by Ifham Nizam
Residents in and around Thalangama wetland area have sought legal assistance from the Centre for Environmental Justice against the proposed construction of an Elevated Highway over Thalangama Environmental Protected Area.
When contacted, CEJ Executive Director/ Environmental Scientist Hemantha Withanage told The Island they would file legal action against the proposed construction. Withanage said that they had already written to the Central Environmental Authority (CEA) Director General, P.B. Hemantha Jayasinghe in that regard.
Withanage said that they were not happy with the CEA, stressing that it should be focusing more on environmental aspects.
Speaking on World Wetlands Day, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa stressed the importance of conserving in the process of development and how inappropriate development activities led to environmental degradation and wetland destruction.
The CEA said that they had sought the Attorney General’s advice on whether it could grant approval for any Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). Withanage said he believed that the Attorney General’s Department should consider the fact that the said project would ruin a biodiversity hotspot.
The Road Development Authority’s proposed elevated highway across the protected Thalangama wetland and Averihena tank has been heavily criticised by the residents as well environmentalist groups claiming it as a nationally and internationally recognised biodiversity hotspot included in the Ramsar Convention.
The 10.4km stretch of highway is the second phase of a 17.3km project from New Kelani Bridge in Orugodawatte to Athurugiriya. About 3.15km of road crosses the Averihena Tank and surrounding paddy fields, which are part of the Thalangama wetland, gazetted as an Environmental Protected Area (EPA), according to CEJ Legal Officer K Nimmi Sanjeewani.
“Even if an EIA is done, we will protest it as what is proposed is not an approved activity under the EPA gazette,” CEA Director General Hemantha Jayasinghe told the media.
According to Withanage, the protected area spans nearly 118 hectares and permitted uses of the Thalangama EPA as listed in Schedule II of the said Gazette, include cultivation of paddy, fishing, nature trails and construction of towers for the observation of birds, an environmental education information center and a sales outlet and the construction of a security post. The Schedule III list out the conditions subject to which the permitted uses can be carried out.
Withanage also said that recognising the uniqueness and the importance of the Thalangama Wetlands and owing to its ecological, hydrological and historical importance it was declared as an Environmental Protected Area (EPA) under the National Environmental Act (NEA) No.47 of 1980 (as amended) in 2007.
He said wetlands and EPA supported a rich ecosystem that hosted thousands of species of exotic flora, over a hundred different species of resident, endemic and migratory birds, several species of butterflies and dragonflies, a few species of damselflies, reptiles and amphibians, and some small mammals. It was also a paradise for birds.
Six nabbed with over 100 kg of ‘Ice’
By Norman Palihawadane and Ifham Nizam
The Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB) yesterday arrested six suspects in the Sapugaskanda Rathgahawatta area with more than 100 kilos of Crystal Methamphetamine also known as Ice.
Police Media Spokesman, Deputy Inspector General of Police, Ajith Rohana told the media that the PNB sleuths, acting on information elicited from a suspect in custody had found 91 packets of Ice.
A man in possession of 100 kilos of heroin was arrested in Modera during the weekend and revealed that a haul of Ice had been packed in plastic boxes.
The PNB seized more than 114 kilos of Ice from the possession of a single drug network.
According to the information elicited from the suspects, more than 100 kilos of Ice were found.
The PNB also arrested six persons including two women with 13 kilos of Ice, during an operation carried out in the Niwandama area in Ja-Ela on Sunday.
DIG Rohana said the ice had been packed in small plastic boxes and hidden in two school bags.
PM intervenes to iron out differences among coalition partners
By Norman Palihawadane
Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday said that he was confident that differences among the constituents of the SLPP coalition as regards the May Day celebrations and the next Provincial Council elections could be ironed out soon.
Leaders of all SLPP allied parties have been invited to a special meeting to be held at Temple Trees with the PM presiding on April 19.
Prime Minister Rajapaksa said it was natural for members of a political alliance to have their own standpoints and views on matters of national importance. “This is due to the different political ideologies and identities. It is not something new when it comes to political alliances world over. In a way, it shows that there is internal democracy within our alliance.
The PM said: “As a result of that the allied parties may express their own views on issues, but that does not mean there is a threat to the unity of the alliance. An alliance is more vibrant and stronger not when all the parties think on the same lines but when the member parties have different ideologies.”
Thilo Hoffman remembered
A copy of the book “Politics of a Rainforest: Battles to save Sinharaja” was handed over to Dominik Furgler, the Swiss Ambassador in Sri Lanka by the author of the book, Dr. Prasanna Cooray at the Swiss Embassy in Colombo last Tuesday, to be sent to the family of the late Thilo Hoffman in Switzerland.
Hoffman, a Swiss national, who made Sri Lanka his second home for six decades, was a pioneering environmental activist who led the battles to save Sinharaja from the front in the early 1970s, abreast with the likes of Iranganie Serasinghe, Kamanie Vitharana, Lynn De Alwis and Nihal Fernando of the “Ruk Rekaganno” fame. That was the era when the trees of Sinharaja were felled for the production of plywood by the then government. Hoffman was also a livewire of the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society (WNPS) for a long time. Hoffman died in 2014 at the age of 92.
The book includes a chapter on Thilo Hoffman.
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