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MONLAR urges govt. to drop contradictory policies if serious about banning agrochemicals

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The Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR) has written to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, urging him to put in place a mechanism to coordinate various institutions that are needed to to make Sri Lanka the first nation to ban the use of toxic agrochemicals.

Given that there is no systematic government programme to promote carbonic agriculture among farmers, it is quite likely that many obstacles and challenges, in the short, medium, and long term to implement the programme will arise. The government must come up with a plan that addresses these challenges and mechanism that can lead to a change in attitudes and grassroot realities, MONLAR says.

“MONLAR commends the decision taken by the Cabinet of Ministers, on 27 April 2021, to ban the import of all agrochemicals with immediate effect. We are also grateful for your decision to approve the said Cabinet decision on 29 April 2021,” Chinthaka Rajapakshe, Moderator – MONLAR said in the letter to the President.

He says that the use of agrochemicals has had disastrous consequences in the past decades. The widespread use of these chemicals has contaminated soil and water, which has directly led to the increase in cancers and kidney diseases. This has not only negatively affected public health but also led to the overuse of agrochemicals besides undermining food sovereignty, unraveling the ecological balance, and causing the extinction of many animal and plant species.

“Since almost all agricultural inputs, used by Sri Lankan farmers are imported, it has allowed certain companies to build oligopolies. Currently, agriculture accounts for about 7% of the GDP but about 26% of the workforce are involved in agriculture. Often these workers are poor and receive government welfare assistance; most of them are malnourished and in the clutches of microcredit companies. MONLAR believes that promoting environmentally friendly agricultural practices can be a solution to all these problems.”

If the government is serious about banning agrochemicals and promoting environmentally friendly agriculture, it needs to convince the people that the decision to ban agrochemicals will not change when the political and economic context changes, MONLAR has said, pointing out that since coming into power the government has taken several contradictory decisions on agriculture.

“For example, the government initially announced that agrochemicals would be given to farmers free of charge and now it has banned them. Last year, the government said it would not allow fertiliser with heavy metals to enter the market but then it released 18,000 metric tons of fertiliser containing high amounts of heavy metals. These are only some of the policy contradictions.

Rajapakshe says in the MONLAR letter to the President that in the recent past, the government has given large tracts of land and water to companies and investors to expand large scale monoculture crops such as maize and sugarcane. These cultivations do require significant volumes of agrochemicals.

“A few months later, a decision has been taken to ban the import of agrochemicals. The government must clearly tell the public how it plans to rectify these contradictions,” he said.

Rajapakshe adds that if given an opportunity the MONLAR is ready to share with the government its experience with environmentally friendly agricultural practices.



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At least 17 killed after explosion in Peshawar mosque

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(picture from twitter)

BBC reported that at least 17 people have been killed in an explosion at a mosque in the Pakistani city of Peshawar.

The blast happened when the mosque was packed with worshippers and more than 90 people were injured.

A section of the building was destroyed, and officials say people are buried under the rubble. Several others are being taken to local hospitals.

The cause of the explosion is unclear.

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More heavy rain ahead for New Zealand’s largest city

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Auckland experienced an unprecedented amount of rainfall on Friday (picture BBC)

BBC reported that residents in flood-hit northern New Zealand are bracing for more heavy rains as officials issued severe weather alerts.

At least four people have died and a state of emergency was declared in Auckland, which on Friday experienced its worst downpour on record.

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Information Dept. media release: EC Chief asks public not to be misled

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by Priyan de Silva

Chairman of the Election Commission of Sri Lanka, Nimal Punchihewa, asked to comment on a special news release, purportedly issued by the Director General of the Department of Government Information, on Sunday (29), told  The Island  that preparations for the 09 March local government elections were going ahead, as planned, and that the media statement at issue was misleading.

The media statement says: “The gazette notice with signatures of the Chairman and other members of the Election Commission required for the commencement of the Local Government election process has not been sent to the Government Press for printing.”

Punchihewa requested the public not to be misled by any misinformation being spread in an attempt to create doubts in their minds.He also  reiterated that the EC would not be deterred by any acts of intimidation.

Three of the EC members have been threatened with death by an unidentified caller to resign from their posts. They are S. B. Divaratne, M. M. Mohamed and K. P. P. Pathirana. The Opposition has accused the government of trying to sabotage the LG polls.

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