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Minister says pine forests will be cleared to make way for environment-friendly trees



In Nuwara Eliya district

by Douglas Nanayakkara

Under a program initiated by Forestry and Wildlife Minister C. B. Ratnayake, pine forests in the Nuwara Eliya district are to be replaced with productive indigenous trees beneficial to the eco-system.

“Pine forests serve no useful purpose either to man or animal. These trees impact adversely on the environment as they deplete the water flow in springs”, he noted.

Even animals don’t live in pine forests as there’s no water. It is time to give this matter serious thought as major rivers that provide water to both humans and animals in the country originate from Sri Pada in the Nuwara Eliya district, the Minister told the town development planning meeting at the Nuwara Municipal Council last week.

He said that under the proposed program, pine forests will be cleared by the State Timber Corporation and trees that contribute towards preserving the environment will be planted in their place, Ratnayake observed.

He said that water resources are becoming increasingly scarce largely due to pine forests, which foreigners of a by-gone era opted for in a big way to derive an income from these plantations.

Conservator of Forests, Mrs. K. A. U. D. I. Kalansooriya, said pine is found largely in Sri Lanka’s districts of Kalutara, Matara, Kandy, Matale, Nuwara Eliya, Badulla, Kegalle, Matara and Galle. They are also found in the Hambantota and Gampaha districts to a lesser degree.

There is a total 16,000 hectares in these districts with the highest 3,500 hectares in Kandy district followed by 2,800 in Badulla district and 2,300 in Nuwara Eliya district, she said.

However, there is a school of thought amongst environmentalists that pine forests are useful as they help quick re-forestation and alleviate landslides in arid territory and abandoned tea estates.

They believe that pine, which is quite common in the hill country, although they are not native trees, play a useful role as they grow fast even on less fertile hills.

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Cardinal: Was there any link between passage of 20A and Easter Sunday probe outcome?



… stands by his claim of foreign involvement

By Norman Palihawadana

Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith yesterday said that there could be a connection between the outcome of the probe into the Easter Sunday attacks and the enlisting of Muslim MPs’ support for the passage of the 20th Amendment.

The Cardinal said: “The leader of a Muslim political party voted against the 2Oth Amendment. But his MPs voted for it. The brother of Rishad Bathiudeen too was released around the same time. These are questionable developments. These events could be part of a deal.”

The Cardinal reiterated that international forces were behind the Easter Sunday attacks and that he did not believe that there had been any local political group directly involved in the Easter attacks.

Addressing the media yesterday, the Cardinal said that the remarks he made on Sunday had been misunderstood. He stood by his claim that international forces had been behind the attacks, he said.

“However, some people claim that I said a local political group was behind the attack. I have always maintained that there are international forces that use religious and ethnic extremists such as Wahabists to create conflicts. I was referring to such groups.”

The Cardinal added that only a small group of Muslims was involved in extremism.

The Archbishop also said that former President Maithripala Sirisena believed that taking action against extremists like NTJ leader Zahran Hashim would create unnecessary issues.

“Something along these lines is also in the PCoI on Easter Sunday attacks. The report also implies that the then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was lenient in dealing with growing extremism in Sri Lanka.”

The Cardinal urged the government to protect the country and ensure that there would be no repeats of incidents like the Easter Sunday attacks.

The Archbishop of Colombo requested all religious leaders to work on rebuilding trust among all communities.



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AG appeals to Supreme Court against granting of bail to Ravi, others



The Attorney General yesterday appealed to the Supreme Court against bail for former Minister Ravi Karunanayake and seven others indicted in the bond case by the Colombo Special High Court Trial-at-Bar.

The eight accused were arrested and remanded over the bond scams. Later, they were released on bail.

The court warned that if the accused attempted to exert influence on the witnesses, by any means, bail would be revoked and they would be placed on remand until the end of the trial.



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26 more coronavirus cases detected in Jaffna Tirunelveli market area



Another 26 COVID-19 cases had been detected on Sunday, from the Tirunelveli Market in Jaffna, which was the epicentre of the recent outbreak in the town, Dr. A. Kethiswaran, Regional Director Health Services told the media yesterday.

The market and its surroundings had been reopened on April 11 following a 19-day lockdown. However, 378 PCR tests were conducted after the Sinhala and Tamil New Year and 26 of them proved positive.

Dr. Kethiswaran warned last week that there might be a spike in COVID-19 cases in Jaffna after the New Year celebrations.

A large number of COVID-19 cases had been reported in Jaffna in the past few weeks. Thus, the people should adhere to health guidelines. If people did not follow the guidelines, there would be a spike in cases and then some places would have to be lockdown, he warned.

“It’s too early to say whether we have to close the area down. We are monitoring the situation,” DR. Kethiswaran said.

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