions are stashed away in overseas accounts. What these political leaders do is show people a mega project and take their cut. When the loan cannot be settled they sell off national assets. This is the ultimate consequence of a process known as ‘debt-trap diplomacy’. We are in this plight because of a corrupt political culture.

Q: Hardly a day passes without a protest. Farmers stage protests everywhere in the rural hinterland demanding fertilizer. What’s the JVP standpoint on this fertilizer issue? Do you recommend continued use of chemical fertilizers?

A: The first excuse of the government when they abruptly stopped imports of chemical fertilizers, insecticides, weedicides and pesticides was that this was done to save dollars going out of the country. Then weeks later they said the ban was to save people from kidney disease and cancer. Organic fertilizers are fine but no country can switch from chemical to organic all at once. It is not feasible to ask farmers to go organic in the next Maha season soon after the end of Yala season. Farmers, agricultural scientists and everyone who dared to open their mouths in the Agriculture Ministry repeatedly said that this was not practical. But the President and the government did not listen. Now we are in a crisis. This will surely result in a food scarcity in a few months time.

The government says that it will compensate the farmers for crop losses if that happens. Such compensation would be sufficient only for few months for the farmers. But what about the food shortages? You cannot eat currency notes. This is just another example for the whimsical nature of this President. Apart from that there is a serious doubt whether this is just the beginning of a plan with the objective of compelling farmers to sell their land. When farmers cannot cultivate for two or three seasons, they have no option but to give up their livelihoods. They will have to sell their land or lease them to companies. This is an agricultural country. When agriculture is destroyed this country would go bankrupt in few years time.

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Lives of journalists increasingly on the firing line



Since the year 2000 some 45 journalists have been killed in the conflict-ridden regions of Palestine and senior Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was the latest such victim. She was killed recently in a hail of bullets during an Israeli military raid in the contested West Bank. She was killed in cold blood even as she donned her jacket with the word ‘PRESS’ emblazoned on it.

While claims and counter-claims are being made on the Akleh killing among some of the main parties to the Middle East conflict, the Israeli police did not do their state any good by brutally assaulting scores of funeral mourners who were carrying the body of Akleh from the hospital where she was being treated to the location where her last rites were to be conducted in East Jerusalem.

The impartial observer could agree with the assessment that ‘disproportionate force’ was used on the mourning civilians. If the Israeli government’s position is that strong-arm tactics are not usually favoured by it in the resolution conflictual situations, the attack on the mourners tended to strongly belie such claims. TV footage of the incident made it plain that brazen, unprovoked force was used on the mourners. Such use of force is decried by the impartial commentator.

As for the killing of Akleh, the position taken by the UN Security Council could be accepted that “an immediate, thorough, transparent and impartial investigation” must be conducted on it. Hopefully, an international body acceptable to the Palestinian side and other relevant stakeholders would be entrusted this responsibility and the wrong-doers swiftly brought to justice.

Among other things, the relevant institution, may be the International Criminal Court, should aim at taking urgent steps to end the culture of impunity that has grown around the unleashing of state terror over the years. Journalists around the world are chief among those who have been killed in cold blood by state terrorists and other criminal elements who fear the truth.

The more a journalist is committed to revealing the truth on matters of crucial importance to publics, the more is she or he feared by those sections that have a vested interest in concealing such vital disclosures. This accounts for the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh, for instance.

Such killings are of course not unfamiliar to us in Sri Lanka. Over the decades quite a few local journalists have been killed or been caused to disappear by criminal elements usually acting in league with governments. The whole truth behind these killings is yet to be brought to light while the killers have been allowed to go scot-free and roam at large. These killings are further proof that Sri Lanka is at best a façade democracy.

It is doubtful whether the true value of a committed journalist has been fully realized by states and publics the world over. It cannot be stressed enough that the journalist on the spot, and she alone, writes ‘the first draft of history’. Commentaries that follow from other quarters on a crisis situation, for example, are usually elaborations that build on the foundational factual information revealed by the journalist. Minus the principal facts reported by the journalist no formal history-writing is ever possible.

Over the decades the journalists’ death toll has been increasingly staggering. Over the last 30 years, 2150 journalists and media workers have been killed in the world’s conflict and war zones. International media reports indicate that this figure includes the killing of 23 journalists in Ukraine, since the Russian invasion began, and the slaying of 11 journalists, reporting on the doings of drug cartels in Mexico.

Unfortunately, there has been no notable international public outcry against these killings of journalists. It is little realized that the world is the poorer for the killing of these truth-seekers who are putting their lives on the firing line for the greater good of peoples everywhere. It is inadequately realized that the public-spirited journalist too helps in saving lives; inasmuch as a duty-conscious physician does.

For example, when a journalist blows the lid off corrupt deals in public institutions, she contributes immeasurably towards the general good by helping to rid the public sector of irregularities, since the latter sector, when effectively operational, has a huge bearing on the wellbeing of the people. Accordingly, a public would be disempowering itself by turning a blind eye on the killing of journalists. Essentially, journalists everywhere need to be increasingly empowered and the world community is conscience-bound to consider ways of achieving this. Bringing offending states to justice is a pressing need that could no longer be neglected.

The Akleh killing cannot be focused on in isolation from the wasting Middle East conflict. The latter has grown in brutality and inhumanity over the years and the cold-blooded slaying of the journalist needs to be seen as a disquieting by-product of this larger conflict. The need to turn Spears into Ploughshares in the Middle East is long overdue and unless and until ways are worked out by the principal antagonists to the conflict and the international community to better manage the conflict, the bloodletting in the region is unlikely to abate any time soon.

The perspective to be placed on the conflict is to view the principal parties to the problem, the Palestinians and the Israelis, as both having been wronged in the course of history. The Palestinians are a dispossessed and displaced community and so are the Israelis. The need is considerable to fine-hone the two-state solution. There is need for a new round of serious negotiations and the UN is duty-bound to initiate this process.

Meanwhile, Israel is doing well to normalize relations with some states of the Arab world and this is the way to go. Ostracization of Israel by Arab states and their backers has clearly failed to produce any positive results on the ground and the players concerned will be helping to ease the conflict by placing their relations on a pragmatic footing.

The US is duty-bound to enter into a closer rapport with Israel on the need for the latter to act with greater restraint in its treatment of the Palestinian community. A tough law and order approach by Israel, for instance, to issues in the Palestinian territories is clearly proving counter-productive. The central problem in the Middle East is political in nature and it calls for a negotiated political solution. This, Israel and the US would need to bear in mind.

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Doing it differently, as a dancer



Dancing is an art, they say, and this could be developed further, only by an artist with a real artistic mind-set. He must be of an innovative mind – find new ways of doing things, and doing it differently

According to Stephanie Kothalawala – an extremely talented dancer herself – Haski Iddagoda, who has won the hearts of dance enthusiasts, could be introduced as a dancer right on top of this field.


had a chat with Haski, last week, and sent us the following interview:

* How did you start your dancing career?

Believe me, it was a girl, working with me, at office, who persuaded me to take to dancing, in a big way, and got me involved in events, connected with dancing. At the beginning, I never had an idea of what dancing, on stage, is all about. I was a bit shy, but I decided to take up the challenge, and I made my debut at an event, held at Bishop’s College.

* Did you attend dancing classes in order to fine-tune your movements?

Yes, of course, and the start was in 2010 – at dancing classes held at the Colombo Aesthetic Resort.

* What made you chose dancing as a career?

It all came to mind when I checked out the dancing programmes, on TV. After my first dancing programme, on a TV reality show, dancing became my passion. It gave me happiness, and freedom. Also, I got to know so many important people, around the country, via dancing.

* How is your dancing schedule progressing these days?

Due to the current situation, in the country, everything has been curtailed. However, we do a few programmes, and when the scene is back to normal, I’m sure there will be lots of dance happenings.

* What are your achievements, in the dancing scene, so far?

I have won a Sarasavi Award. I believe my top achievement is the repertoire of movements I have as a dancer. To be a top class dancer is not easy…it’s hard work. Let’s say my best achievement is that I’ve have made a name, for myself, as a dancer.

* What is your opinion about reality programmes?

Well, reality programmes give you the opportunity to showcase your talents – as a dancer, singer, etc. It’s an opportunity for you to hit the big time, but you’ve got to be talented, to be recognised. I danced with actress Chatu Rajapaksa at the Hiru Mega Star Season 3, on TV.

* Do you have your own dancing team?

Not yet, but I have performed with many dance troupes.

* What is your favourite dancing style?

I like the style of my first trainer, Sanjeewa Sampath, who was seen in Derana City of Dance. His style is called lyrical hip-hop. You need body flexibility for that type of dance.

* Why do you like this type of dancing?

I like to present a nice dancing act, something different, after studying it.

* How would you describe dancing?

To me, dancing is a valuable exercise for the body, and for giving happiness to your mind. I’m not referring to the kind of dance one does at a wedding, or party, but if you properly learn the art of dancing, it will certainly bring you lots of fun and excitement, and happiness, as well. I love dancing.

* Have you taught your dancing skills to others?

Yes, I have given my expertise to others and they have benefited a great deal. However, some of them seem to have forgotten my contribution towards their success.

* As a dancer, what has been your biggest weakness?

Let’s say, trusting people too much. In the end, I’m faced with obstacles and I cannot fulfill the end product.

* Are you a professional dancer?

Yes, I work as a professional dancer, but due to the current situation in the country, I want to now concentrate on my own fashion design and costume business.

* If you had not taken to dancing, what would have been your career now?

I followed a hotel management course, so, probably, I would have been involved in the hotel trade.

* What are your future plans where dancing is concerned?

To be Sri Lanka’s No.1 dancer, and to share my experience with the young generation.

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Responding to our energy addiction



by Ranil Senanayake

Sri Lanka today is in the throes of addiction withdrawal. Reliant on fossil fuels to maintain the economy and basic living comforts, the sudden withdrawal of oil, coal and gas deliveries has exposed the weakness and the danger of this path of ‘development’ driven by fossil energy. This was a result of some poorly educated aspirants to political power who became dazzled by the advancement of western industrial technology and equated it with ‘Development’. They continue with this blind faith even today.

Thus, on December 20th 1979, an official communiqué was issued by the Government and displayed in the nation’s newspapers stating, “No oil means no development, and less oil, less development. It is oil that keeps the wheels of development moving”. This defined with clarity what was to be considered development by the policy-makers of that time. This fateful decision cast a deadly policy framework for the nation. The energy source that was to drive the national economy would be fossil-based. Even today, that same policy framework and its adherents continue. Everything, from electricity to cooking fuel, was based on fossil energy.

The economics of development, allows externalizing all the negative effects of ‘development’ into the environment, this being justified because, “industrialisation alleviates poverty”. The argument, is that economies need to industrialise in order to reduce poverty; but industrialisation leads to ‘unavoidable emissions. Statements like, ‘reduction in poverty leads to an increase in emissions’ is often trotted out as dogma. Tragically, these views preclude a vision of development based on high tech, non-fossil fuel driven, low consumptive lifestyles. Indeed, one indicator of current ‘development’ is the per capita consumption of power, without addressing the source of that power.

A nation dependent on fossil fuel is very much like an addict dependent on drugs. The demand is small, at first, but grows swiftly, until all available resources are given. In the end, when there is nothing else left to pawn, even the future of their children will be pawned and finally the children themselves! Today, with power cuts and fuel shortages, the pain of addiction begins to manifest.

The creation of desire

This perspective of ‘development’, the extension of so-called ‘civilised living’ is not new to us in Sri Lanka, Farrer, writing in 1920, had this to say when visiting Colombo:

“Modern, indeed, is all this, civilised and refined to a notable degree. All the resources of modern culture are thick about you, and you feel that the world was only born yesterday, so far as right-thinking people are concerned.

And, up and down in the shade of glare, runs furiously the unresting tide of life. The main street is walled in by high, barrack like structures, fiercely western in the heart of the holy East, and the big hotels upon its frontage extend their uncompromising European facades. Within them there is a perpetual twilight, and meek puss-faced Sinhalese take perpetually the drink orders of prosperous planters and white-whiskered old fat gentlemen in sun hats lined with green. At night these places are visible realisation of earthly pleasure to the poor toiling souls from the farthest lonely heights of the mountains and the jungle.” The process goes on still …

Develop we must, but cautiously – with the full awareness of the long-term consequences of each process. Development must be determined by empowering the fundamental rights of the people and of the future generations. Clean air, clean water, access to food and freedom from intoxication, are some of these fundamental rights. Any process that claims to be part of a development process must address these, among other social and legal fundamental rights.

One problem has been that, the movement of a country with traditional non-consumptive values, into a consumerist society based on fossil energy tends to erode these values rapidly. Often, we are told that this is a necessary prerequisite to become a ‘developed country’, but this need not be so. We need to address that fundamental flaw stated in 1979. We need to wean ourselves away from the hydrocarbon-based economy to a carbohydrate-based economy. Which means moving from a fossil fuel-based economy to a renewable energy-based economy.

Fossil Fuels or fossil hydrocarbons are the repository of excess carbon dioxide that is constantly being injected into the atmosphere by volcanic action for over the last 200 million years. Hydrocarbons are substances that were created to lock up that excess Carbon Dioxide, sustaining the stable, Oxygen rich atmosphere we enjoy today. Burning this fossil stock of hydrocarbons is the principal driver of modern society as well as climate change. It is now very clear that the stability of planetary climate cycles is in jeopardy and a very large contributory factor to this crisis are the profligate activities of modern human society.

As a response to the growing public concern that fossil fuels are destroying our future, the fossil industry developed a ‘placating’ strategy. Plant a tree, they say, the tree will absorb the carbon we emit and take it out of the atmosphere, through this action we become Carbon neutral. When one considers that the Carbon which lay dormant for 200 million years was put into the atmosphere today, can never be locked up for an equal amount of time by planting a tree. A tree can hold the Carbon for 500 years at best and when it dies its Carbon will be released into the atmosphere again as Carbon Dioxide.

Carbon Dioxide is extracted from the atmosphere by plants and converted into a solid form through the action of photosynthesis. Photosynthetic biomass performs the act of primary production, the initial step in the manifestation of life. This material has the ability to increase in mass by the absorption of solar or other electromagnetic radiation, while releasing oxygen and water vapor into the atmosphere. It is only photosynthetic biomass that powers carbon sequestration, carbohydrate production, oxygen generation and water transformation, i.e., all actions essential for the sustainability of the life support system of the planet.

Yet currently, it is only one product of this photosynthetic biomass, sequestered carbon, usually represented by wood/timber, that is recognized as having commercial value in the market for mitigating climate change. The ephemeral part, the leaves, are generally ignored, yet the photosynthetic biomass in terrestrial ecosystems are largely composed of leaves, this component needs a value placed on it for its critical ‘environmental services’

With growth in photosynthetic biomass, we will see more Oxygen, Carbon sequestering and water cleansing, throughout the planet. As much of the biomass to be gained is in degraded ecosystems around the planet and as these areas are also home to the world’s rural poor, these degraded ecosystems have great growth potential for generating photosynthetic biomass of high value. If the restoration of these degraded ecosystems to achieve optimal photosynthetic biomass cover becomes a global goal, the amazing magic of photosynthesis could indeed help change our current dire course, create a new paradigm of growth and make the planet more benign for our children.

Instead of flogging the dead horse of fossil energy-based growth as ‘Economic Development’, instead of getting the population addicted to fossil energy, will we have the commonsense to appreciate the value of photosynthetic biomass and encourage businesses that obtain value for the nations Primary Ecosystem Services (PES)? The realization of which, will enrich not only our rural population but rural people the world over!

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