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‘Lost’ endemic lotus plant found after 50 years

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By Ifham Nizam

A rare endemic lotus plant species, widely thought to be extinct, has been discovered after 50 years in the Gulawita North Grama Niladhari Division, adjacent to the Nawalakanda forest in the Walallawita Divisional Secretariat Division in the Kalutara District.

Scientifically known as Strobilanthes rhytisperma, the species was last reported in the Central Province in 1867 and in the Ranwala Forest Reserve, in the Kalutara District, in 1971, but no living specimens had been found since, said researcher Peshala Pasan Karunaratne.

Karunaratne said the particular species had been thought to be limited to research notes as it had not been found anywhere.

The species has been confirmed by environmental researcher Karunaratne, who has been studying the species, after the rediscovery of the plant in the Walallawita area by Himesh Dilruwan Jayasinghe, an expert on the species.

The research team of Renuka Nilanthi Rajapaksa and Nuwan Chathuranga Jayawardena, engaged in research on plant species at the Department of Wildlife Conservation, also confirmed that the Lotus species was a Strobilanthes rhytisperma.

The Sinhala name of this plant is not known and as it is endemic to Sri Lanka, there is no name for this species in English or any other language and it has been scientifically named as Strobilanthes rhytisperma. Scientific taxonomy belongs to the genus S. rhytisperma of the genus Strobilanthes, of the family Acanthaceae of the genus Lamiales, and belongs to the genus Tracheophytes.

Some 450 species of the genus Strobilanthes, commonly known as Nelu, have been reported from Asia and Australia, including Sri Lanka.

Of these, 33 species are recorded from Sri Lanka and 27 of them are endemic species. Although no live plant specimens have been found so far, researchers believe the species may have been more widespread in the past, and the new findings confirm the evidence.

According to the 2020 Red Data List, this species is listed as a critically endangered species. Researchers predict that this species will lose habitat as lands are cleared for various crops and human habitation, and that this will further endanger forests.

The forest system where this plant was found is small with human settlements and lowland wet zone forest features such as Sinharaja Kanneliya. These small forest systems, which are home to a number of extremely rare plant and animal species, have not yet been formally studied, and it is hoped that if such a formal study could be conducted, many previously unknown species could be identified, environmentalists say, adding that it will enable the conservation of such rare and endangered species and pass on these species to future generations.



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Keheliya turns down request for abolishing price control on medicine

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Industry leader has sought court intervention

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella yesterday (17) said that in spite of difficulties caused by the foreign currency crisis price control on imported medicines couldn’t be done away with.

Abolition of price control on drugs would heap an enormous burden on the vast majority of people, Minister Rambukwella said.

Lawmaker Rambukwella said so when The Island sought his response to the Sri Lanka Chamber of the Pharmaceutical Industry (SLCPI) requesting the government to do away with price control. Claiming that the grouping imported over 80 percent of medicines into the country, the SLCPI recently warned of possible collapse of the industry unless remedial measures were taken swiftly.

Minister Rambukwella said that recently he met an SLCPI delegation at their request to discuss issues at hand. “Of course, I understand the difficulties experienced by all sectors, including the pharmaceutical trade. However, price control as regards medicine cannot be done away with,” Minister Rambukwella said.

The SLCPI has pointed out to the Minister that at the moment medicines were the only commodity under price control in the local market. The Health Minister asserted that it wouldn’t be fair to compare the medicine with other commodities.

Minister Rambukwella said that regardless of constrains, the government was trying to ensure uninterrupted supply of medicine and it wouldn’t be fair to do at this juncture.

In a statement sent to the media SLCPI asserted: “There is no solution to this dilemma than removing the price control of medicines and implement a fair and equitable pricing mechanism which will link the price of medicines to the dollar, inflation and direct costs such as raw material, fuel and freight charges, which will then make importing and marketing of medicines viable. As difficult as it may sound, the authorities will have to choose between having medicines at a cost and not having medicines at all.”

The SLCPI has already sought the intervention of the courts to establish what the grouping called a transparent pricing mechanism outside government price control.

Recently, Minister Rambukwella, at a meeting also attended by State Minister Dr. Channa Jayasumana called for a report on the requirement of medicines over the next six months. The Health Ministry declared that there was no shortage of drugs whereas SLCPI claimed some drugs were in short supply and the situation could get worse.

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Central Expressway: Rs 3 mn raked in within 12 hours

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Chief Government Whip and Highways Minister Johnston Fernando said yesterday that about three million rupees had been earned by way of toll within the first 12 hours of the opening of the second phase of the Central Expressway.

Rs 2,805,100.00 had been paid by the expressway users during the first 12 hours from 12 noon to midnight Sunday (16) after its opening by the President and the Prime Minister on Saturday (15).

The Minister said that during the first 12 hours of the period of toll collection, a total of 13,583 vehicles had traversed the most  scenic road stretch in the country between Mirigama and Kurunegala. No traffic accidents had been reported during the 12 hour period.

Minister Fernando said that the newly opened road had been allowed to be used by the public free of charge for 12 hours from midnight Saturday (15) to Sunday (16) noon.

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President to inaugurate second session of Ninth Parliament today

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by Saman Indrajith

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is scheduled to commence the second session of the Ninth Parliament today at 10 am with his third Presidential policy statement (formerly Throne Speech).

He made his first ‘Throne Speech’ on Jan 3, 2020, opening the Fourth Session of the Eighth Parliament and the second on Aug 20, 2020 to open the First Session of the Ninth Parliament.

Secretary General of Parliament, Dhammika Dasanayake said that MPs have been requested to arrive at the parliamentary complex at 9.25 am the latest.

The MPs, if accompanied by their spouses will alight from their vehicles at the Staff Entrance of the parliamentary building, while all other MPs are requested to drive up to the Members’ Entrance.

To facilitate orderly arrival, the MPs are requested that the Car Label provided them with be pasted on the inside top left-hand corner of the windscreen of their vehicles. On arrival at Parliament, Members’ vehicles would be directed by the Police to the appropriate Car Park.

Thereafter the MPs are requested to enter the lobbies of Parliament and to remain there until the Quorum Bells are rung.

President Rajapaksa is scheduled to arrive at the Main Steps of the Parliament Building at 9.40 a.m. and he would be received by Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena and the Secretary-General of Parliament.

The President will be escorted by them to the Parliament Building. Thereafter, the Speaker and the Secretary-General of Parliament will escort the President to his Chambers.

At 9.55 a.m. the Quorum Bells will be rung for five minutes and all Members will take their seats in the Chamber of Parliament.

The President’s procession will leave for the Chamber of Parliament and will enter the Chamber at 10.00 am. On entering the Chamber the President’s arrival will be announced whereupon all Members will stand in their places until the President reaches the Chair and requests the Members to be seated.

Thereafter, the Proclamation proroguing the Parliament and Summoning the Meeting of Parliament will be read by the Secretary General of Parliament. Then, the President will address Parliament.

After his policy statement the President will adjourn the House until 1.00 p.m. on Wednesday (19).

Thereafter, the President will leave the Chamber escorted by the Speaker and the Secretary-General of Parliament.

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