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Knuckles conservation: Success, lessons showcased at forum

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Dr. Jasinghe having discussions with stakeholders

By Ifham Nizam

The United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP’s) Small Grants Programme (SGP) in the Knuckles Conservation Forest and its Buffer Zone landscape has contributed to the promotion of Agro-ecology, Biodiversity conservation, Soil conservation and Wetlands rehabilitation, said Resident Representative of UNDP in Sri Lanka Robert Juhkam.

Speaking at the Symposium on Strengthening Good Practices and Promoting Policy initiatives in the Knuckles Landscape, GEF-SGP Knuckles Landscape Policy Forum 2022, he said along with the discovery of 10 new endemic herp species which includes six snakes, three amphibians and one skink, a truly remarkable achievement for the project.

“Using a landscape approach where we work with communities and multi stakeholder groups through the lessons learnt, and the dedicated symposiums will aim to highlight, upscale and promote these policy initiatives and results,” he added.

The UNDP also said that encompassing nearly 21,000 hectares, the Knuckles Mountain Range is a biodiversity hotspot and habitat for numerous species endemic to the region. As of 2010, the Knuckles Conservation Forest has formed a part of the designated Central Highlands of UNESCO World Heritage Property, including the Peak Wilderness Protected Area and the Horton Plains National Park.

The Ministry of Environment had played the lead role in the effort by providing national policy guidance to implement the activities with the Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and Community Based Organisations (CBOs) supported by the Global Environmental Facility – Small Grants Programme GEF-SGP in the Knuckles landscape, Environment Ministry Secretary Dr. Anil Jasinghe said.

Dr. Jasinghe said: “The GEF-SGP embodies the very essence of sustainable development through ‘local action, global impacts’, by providing financial and technical support to projects that conserve and restore the environment while enhancing people’s wellbeing and livelihoods.”

He added SGP demonstrated that community action could maintain the delicate balance between human needs and environmental imperatives.

Comprising 35 peaks, this mountainous terrain was identified as a landscape that can enable community-based organizations to take collective actions for adaptive landscape management for socio-economic resilience. Between 2017 and 2021 through its Sixth Operational Phase, GEF-SGP provided grants to 14 community organizations to address biodiversity conservation, land degradation prevention and knowledge management.

The resulting success stories and lessons learnt were showcased at the Knuckles Policy Forum held recently at the Plant Genetic Resource Centre in Gannoruwa, highlighting how communities came forward to safeguard the nature around them, essential for their well-being and livelihoods. The forum was attended by representatives from the Government and State sector, members of the National Steering Committee, Civil Society Organizations, Private Sector, UN and Development sector.

Eco-tourism development initiatives to create sustainable income sources for the communities, and the documentation of traditional knowledge was emphasised as high priority initiatives. Herpetological Foundation Gte. Ltd. (HFSL), Dumbara Mituro Environment & Cultural Foundation, National Ethnic Unity Foundation (NEUF), Arunalu Community Development Centre, Community Development Centre (CDC), Centre for Integrated Indigenous Knowledge Systems (CIIKS), Community Resource Protection Centre (CRPC), Grama Abiwurdhi Foundation for Environmental Conservation (GAFEC), People’s Livelihood Development Foundation (PLDF), Anuruddha Arana Trust (AAT), Integrated Community Development Women’s Federation (ICDWF), Nirmanee Development Foundation, Rangiri Thakshana Piyasa, Sri Lanka Environment Exploration Society (SLEES), were all grantees that willingly empowered their communities to protect and conserve forests while researching and adding new knowledge to the understanding of the richness of the biodiversity of the area.



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BASL urges President to de-escalate tensions in different parts of country

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The Bar Association of Sri Lanka has called upon President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to instruct the Defence Secretary, the Commanders of the Tri Forces and the Inspector General of Police to ensure that there is an immediate de-escalation of tensions in different parts of the country – especially at fuel stations – understanding the difficulties faced by the public.”

 “Whilst keeping in mind that the police and armed forces are acting under very trying circumstances, nevertheless it is necessary to give strict instructions to the police and the forces to desist from violence in dealing with the public and to act with utmost restraint”, the BASL has said in a media statement.

 “We also call upon you to ensure that steps are taken under the law to deal with errant officers who have subjected civilians to such violence.”

The BASL is of the view that it is not appropriate for service personnel to be deployed in the present manner in matters which essentially should be managed by the Sri Lanka Police.

 The armed forces should also not be used to disturb or hinder peaceful protests as was seen last week in Galle.

Full text of the BASL letter to the President:

The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) expresses its gravest concerns at the current situation at fuel stations throughout the country and the reports of several incidents of conflicts between civilians and members of the police force and the armed forces at fuel stations. There has been video footage of civilians being assaulted by personnel of the armed forces and the police, the latest being of a civilian being kicked by an Army officer at a fuel station. There have also been situations of the police and Army opening fire into the air to contain the crowd.

Your Excellency is no doubt aware that thousands of desperate civilians are waiting in queues at hundreds of fuel stations in the country. The queues are kilometres long. The tension at the fuel stations have arisen from this desperation for which there is no immediate solution in sight.

The BASL wishes to warn Your Excellency of the imminent dangers this situation could give rise to. The present unrest could result in a conflagration between civilians and members of the armed forces or the police. Some years ago, confrontations between members of the public and the armed forces resulted in the deaths of civilians. Such incidents between the members of the armed forces or the police and the civilians will discredit Sri Lanka’s armed forces and the police.

We call upon Your Excellency to take all necessary steps to give instructions to the Defence Secretary, the Commanders of the Tri Forces and the Inspector General of Police to ensure that there is an immediate de-escalation of the situation in different parts of the country – especially at fuel stations – understanding the difficulties faced by public. Whilst keeping in mind that the police and armed forces are acting under very trying circumstances, nevertheless it is necessary to give strict instructions to the police and the forces to desist from violence in dealing with the public and to act with utmost restraint. We also call upon you to ensure that steps be taken under the law to deal with errant officers who have subjected civilians to such violence.

The Sri Lanka Army and other service personnel must be deployed only in very limited circumstances as contemplated in the Criminal Procedure Code. The BASL is of the view that it is not appropriate for service personnel to be deployed in the present manner in matters which essentially should be managed by the Sri Lanka Police. The Armed Forces should also not be used to disturb or hinder peaceful protests as was seen last week in Galle.

We trust that this will receive the immediate attention of the Government as to do otherwise may otherwise result in unprecedented turmoil and harm.

The BASL believes that the ultimate solution to the situation at fuel stations is to be transparent with the public and to ensure an equitable and effective system of fuel distribution throughout the country.

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SC orders AG to submit report on fuel purchases and distribution

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By A.J.A. Abeynayake

A three-member Supreme Court bench consisting of Justices Vijith Malalgoda, Mahinda Samayawardena and Arjuna Obeysekera yesterday ordered the Attorney General to submit a report on fuel purchases, the distribution thereof and the sectors to be provided with fuel on a priority basis.

The Supreme Court made the order after considering two fundamental rights petitions presented by the Bar Association of Sri Lanka.

The BASL has requested the Supreme Court to direct the Cabinet of Ministers to consult all stakeholders and independent experts to formulate and implement the necessary policies, and to provide concessions in relation to the prices of essential goods and services to the people including LP gas, fuel, electricity, milk powder, medicines and food.

The petitions were filed by the President of the BASL Saliya Pieris PC, Deputy President Anura Meddegoda PC, former Secretary Rajeev Amarasuriya, Treasurer Rajindh Perera and the Assistant Secretary Pasindu Silva.

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A/L may be delayed by one month

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Education Minister Sushil Premajayantha told Parliament yesterday that although it had been scheduled to hold the G.C.E. A/L Examination 2022 in November this year, it could be further delayed by another month.

Responding to a question by MP Shantha Bandara, the Minister said: “The examination should be held at least after three months of releasing the results of the previous A/L exam because the students who need to sit it again should have enough time to prepare,” the Minister said.

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