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Research finds palm oil cultivation is an eco-disaster



By Ifham Nizam

A study conducted by the Central Environmental Authority (CEA) had revealed that an oil palm tree in particular needs about 400 litres of water per day. Therefore, there was a risk of groundwater depletion due to continuing with palm oil cultivation, a senior Environment Ministry official warned.

The government has taken a strong decision against promoting Palm Oil (Katu pol) cultivation in Sri Lanka, especially taking into consideration its disastrous impacts on endemic species here, Environment Minister Mahinda Amaraweera said.

Minister Amaraweera inquired from officials of the Central Environmental Authority regarding the latest situation on the Palm Oil cultivation undertaken in the country, especially by certain plantation companies.

The Minister stressed that the government had taken steps to deactivate palm oil cultivation in several stages and not to promote it in any way.

Also, in line with the recommendations made to the Presidential Task Force for a Sustainable Economic Development in the face of climate change, which has recommended the phasing out of the palm oil cultivation already undertaken here and instead the cultivation of eco-friendly plants on those lands.

The Minister made the inquiries while discussing the reports prepared for tabling in Parliament on the five year audit reports of the Central Environmental Authority and GSMB Technical Services (PVT) Limited, a state-owned enterprise. Dr. Anil Jasinghe, Secretary to the Ministry of Environment and Hemantha Jayasinghe, Director General of the Central Environmental Authority were also present.

Officials said that steps could not be taken to manage palm oil cultivation under the National Environmental Act.

CEA also said that environmentalists as well as various experts had commented on the depletion of groundwater, damage to water sources and the adverse effects on certain wildlife, especially from palm oil cultivation.

Palm oil currently meets about 35 percent of the world’s vegetable oil needs as it is a good substitute for vegetable oil. Also, the area required for one tonne of palm oil is less than the rest.

Accordingly, the Minister instructed them to continue with measures to undo oil palm cultivation. The Minister also instructed the Central Environmental Authority to conduct further formal research on oil palm cultivation and the environmental damage caused by it.

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Overtime gravy train for public sector back



Govt. MPs make contradictory statements on state of economy

By Shamindra Ferdinando

UNP National List MP Wajira Abeywardena on Sunday (26) disclosed the issuance of a circular by the Finance Ministry to restore overtime and other payments in the public sector.

The declaration was made in Galle soon after Transport and Media Minister Bandula Gunawardane lamented that the government was short of billions of rupees to pay public sector salaries, pensions, Samurdhi payments and meet recurrent expenditure.

Minister Gunawardena and UNP National List MP Abeywardena addressed the local media after the handing over of several buses to the Galle SLTB depot.

Cabinet Spokesman Gunawardena said that the government needed as much as Rs 196 bn before the Sinhala and Tamil New Year and its projected revenue was Rs 173 bn. In addition to that Rs 500 mn was required to settle what Minister Gunawardena called bilateral debt.

Minister Gunawardane said that a part of the first tranche of USD 333 mn from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) would be utilised to pay public sector salaries.

Of the USD 333 mn received so far, USD 121 had been used to pay the first installment of USD 1 bn credit line secured from India early last year, according to State Finance Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya.

Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera in the second week of August last year revealed as much as Rs 3 bn had been paid as overtime to Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) workers for several months. This disclosure was made in response to a query raised by Chief Opposition Whip Lakshman Kiriella.

One of the major demands of the public sector trade unions on the warpath over the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government’s new tax formula is the restoration of overtime.

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Now, Opposition wants Finance Secy. hauled up before Privileges Committee



Prof G L Peris

Prof. G. L. Peiris yesterday (27) urged Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena to act speedily on the main Opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) request to summon Finance Secretary Mahinda Siriwardena before the parliamentary Committee on Ethics and Privileges.

Addressing the media on behalf of the Freedom People’s Alliance, the former External Affairs Minister said that the Treasury Secretary had challenged the parliament by withholding funds allocated in the budget 2023 to the Election Commission thereby sabotaging the election.

Prof. Peiris said that there couldn’t be a far worse violation of parliamentary privileges than a government official undermining Parliament.

Instead of appreciating the intervention made by the Supreme Court to facilitate the delayed Local Government polls, the ruling party had sought to challenge the apex court, Prof. Peiris said, urging Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena to fulfill his obligations.

Prof. Pieris said that if the government lacked funds, just one percent of USS 333 mn received from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was sufficient to conduct the election.

The ex-minister said that the IMF wouldn’t oppose the utilisation of a fraction of the first tranche of USD 2.9 bn loan facility provided over a period of four years to guarantee the constitutional rights of the Sri Lankan electorate. (SF)

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Cabinet nod for fuel distribution by three foreign companies



By Rathindra Kuruwita

Minister of Power and Energy Kanchana Wijesekera announced yesterday that the Cabinet of Ministers has granted approval for allowing China’s Sinopec, Australia’s United Petroleum and RM Parks of the USA, in collaboration with multinational Oil and Gas Company – Shell plc, to enter the fuel retail market in Sri Lanka.

The minister said that each of the three companies would be given 150 dealer operated fuel stations, which are currently operated by Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC). A further 50 fuel stations at new locations will be established by each selected company, he said.

They will be granted licences to operate for 20 years to import, store, distribute and sell petroleum products in Sri Lanka, the minister tweeted.

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