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New concept launched in SL on managing Covid-19 waste



Consumption patterns or what people consume and how they do it on a daily basis are determined with the social changes that take place over time. These changes impact our environment as well. The waste generated on a daily basis is the result of our own consumption patterns which affect our environment.

Natural disasters we face from time to time as well as social changes resulting from epidemics have a correlation with the waste generated. The Covid-19 epidemic, which is spreading around the world today, is a classic example. It has drastically changes the lives of people around the world.

As the use of masks, gloves, sanitizers and personal protective clothing becomes an essential part of everyday life, tons of such items are discarded after daily use. This special waste, or simply stated as Covid waste (or pandemic waste) is different from other types of waste as it is dangerous as well.

Due to the high percentage of single use plastic found in Covid waste, it does not decompose easily in the environment and t therefore accumulates. Such waste can be considered clinical malignancy under the pandemic condition as such items are associated with direct personal contact.

This means that such waste is no longer appropriate to be handled with municipal waste. Informal mixing of this waste with urban waste poses a serious health problem for persons involved in waste management. The health risks of open disposal should not be underestimated.

Covid waste, which is a new experience to the world, has now posed serious environmental issues. It was estimated that in 2020 alone, 56 billion face masks were used worldwide and 1.56 billion have ended up in the ocean. It is difficult to estimate the quantity of masks which has been properly disposed. However we will have to suffer the consequences of blocked drainage systems if these are not disposed in an appropriate manner.

Also, Covid waste that has been discharged to the ocean through inland drainage systems has posed a severe threat to the entire marine environment. It is the responsibility of all citizens to save the environment from this situation. Understanding the safe collection of disposable personal protective equipment after use as well as the scientific disposal of such items are important.

A new concept was launched in Sri Lanka to find a solution to the problems encountered in the management of Covid waste under the leadership of Mrs. Dharshani Lahadapura, Chairperson of the Marine Environment Protection Authority with Sisili Hanaro Encare Pvt Ltd., which provides clinical waste management services with the highest environmental protection ensuring scientific management of clinical waste.

The inaugural management program was held on January 5 at the Marine Environment Protection Authority Headquarters under the patronage of its Chairman Dr. Terny Pradeep Kumara and Chinthaka Abeysekera, CEO. Yasantha Gumarathna, General Manager representing Encare partnered the event. The Heart Aid Center, the first and only center in Sri Lanka to offer Enhanced External Counter Pulsation Therapy (EECP) for cardiovascular patients with other cardiac services sponsored the event.

The ‘Let’s Cleanup and Treat-Up’ is a program which allows everyone to contribute towards proper disposal of this new waste category. It is designed in an effective manner deviating from the traditional waste collection campaigns. Scientific management of waste is an expensive task and institutional sponsorships are essential for the project.

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Massive revenue loss: Eyebrows raised over delay in responding to House query



SLPP members say sugar deal black mark on govt.

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Many an eyebrow has been raised over the delay on the part of the Finance Ministry to respond to a Finance Committee (FC) request for a comprehensive report on an alleged fraud in the controversial sugar tax revision.

Chairman of the Finance Commission Anura Priyadarshana Yapa on January 5 issued instructions to the Finance Ministry in this regard when the FC considered several special gazette notifications pertaining to the Ministry of Finance issued since October 2020.

According to the Communication Department of Parliament, MP Yapa on Feb 25 told the FC that the report called by him hadn’t been received yet. Yapa said so when State Minister Vidura Wickramanayaka and SLPP MP Nalin Fernando alleged the revision of taxes pertaining to the import of sugar hadn’t benefitted the consumers at all and only caused loss of revenue to the State. Severe criticism of the revision of sugar taxes was nothing but a black mark on the government.

Asked whether the report had been received since the issue at hand was taken up on Feb 25, the former Minister said that the FC answered in the negative.

Yapa told the last FC meeting that the Department of Import Control should be able to submit analytical comments with data on the relevant gazette amendments. Having approved the regulations issued on that day in respect of the issuance of licenses for the import of brown sugar, the FC recommended that a full explanation be given on March 09 with the participation of all relevant Ministries and Institutions.

Parliament is scheduled to meet on March 9.

Yapa is on record as having told the FC on January 5 though the tax on imported sugar was revised downwards to 25 cents from Rs. 50.00 per kilogram through the Gazette Notification No. 2197/12 issued by the Ministry of Finance on 13th October 2020, the move did not benefit the consumers at all.

JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake lambasted the government over what he called a massive sugar scam that caused losses amounting to Rs 10 bn. In addition to the JVP, the SJB and UNP flayed the government over the corrupt deal. Dissanayake questioned the rationale in increasing the tax on sugar from Rs 33 to Rs 50 on May 23, 2020 and then bringing it down steeply to 25 cents on Oct 13, 2020. Dissanayake said that at that time the tax was brought down to 25 cents, there had been 90,000 metric tonnes of imported sugar in the country. Having reduced the sugar tax to 25 cents, the government directed that a kilo of sugar be sold at Rs 85, MP Dissanayake said.

The JVPer alleged that subsequently, when the government wanted to increase the sugar tax by Rs 40, Commerce Minister Bandula Gunawardena said that once imposed tax couldn’t be altered for a month, hence the decision to continue with 25 cents tax till Nov 13, 2020.

MP Dissanayake on Dec 12, 2020 named all those involved in the sugar scam.

Lawmaker Dissanayake said that the country suffered massive losses due to corrupt sugar deals. Those who suspended imports claiming the country faced severe foreign exchange crisis allowed massive corruption at the expense of the national economy.

Dissanayake said that last year alone at least 73,000 metric tonnes were imported at 25 cents tax.

He pointed out that the Treasury was responsible for facilitating sweet deals at the expense of the national economy. The revenue which should have been received by the government ended up with racketeers, Dissanayake lambasted the government for allowing its cronies to flourish.

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JVP expresses solidarity with Black Sunday campaign



The JVP-led NPP yesterday expressed solidarity with the Black Sunday campaign seeking justice for the Easter Sunday carnage victims.

A statement issued by the party said that the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Easter Sunday carnage had released its report but the general consensus was that the inquiry had failed to bring justice. The PCoI report had only made the matter complex by creating some more puzzles instead of identifying the masterminds of the terror strikes.

The JVP has said Sri Lankans will never forget the Easter Sunday terror attacks of 2019 where nearly 300 perished and more than 500 others were wounded and became disabled for the rest of their lives. It is no secret that it was the failure on the part of the previous government to prevent the attacks that led to the destruction of lives and properties. The appointment of the commissions to investigate the incident was the only response of the former and incumbent governments. It is now clear that the commission has failed to identify the masterminds, owing to political reasons. Demanding justice is a human right. The Catholic Church has called on people to mark the coming Sunday as a day of agitation, demanding justice. We, of the NPP, extend our fullest support for the campaign and urge the law enforcing agencies to take action without further delay to bring about the masterminds and offenders of the crime, the statement has said.

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Iranaitivu islanders protest against burying of coronavirus victims there



By Rathindra Kuruwita

Residents of Iranaitivu Island yesterday forcibly filled up the burial sites prepared for those who had died from COVID-19 and held a demonstration against burying coronavirus victims on the island.

The protesters claimed that the media had reported those who died from COVID-19 would be buried on the island and that some group had already prepared a burial site. However, the residents of the island had not been consulted, they said.

They claimed that even during the war they had fought for the right to live on the island and they were opposed to the decision taken by the government to bury COVID-19 victims on the island.

 The protesters claimed that it was a cunning plan by the government to drive in a wedge between Christians and Muslims in the area. The government should have earmarked a deserted island for that purpose, they said. The protest was led by Christian religious leaders and local politicians. 

Iranaitivu is situated 10 km from Mannar and can only be accessed by boat. Cabinet Spokesman, Minister Keheliya Rambukwelle said that it was not a political decision and that health experts had taken it after careful consideration. He added that a vehicle especially made for this would be used to transport bodies to the island. This vehicle would include a freezer and the driver would be isolated from the bodies. Two family members would also be allowed to attend the funeral.



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