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Proposed elevated highway across wetlands provokes uproar



Environmentalists warn that if the second phase of the proposed Elevated Highway runs across Thalangama Environmental Protection Area, Ramsar Wetland city status of Colombo may be at stake. Residents lament that one of the most residential and peaceful areas of the city will be essentially made unlivable causing irreversible damage to the ecosystem.

by Randima Attygalle

The construction of five new flyovers and the four-lane Elevated Expressway connecting the New Kelani Bridge to Athurugiriya was launched by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa last month. The flyovers and the Elevated Expressway are planned to ease traffic congestion in Colombo, its suburbs and Kandy. The contract for the four-lane Elevated Expressway from the New Kelani Bridge to Athurugiriya entailing a budget of LKR 134.9 billion was awarded to the China Harbour Engineering Corporation (Ltd) to be completed in 36 months.

The 17.3 km long expressway is to be implemented in two phases- Phase 1 from New Kelani Bridge to Rajagiriya and Phase II from Rajagiriya to Athurugiriya. Phase II of the project has created controversy and uproar among environmentalists and the public as it’s to be built over the Ramsar listed Thalangama Environmental Protection Area (TEPA). Out the 10.4 km stretch of the second phase, 3.15 kms of road crosses the Averihena tank and paddy fields which are part of TEPA.

Despite Sri Lanka being a state party to the Ramsar Convention the proposed highway project is a gross violation of the provisions of the charter, charge residents from Thalangama and Averihena. Colombo District has already lost 40% of its wetlands resulting in massive floods and the proposed construction is a double whammy, they point out.

“Already water flows into our gardens when it rains heavily and erection of intrusions such as concrete pillars to accommodate an elevated highway will make things worse,” points out Prithiviraj Perera, a retired professional from the UN International Civil Service and Sri Lanka Public Services Institutions. Being exposed to noise and air pollution 24/7 would affect the quality of life of residents living on either sides of the wetland, whose homes are presently covered by trees and green habitats, Perera says.

Thalangama wetland is one of the few remaining green patches near Colombo. It is also a birds’ paradise and a haven for nature photographers. “It is a picturesque site of scenic beauty which is popular for filming of TV programmes, films and taking of wedding pictures. The area is also popular for jogging, star gazing, bird watching and environmental educational tours,” points out the senior professional who notes that destruction of an internationally recognized Ramsar Wetland will impact directly on the Green Development Principles which are championed by the government under the ‘Vistas of Prosperity’.

He says that the best alternative for the Expressway is to take the route from Makumbura, Kottawa through Ruwanpura and over the existing four lanes in Pannipitiya, right up to Battaramulla, which has already been mooted by several authorities. “This shall cause least damages to residents, housing and sensitive ecosystems with any extra costs of rerouting being financed through the issuance of ‘Green Bonds’ as done in many other countries.”

The second phase of the highway will plough through one of the most residential and peaceful areas of the city and will essentially make the area unlivable lament residents. The proposed route affects the residential property that has been in lawyer Rehan Almeida’s family for at least four generations. “According to the current route, the highway will go right across our property along Kaduwela Road in Battaramulla, completely destroying my home and partially destroying my father’s home. My brother’s house is narrowly missed by a matter of feet and will be rendered uninhabitable. The affect to our property is fatal. No amount of compensation can replace the damage caused. We will essentially lose everything, as we have been advised that the property will not be suitable for residential purposes any longer,” says Alemeida.

Several more houses and a sizeable number of small scale businesses will also be destroyed with absolutely no option to relocate, he says.

By plotting a route through the Thalangama wetlands, the country is also losing an asset which cannot ever be replaced, points out the lawyer who questions the logic of “cutting a peaceful community in half” and exposing residents to all kinds of pollution when an alternative route has been proposed by experts who have studied the impact and consequences of this project.

Almeida also charges that destruction of the environment by a project of this nature is a violation of the directive principles of state policy which are safeguarded under the Constitution. He further says that the solution is not to re-gazette the Thalangama wetlands to allow constructions but to find an alternative. “The task of the government is to safeguard our natural assets, not bulldoze them.”

Many farmers from the area who have been cultivating their ancestral paddy fields for generations lament the irreversible damage the proposed Expressway could cause to the eco system of the area. Most farmers in the area who cultivate traditional rice varieties also fear the threat of flooding if the proposed highway is realized.

It is also learnt that the Centre for Environmental Justice (CEJ) had filed a Writ petition in the Court of Appeal seeking an order preventing the construction of the Elevated Expressway over TEPA. It is also gazetted as an Environmental Protection Area by the Central Environmental Authority (CEA). Despite this, recently the Cabinet approval was given to re-gazette the area enabling the construction of the expressway whilst ‘preserving the environment.’

Director General, CEA, Hemantha Jayasinghe told the Sunday Island that the gazette is now pending observations of the Legal Draftsman’s Department. “Once the Legal Draftsman’s Department reverts with their comments, a careful EIA will be done by the CEA before relevant authorities decide if construction would continue or not along the TEPA,” Jayasinghe said.

To recognize the importance of cities and urban wetlands, Ramsar Convention introduced the Wetland City accreditation scheme in October 2018. It provides an opportunity for cities that value their natural or man-made wetlands to gain international recognition and positive publicity for their conservation efforts. Under this scheme, 18 cities including Colombo have been listed as the first Ramsar Wetland Cities. Colombo is the only Ramsar wetland City in South Asia and the only capital city to be accredited.

“Thus it is important for Sri Lanka to continue to protect the wetlands in Colombo in order to maintain this status. If the second phase of the Elevated Highway is to be built, it will cause significant impact to TEPA, one of the two protected wetlands in the Colombo Ramsar City site. (the other is the Jayawardenepura-Kotte Sanctuary),” points out Prof. Devaka Weerakoon from the Department of Zoology, University of Colombo. Prof. Weerakoon, an authority on wetlands, warns that such a move may result in withdrawal of the Ramsar Wetland city status of Colombo.

“This will be most unfortunate as many agencies worked very hard to achieve this status. Therefore, de-gazetting the EPA and building the road that is currently one of the options being considered, should not be taken as a major achievement but another example of a short-sighted decision taken under the label of development.”

TEPA provides many ecosystem services, especially functioning as a water source for paddy fields that are cultivated under the tank, source of food (freshwater fish), flowers, recreation and associated livelihoods and flood retention especially for highly populated metropolitan Colombo urban area. The proposed route across TEPA will not only spoil the aesthetic beauty and tranquility of the environment but also affect the air quality along the flyway corridor, points out Prof. Weerakoon. “The proposed flyway will have a significant negative impact on the quality of life of the inhabitants who are currently settled along the flyway corridor.”

The need for Phase I of the proposed Elevated Highway is very clear affirms Prof. Weerakoon. “It is quite beneficial to those who enter Colombo through the new Kelani bridge via the Katunayake Expressway en route to Borella, Rajagiriya or Battaramulla where most of the state agencies are located. Commuters have to spend a considerable time on the road due to traffic congestion in Dematagoda, Borella, Rajagiriya and Battaramulla resulting in unnecessary fuel usage and increased emissions. The expressway will provide fast access to these areas and suburban centres such as Pelawatte, Thalawathugoda and Maharagama. Further this will enable a large pool of motorists fast access to the Katunayake Expressway. Therefore the need for Phase 1 is very clear.”

However the controversial Phase 2 cutting across TEPA which will entail a heavy environmental cost needs to be reassessed including a detailed analysis of viable alternatives, maintains Prof. Weerakoon.

Pix credit: C. Kirinde

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Life style

Durian prevent cancer and improve digestion



Durian is the fruit of several tree species belonging to the genus Durio. There are about 30 recognised Durio species, however, at least nine of which produce edible fruits. Durio zibethinus is the only species available in the international market: other species are sold in their local regions. Durio zibethinus or locally known as durian is belongs to the family of Bombacaceae, or by others in a broadly defined Malvaceae or by others in a smaller family of just seven genera Durionaceae. Durian is native to Southeast Asia. It is found wild or semi-wild in South Tenasserim, lower Burma and around villages in peninsular Malaysia. In addition, wild durian widely planted in Borneo and Sumatra. Borneo is the centre for diversity of Durio species. Durian is commonly cultivated along roads or in commercial orchards in Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia and Philippines. Apart from durian, this species also well-known with other common names such as Civet-Cat Fruit Tree, Civet fruit, Kampung Durian as called in English, Dian, Durian Puteh and Jatu called in Borneo, Liu Lian as called in Chinese, Dereyan called by Indonesian and etc .

Durian thrives in a hot, humid and wet climate

Durian grows best in a well-drained and fertile soil rich in organic matters that have a pH range from 5-6.5. Durian is intolerant of water logging which will cause destructive fungal root and trunk rot diseases. Furthermore, durian cannot withstand more than 0.02 % of salinity in the soil.

The durian tree can reach up to 27-40 m in height in tropical forests. Durian tree usually erect with short, straight, rough, peeling trunk to 1.2 m in diameter and have an umbrella-shaped canopy of rough branches and thin branchlets coated with coppery or gray scales when young. The evergreen, alternate leaves are oblong, elliptic or rounded at the base, abruptly pointed at the apex; leathery, dark-green and glossy above, silvery or pale-yellow, and densely covered with gray or reddish-brown, hairy scales on the underside. The fruits are ovoid or ovoid-oblong to nearly round and up to 8 kg in weight. The yellow or yellowish-green rind is thick, tough, semi-woody, and densely set with stout, sharply pointed spines, 3- to 7-sided at the base. Inside there are 5 compartments containing the creamy-white, yellowish, pinkish or orange-coloured flesh and 1 to 7 chestnut-like seeds .

Durian as a source of foods

Generally, durian is consumed fresh as fruit or food products such as candy, ice cream and durian puffs after certain cooking procedures. Traditionally, durian flesh is added into dishes such as “sayur” which is the Indonesian soup made from fresh water fish as an ingredient . Moreover, durian-based sauce is used to cook “Ikan brengkes“, a tradition dish in Sumatran islands, Indonesia. Overripe durian pulps are processed to become durian paste in Thailand while unripe durian may be cooked as a vegetable Beside the flesh, durian seeds are also valuable as they can be eaten after boiling or roasting and made into durian flour and chips (Agus, 2014). Furthermore, the young leaves and shoots of durian plant can be cooked as green vegetables.

Health benefits

Durian is widely celebrated for its long list of health benefits, which include the ability to boost immune system, prevent cancer and inhibit free radical activity, improve digestion, strengthen bones, improve signs of anaemia, prevent premature aging, lower blood pressure, and protect against cardiovascular diseases. Some of the more minor benefits of durian are to reduce inflammation of the joints, help thyroid health, reduce headaches, and lower symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress. Most of the health benefits come from durian’s impressive vitamin and mineral content. Durian contains vitamins such as vitamin-C, folic acid, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, B6 and vitamin A. Important minerals such as potassium, iron, calcium, magnesium, sodium, zinc, phosphorus are also found in durian. It also contains nutrients such as phytonutrients, water, protein and beneficial dietary fibre.

Relieves anaemia and promotes healthy pregnancy

Anaemia is a medical condition that reduces the level of haemoglobin on blood. Deficiency in haemoglobin can lead to fatigue, headache, insomnia and etc. In pregnant woman, anaemia can lead to abnormality and fatality of the foetus. Durian contains high amount of folate or folic acid which is essential in the production of haemoglobin. Besides that, low content of iron in durian aids in haemoglobin production alleviating condition of anaemia (Kevat, 2013). Furthermore, presence of folate in durian is important for pregnant woman as it promote regular tissue growth as well as protects the brain and spine in developing baby (Health benefits of durians, 2015).

Helps to maintain healthy bones

Durian contains a number of trace metals including calcium and potassium. Even calcium is present in low level in durian, but amount of potassium present in durian fulfils about 9 % of our body’s daily requirement. Potassium is required for the development of healthy bones. Even though the most abundant mineral of our bone is calcium, but potassium is crucial to regulate the distribution and deposition of the calcium in bones so that it is not dissolved or released into the blood excessively (Kevat, 2013).

Helps to alleviate depression and improves sleep

Durian contains amino acids known as tryptophan – a natural sleep inducing compounds. Tryptophan is required to increase the level of serotonin and melatonin. These two neuro-chemicals are required to manage our emotions. Serotonin is essential to relieve stress, sleeplessness, anxiousness, appetite as well as depression. In addition, these types of hormones help to manage sleeping function and could be utilized in the epilepsy cure (Kevat, 2013).

Fight cancer

Durian has a wealth of vitamins, nutrients, and organic chemicals that function as antioxidants. In the battle against cancer, free radicals are vitally important, because during cell metabolism, there are by-products created, called free radicals. These free radicals can destroy the DNA of regular cells and convert them into cancer cells, which can then metastasize or form fatal, tumorous growths. All of the antioxidants which reduce oxidative stress on the organs of the body are bonuses to the immune system, and durian is packed with them, including vitamin-C, vitamin-B complex, and vitamin E, as well as phytonutrients that battle cancerous cells (Health benefits of Durian, 2015).

Aids in digestion

Durian contains high levels of dietary fibre, which are important for the normal function of the digestive system. Fibre causes bowel movement to increase in bulk, which makes it easier for them to move through the intestinal tract. Fibre also stimulates peristaltic motion and the secretion of digestive and gastric juices, further easing the entire process. By reducing conditions like constipation and blockage in the intestines, conditions like bloating, excess flatulence, heartburn, cramps, and indigestion as well as colorectal cancer can be minimized. Much of the fibre in durian is insoluble fibre, which also lowers the frequency of diarrhea for people with loose stool. Fibre also helps to reduce the amount of cholesterol in the blood by scraping LDL cholesterol out of the body and quickly removing it before it can do any damage to the cardiovascular system (Health benefits of Durian, 2015).


1. Anti-aging

Durian has a wide variety of antioxidant properties stemming from its vitamin and organic chemical makeup that actively reduce the amount of free radicals in the body. Eating an excessive amount of durian can seriously boost your body’s ability to eliminate those free radicals, thereby reducing the chances of premature aging and delaying the appearance of symptoms such as wrinkles, age spots, macular degeneration, hair loss, tooth loosening, arthritis, cancer, and heart disease (Health benefits of Durian, 2015). In addition, the high water content of Durian is an added advantage along with its antioxidant content. Water keeps the skin hydrated, reduces dryness and alleviates the appearance of fine lines. It also nourishes skin for clear and smooth skin .

Increase and encourage fertility

Estrogen is a hormone which helps in conceiving. Most of the women who suffer from fertility usually have a low estrogen level in their body which is increased with pills, injections and supplements. Studies have shown that durian contains a high level of this hormone and can act as an herbal medicine (Kevat, 2013). Besides that, durian can produce intensified sexual libido and stamina, and also reduce the chances of infertility in men and women, and increase sperm motility .

Used as traditional medicine

According to traditional use, durian may have antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and vasoconstrictor properties. Traditionally, durian leaves and roots are in Malaysia used to treat fever. The juice of fresh leaves is used as an ingredient in a lotion for fevers, and the juice from the bark is used as an antimalarial in Sumatra.

Other Uses

On the other hand, durian can be used for purposes other than foods and medicines. Durian husks which are usually thrown as wastes after the durian pulps are consumed can be dried to be used as fuel or fertilizers for tree (Utilization of durian, n.d.). It can also be used as an ingredient for making handmade paper like artistic paper with certain pattern (Agus, 2014). Due to the strong smell, durian husks can be used as the natural mosquitoes repellent.         Dr. S. Kathiresan from AIMST University discovered that durian peel can be used as a mean to recover the oil spill at coastal areas (Lim, 2011). In this case, the durian peel powder is chemically modified and acts as the efficient oil absorbent to remove the oil from the water, solving the problem of oil spills which have caused adverse effects to living sea organisms and human economic activities.


Durians are abundant in Asia during their season as Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand are the world’s main durian producers. In this case, numerous surveys and reviews have been done on the nutritional values and health benefits of durian. Undeniably, durian has offered unlimited benefits to human health such as relieving anemia, alleviating depression and enhancing fertility (Health benefits of durian, 2015; Kevat, 2013). The Swiss Society of Food Science and Technology also discovered that the levels of antioxidants content in durian are higher as compared with other Asian fruits like mango, lychee and mangosteen of similar ripeness (Durians-‘Heaty’ or healthy, n.d.). However, overconsumption of durian can bring adverse effects to consumer especially pregnant women, diabetic patients as well as obese people. As mentioned by Dr. Patrick Chia, a fetal medicine specialist in Malaysia, it is safe for woman to consume durian during pregnancy but pregnant woman with gestational diabetes must avoid eating durian due to the high sugar content . Besides, consumption of durian during last trimester of pregnancy may result in overweight fetus with greater risk of childhood obesity as durian is high-glycaemic food . Apart from that, durian contains high amount of fat and triple amount of calories as compared to other fruits where obese people should avoid (Durians-‘Heaty’ or healthy, n.d.). From traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) perspective by Mr. Chew Hong Gian, a TCM physician at Raffles Chinese Medicine, durian is said to possess “warming” property whereby overindulgence in durians can induce sore throat, phlegmy cough and constipation of Raffles Medical reported that one’s body temperature may be increased slightly from eating durians but that does not lead to fever, coughs or respiratory infections.

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Life style

Dilani’s styling journey



By Zanita Careem

When you walk into Elan Salon on Thalawathugoda Road, Kotte, the sleek and simplistic design of it tells that Dilani Pereira is serious about hair and beauty. The stylist is passionate about her hair journey and, before booking any appointment, you’re asked to come along to the salon for a consultation, where she will help shape your ‘dream style’, giving you the chance to consider it first. Once you meet Dilani however, you know you’re in good hands with her professional understanding and realistic advice on your new style.

Regular clients of Elan Salon will know that one of the best things about it is the hair washing station, where you can lay right back and relax as you enjoy an incredible head massage. It is not the price at the end of the scale that matters but it’s definitely worth it for the complete salon experience.

They do a range of other beauty treatments. Whether it’s a bouncy blow dry, beachy blonde highlights, a total revamp or just a chic cut, this young hair stylist knows her art well. This is your one-stop shop for hair and beauty, from a simple cut and colour to nails, makeup or skin care. Dilani will make you feel at home. Her team is all trained and there’s a distinct family feel at Elan Salon.

Following are the excerpts from an interview with Dilani:

Tell us about yourself and your professional background

I studied at Bishop’s College, I have four siblings and none of them are hairdressers. I never dreamt of being a hairdresser. I tried different professions before becoming a hairdresser 15 years ago.

What do you like best about your job and what is your inspiration?

This is an industry involving people, it’s an industry that is always evolving and it is about making people feel and look good. I love being able to build relationships with clients and celebrate all their life’s milestones with them.

What are your greatest strengths and who is your greatest strength?

I’m a good listener. Many of my clients love sharing ups and downs of their lives with me when they visit the salon. It’s important to clarify exactly what they want from their service to avoid miscommunication. Before you pick up the shears or mix the colour, it is imperative that you and your clients are on the same page. My God, my family and friends are my greatest strength. I thank God for blessings and I’m ever grateful to my brother and sister-in-law and my uncles as well for always standing by my side.

Describe a work situation and how you handle it?

There have been many times where clients comes up with unreasonable complaints where I would just listen to them, apologize and make them calm down.

What inspired the name of your salon?

‘Elan’ means style/energy and enthusiasm in French. This inspired me as I’m known for it.

How do you see yourself in five years?

I would like to open up two or three salons in Colombo suburbs and one in a popular mall in five years.

Tell us about your staff and how you train them

I admire and respect my team for commitment and dedication towards work and give them best training which I got from the previous salons that I have worked for.

How do you ensure optimum client satisfaction?

By offering a pleasant experience, a comfortable and a clean environment, personal treatment, knowing my clients and being confident and knowledgeable.

How do you respond to client dissatisfaction?

Hear them out, understand the issue, use initiatives, find a solution, apologize to the client, will not give excuses and make sure that it will not repeat in future.

How do you build relationships with your clients?

When clients arrive, I make sure to acknowledge and greet them with a smile. Every client that visits my salon is made to feel special.

As a stylist I also believe in establishing free flowing lines of communication with them. In order to establish a successful customer relationship, it is also important to be able to take any criticism on board, act on it and turn it around to find a solution. So I make sure that I don’t take criticism personally, instead, I use it to my advantage and leave these channels of communication wide open.

In the new normalcy how have you adapted your work adhering to strict health guidelines?

I make sure to keep myself updated about ever changing health guidelines and encourage clients to call and make appointments, so that I can issue time slots accordingly without overcrowding the salon. As for ‘walk-in customers’, if the salon is not occupied, I will take them in. If not, we have to turn them away with a heavy heart and encourage them to call and make an appointment.

What is your message to a potential new client who is yet to experience your salon and what are the advantages of the location of your salon?

I would be humbled by their presence and be proud to provide them with best service by the Elan team. It has a homely atmosphere and there is ample parking space as well.

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Life style

LOVI’S Fashion Story walks the ‘Olympic Ramp’



The sarong is a traditional piece of clothing worn by Sri Lankans young and old. Asanka de Mel CEO of Lovi sarong has turned the sarong into a fashion stayement. This ubiquitous wrap around the hip called the sarong, was associated with India, and South East Asia for cenanturies,, Now it has become a trendy garment won by islanders in a relaxed or stylish ways. Lovi sarongs come in handlooms, cotton with all the trapping of modern tailoring. His label ‘Lovi’ is very popular and he has push the sarong revolution creating a benchmark in the fashion industry

by Zanita Careem

With the onset of the Tokyo Summer Olympics, and all the associated hype of Olympic fever as well as an outpouring of relief that despite the pandemic life is beginning to show signs of some semblance of normalcy, This is a proud moment for Sri Lanka and LOVI our fashion brand is making history !!!

‘With Sri Lanka sending her largest ever delegation to the games, despite the pandemic, we are making history; as for the first time ever, our team will wear our National Dress as they parade the Olympic stadium” said Assanka De Mel. This is due entirely to the brain child of Asanka de Mel, the founder and CEO of LOVI Ceylon whose farsighted thinking and initiative have resulted in our boys and girls proudly marching in our National Dress

“Like many kids, I loved watching the Olympic games on TV and dreamt of somehow representing Sri Lanka one day,” says de Mel. “Even if not as an athlete, I am so thrilled to be part of this global event by supporting these extraordinary players as well as the dedicated coaches and officials leading the effort. The fact that LOVI is responsible for showcasing our National Dress on the Olympic stage is indeed one of the proudest moments of my entire career”.

Inspired by the notion of Olympic harmony, LOVI designed the Team Sri Lanka outfits based on its Unity collection for the global stage. The maroon, orange and green colouSrs of the Sri Lankan flag are reflected with handwoven gold lines signifying diversity and strength. LOVI’s trademarked gold crown represents sovereignty and the ambition of our new generation to be world class. A special label reads “

スリランカ“, meaning Sri Lanka in Japanese in honor of the host country, Japan. “A limited-edition collection will soon be available for LOVI fans, thus enabling them to get into the spirit of the Olympics”.

De Mel went on to say that, “the Olympics represent the best of the human spirit in action. Our athletes are inspiring future athletes to be the best they can be, because we can! It’s our mission to support all Sri Lankans striving for that level of excellence and LOVI wishes all the Olympic athletes the very best at the games this year – we are proud of you and honoured that LOVI can play a part alongside you at the Olympics.he quipped.

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