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Ship fire: Environmental destruction bill could be highest in recent history



by Ifham Nizam

The Owners and agents of the ill-fated MV X-PRESS PEARL container ship probably would have to pay the highest amount of compensation in recent history when it comes to destruction caused to marine life alone, a senior marine scientist said.

Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA), National Aquatic Resources Agency and the Central Environmental Authority (CEA) will prepare a rough estimate of the cost of environmental pollution.

Initial investigations have revealed that numerous fish  and other aquatic species are dying due to poisoning.

The Central Environmental Authority (CEA) on Friday put forth guidelines and proposals on the management of “mixed hazardous waste” generated by the MV X-Press Pearl fire to relevant agencies, including MEPA.

Since the waste washed ashore might have been mixed with the hazardous chemicals carried by X-Press Pearl, the total waste generated by the stricken vessel is considered hazardous, CEA Chemical and Hazardous Waste Management Unit, Director Ajith Weerasundera said.

The main guidelines are as follows: Beaches and places where the wreckage and debris of the stricken ship “X-Press Pearl” have been found should be identified and designated as “hazardous areas”; the people in those areas should be warned not to touch the waste.

The CEA has said that as this waste could be a hazardous, knowledgeable officers/workers should be deployed to collect the waste and they should engage in the relevant activities, using proper safety devices/equipment and methods. Immediate action should be taken to deposit the collected hazardous waste in suitable temporary storage/containers. The required containers and locations have been specified by the Central Environmental Authority.

Containers for storing the waste should be stored in suitable places and absorbent material (sand or wood powder) or suitable methods should be used to prevent the leakage of waste.

Security arrangements should be made to protect the waste storage areas from outsiders, (ideally by the Sri Lanka Police or Navy). This hazardous waste must be transported in closed vehicles and drivers and personnel dealing with it must use safety equipment, the CEA said.

Institutions permitted by the Central Environmental Authority to manage hazardous waste should carry out waste management activities. All costs incurred in this regard including the cost of waste disposal shall be borne by the relevant shipping company.

Arrangements should be made by environmental economists to calculate the cost of environmental damage caused by the ship fire and the cost incurred should be borne by the relevant parties.

The Sri Lanka Navy together with the MEPA launched a special operation to minimise the impact on Sri Lanka’s coast due to various debris including containers, possible chemical compounds and other hazardous material being washed ashore.

Although the beaches are already coated with oil, the biggest problem at the moment is debris, mostly made up of tiny plastic granules, which have now spread along the west coast of Sri Lanka.

MEPA, Chief Darshini Lahandapura said microplastics would continue to accumulate underwater, posing a threat to the environment.

The fire was doused completely on Friday. However, plumes of smoke were observed still billowing from ‘X-Press Pearl’ off the Colombo Harbour.

A joint effort launched by the Sri Lanka Navy, the Sri Lanka Air Force, the Indian Coast Guard and others has been in full swing for the past few days to control the fire aboard the Singapore-registered container ship.

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Lift restrictions on 21 June, and be prepared for dire consequences – Medical Specialists



By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Association of Medical Specialists (AMS) President Dr. Lakkumar Fernando yesterday urged the government to reconsider its decision to lift the travel restrictions on 21 June on account of the detection of the Indian or Delta variant of COVID-19 in the country.

Speaking to The Island yesterday, Dr. Fernando said: “The Ex-Co and COVID committee of the AMS met on Thursday before it was announced that the Indian variant had been found in the community, and we decided to ask the government to continue the travel restrictions until 28 June.”

The AMS President added that the detection of the Indian variant from Dematagoda was an alarming development as the Indian variant was more transmissible than the UK variant.

“Reopening the country even after this detection is a very bad idea. We detected the UK variant on 08 April 2021 but we allowed people to celebrate the New Year. I feel that the government is repeating the same mistake,” he said.

Dr. Fernando urged the government to have discussions with a broad section of experts in the coming two days and take a more informed decision as we are likely lose more valuable lives if we are not careful enough in our decision making. “I don’t think the government has sought advice from experts,” he said.

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SLPP will not let disputes with Gammanpila undermine govt.



…will vote against SJB’s no-faith motion

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) yesterday (18) said that whatever the differences the party had with Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU) leader and Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila, it would not undermine President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s government. A senior SLPP spokesperson said so when The Island sought their response to Samagi Jana Balavegaya planning to move a no-faith motion against attorney-at-law Gammanpila over the recent increase in prices of fuel.

The SJB early this week declared its intention to hand over a no-faith motion against Gammanpila to Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena. Already, the JVP and the UNP have questioned the SJB’s exercise.

The SLPP stood solidly with the stand taken by its General Secretary attorney-at-law Sagara Kariyawasam, MP, in respect of Minister Gammanpila, the official said. According to him, SJB’s certain defeat at the forthcoming vote should not be considered an endorsement of the energy minister.

However, the SJB would not be allowed to exploit the dispute between the party and Minister Gammanpila, under any circumstances, party sources said. The SLPP has been in touch with SLPP strategist Basil Rajapaksa, currently in the US, throughout the conflict, sources said.

The SJB’s no-faith motion would be easily defeated, sources said, pointing out that the SLPP group in the government parliamentary group accounted for 115 excluding the Speaker. The SJB parliamentary group comprised 54 members, including seven National List appointees. One of the NL members, Diana Gamage has switched her allegiance to the SLPP.

Sources revealed that on behalf of the SLPP group, the General Secretary of the party, lawmaker Kariyawasam discussed the developments with SLPP leader Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The SLPP group is expected to meet coming Monday (21) to reach consensus on a settlement. Sources said that a no holds barred discussion was with MP Kariyawasam getting an opportunity to explain his stand.

Referring to a statement dated June 12 issued by MP Kariyawasam demanding Minister Gammanpila’s resignation, SLPP underscored the need to set the record straight.

The SLPP General Secretary did not challenge the fuel increase announced by Minister Gammanpila as the party realized the government had no other option, sources said. However, there was no change in the SLPP’s stand in respect of Minister Gammanpila as he did nothing to improve the energy sector coming under his purview, sources said. The SLPP alleged that Minister Gammanpila had done nothing except taking advantage of gullible media.

Responding to another query, sources questioned the rationale in a recent statement issued by eight political parties, affiliated to the SLPP, in support of Minister Gammanpila. Except one political party therein, other parties comprised just one lawmaker each. There were two National List members, too among that eight-member group, sources said, adding that PHU, was represented in parliament by just one MP (Gammanpila.)

Sources said that the SLPP felt that there should be a consensus among the main party and its constituents on major policy decisions. Sources questioned the National Freedom Front (NFF) and the PHU pursuing an agenda inimical to the government. How could they take a different stand on some contentious issues publicly having been members of the cabinet of ministers, sources asked, accusing them of sabotaging key policy decisions.

The SLPP emphasized that the ruling coalition would have to reach a consensus on a common agenda or face catastrophic consequences.

Sources alleged that Weerawansa-Gammanpila led group sabotaged an agreement the incumbent administration worked out with India on the East Container Terminal (ECT) of the Colombo Harbour.

Asked to explain, sources said that the previous Sirisena-Wickremesinghe had finalized agreements in respect of Mattala airport, ECT, remaining tanks at the Trincomnalee oil tank farm and LNG plant at Sampur with India. Following the last presidential election, the incumbent government decided to go ahead with only the ECT project in the Colombo South Harbour.

The SLPP said that the agreement on ECT was certainly not a popular one though it could have helped efforts to revive the national economy. But, Weerawansa-Gammanpila group as usual played politics with the issue at hand and took credit for stopping the project.

Sources said that the country would have faced eternal blackouts if the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa gave into pressure meant to stop Norochcholai coal-fired power plant.


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1,390 more lockdown violators arrested



The police had arrested 1,390 persons who violated lockdown regulations on Thursday (17), Police Spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana said. The bulk of the arrests numbering 172 were made by the Kuliyapitiya Police, 133 by Matale Police and 121 by Kandy Police.

The police have arrested 38,311 people so far for violating quarantine regulations since 30 October 2020.

About 6,797 people were questioned at checkpoints set up at 14 entry and exit points in the Western Province on Thursday and 108 of them were warned and sent back for attempting to cross provincial borders in violation of the current travel restrictions.

Meanwhile, the Police are planning to carry out a special operation during this weekend to arrest those who violate health regulations by increasing mobile patrols, roadblocks and motorcycle patrols, DIG Rohana added.

Drone operations too will be conducted in Colombo and suburban areas to identify individuals who violate lockdown rules and regulations.



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