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MP Pathirana reveals ruse resorted to by unscrupulous businessmen to grab forest lands



By Saman Indrajith

 Matara District SJB MP Buddhika Pathirana told parliament yesterday that unscrupulous businessmen had found a way to dupe officials by clearing patches in the middle of the jungle to plant tea and wait for a couple of years to clear the surrounding areas in the jungle.

 “When the officials commence investigations, they claim their tea plantations have been there for a long time,” MP Pathirana said, asking government to probe such incidents and take action to protect the forest cover.

 Minister of Environment Mahinda Amaraweera said that he would look into the matter and admitted that continuous increase of population and some human activities had resulted in the shrinking of forest cover in the country.

 Asked whether he would admit that the North Central Province had already been reduced to semi-arid area, the Minister said that not only the NCP but many other provinces in the dry zone of the country had suffered from a long-drawn out drought between 2015 and 2018, but the NCP had not become a semi-arid are.

Minister Amaraweera said some regions in the country were affected by natural disasters such as floods, drought, landslides etc., all the time due to ill-effects of climate change.

Asked whether steps would be taken to develop national policies for environment conservation, Minister Amaraweera said that there were already many national policies in that regard as follows: National Environment Policy (2003), National Policy on Wetlands and the Conservation Strategies (2006), National Air Quality Management Policy (2000), National Climate Change Policy (2012), National Policy on Wildlife Conservation (1990), National Policy on Invasive Alien Species (2016), National Forestry Policy (1995), National Policy on Solid Waste Management (2007), National Waste Management Policy (2018), National Policy on Conservation and Sustainable Utilization of Mangrove Ecosystems 2019, National Policy and Strategy for Cleaner Production  2005, National Policy on Biosafety (2011) and National Policy on Sustainable Consumption & Production (2019).

MP Pathirana said that former President Maithripala Sirisena soon before his leaving the office had signed a gazette to expand the Sinharaja forest by three times its present size, but the government had taken one year to publish it. “Subsequent, to this I saw a Facebook post by former President Sirisena that he signed 55 more such gazettes but they had not been published yet. When will those gazettes come out? Why is the government delaying them if the government is so concerned about the environment?”

Minister Amaraweera said that those gazettes would be printed in due course.

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SL gets Rs 452 mn for saving ill-fated tanker: Rs. 3.4 bn asked for



By Ifham Nizam and Rathindra Kuruwita

The Marine Enviro-nment Protection Authority (MEPA) yesterday received Rs. 452 million from London for having saved MT New Diamond, a super oil tanker that caught fire in the Sri Lanka’s territorial waters last year.

MEPA General Manager, Dr. P. B. Terney Pradeep Kumara told The Island that Rs. 442 million had come for the services rendered by the Sri Lanka Navy, MEPA and Rs. 10 million by way of a fine imposed on the Ship’s Captain.

However, Sri Lanka has to receive a much larger amount for the damage caused to the marine environment, Dr. Kumara said. Following the incident, Sri Lankan authorities filed charges against the Captain of the ill-fated vessel and made a claim for $2.4 million from the ship’s owners for the firefighting and pollution prevention efforts.

Twenty experts from the Universities of Moratuwa, Ruhuna and Sri Jayewardenepura submitted their recommendations as regards the damage to the environment, to the Attorney General. Based on the report, the Attorney General’s Department had asked for Rs. 3.4 billion (around USD 19 million) as compensation for environmental damage, the Coordinating Officer for the Attorney General, state counsel Nishara Jayaratne said.

Soon they would have discussions with the lawyers of the shipping agent concerned on compensation for environmental damage caused, she said.

Dr. Kumara, who is the former Head of the Department of Oceanography/Marine Geology of the Ruhuna University, said that the incident had caused deaths among marine species due to spillage of some toxic fuel from the vessel.

The MT New Diamond crude oil tanker was transporting 270,000 MT oil from the port of Meena Al Ahmadi in Kuwait to the Port of Paradip in India when a fire broke out in its engine room as the vessel was passing the eastern seas of Sri Lanka on September 3, 2020.

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PSC on gender equality meets for the first time



State Minister, Fernandopulle flanked by two other PSC members

Special attention on microfinance

The Parliamentary Select Committee appointed to further gender equality, to investigate instances of discrimination against women and to present recommendations to Parliament, focused on microfinance loans that are currently affecting a large number of women in Sri Lanka, when they met for the first time in Parliament recently.

The meeting was chaired by the State Minister of Primary Health Care, Epidemics and COVID-19 Disease Control Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle.

It was also revealed that the Cabinet had approved the re-establishment of an institution to regulate Microfinance loans in Sri Lanka.

The MPs also discussed the role of the Select Committee. They decided that the primary role of the Committee should be to investigate women’s grievances and all forms of discrimination based on gender, including workplace violence.

Another task before this committee is to examine and review laws that can be used to enhance gender equality, encourage relevant ministries and authorities to formulate plans to further gender equality and to allocate financial resources.

The Committee will also try to encourage greater women’s representation in decision-making bodies at the national and provincial levels as well as in government, civil society and the private sector.

MPs Rohini Kaviratne, (Dr.) Harini Amarasuriya, M. Udayakumar, S. Sritharan, Rohana Bandara and the Secretary to the Committee, Deputy Secretary General and Chief of Staff of the Parliament Kushani Rohanadheera were also present at the meeting.



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A/L Examination from October 04 to 30



The 2021 GCE Advanced Level examination would be held from October 4 to 30, Education Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris said yesterday addressing the media at his Ministry.

Minister Peiris said the examination was earlier scheduled to be held in August.

The Grade 5 scholarship examination would be held on October 03 and the 2021 GCE Ordinary Level (O/L) examination in the last week of January 2022, the Minister said.

“Usually, schools are open for academic activities for around 200 days a year. But in 2020, schools were open for about 150 days. It was around 130 days in the Western Province. We were not able to fill this gap with online classes due to lack of internet facilities in many parts of the country,” he said.

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