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SL’s short-sighted development policies have worsened Human-Elephant conflict – Ex Wildlife DG



by Ifham Nizam

Sri Lanka seems to have adopted short-sighted development policies that have aggravated the Human-Elephant conflict (HEC), former Wildlife Department Director-General, Dr. Sumith Pilapitiya said, while adding that little has changed in the approach towards mitigating the conflict over the past 60 years.

“The mitigation measures have been ineffective as evidenced by the rapidly escalating casualties among both humans and elephants, resulting in Sri Lanka being listed as the country with the highest casualties from the HEC in the world”, he told a discussion on the National Symposium on Human-Elephant Conflict in Sri Lanka held at the Waters Edge Hotel last week.

The event was organized by the Centre for Environmental Justice (CEJ).

“It is therefore time for a paradigm shift in our approach towards mitigating the HEC. A road map for this purpose was prepared by a Presidential Committee appointed to formulate a National Action Plan for Human-Elephant Conflict Mitigation and submitted to the government in November 2020”, Pilapitiya noted.

The National Action Plan was worked out on the instructions of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa but it has been pigeonholed at the President’s office, while the authorities continue to violate the recommendations in it, says Supun Lahiru Prakash, Elephant Researcher and Convener of the Biodiversity Conservation and Research Circle.

A multi-stakeholder committee was chaired by eminent Asian elephant researcher and expert, Dr. Prithiviraj Fernando and the report was handed over to the government on December 17, 2020. Though three months have elapsed, nothing had happened, he complained.

He said that the average human death rate due to HEC in Sri Lanka was 71 from 2005–2010 and 54 from 1992–2001. The human death rate increased by about 14% from the previous decade and by about 50% in comparison to the past two decades. The number of deaths in this connection spiked to 112 in 2020, which reflects a sharp increase.

On the other hand, 272 elephants died on an average every year between 2011 and 2020 and exceeded 400 in 2020. In 2005–2010, the elephant death rate was 200 and in 1992–2001 it was 137. Therefore, the elephant death rate has increased by about 31% from the previous decade and by about 92% from two decades ago. The elephant death rate shot up to 300 plus for the first time in 2018 and to 400 the following year. The deaths in 2019 are double the average from a decade ago, he noted.

Wildlife Department officials have no knowledge in implementing policies and the position they have now adopted will result in farmers being denied firearms to control wild animals, said Senior Professor Devaka Weerakoon of the Department of Zoology and Environment Sciences.

“The fallout of this would be the caging of more and more troublesome animals as the Wildlife Ministry Secretary says that steps have been taken to capture animals”, he pointed out.

“I don’t understand how people think in terms of caging all troublesome animal species”, he added.

He said pressure should be exerted on the government for an immediate course corrective measures. The situation should not be allowed to go from bad to worse.

Scientist, Dr. Prithiviraj Fernando said that data has been obtained on the movement of elephants by radio tracking almost 100 animals. Countrywide surveys have also been conducted on elephant distribution.

“We have assessed the impact of management actions on elephants and the responses to them. Now, we know that elephants in Sri Lanka do not migrate long distances but live in home ranges of around 20,000 ha that may be completely inside or outside protected areas,” he noted.

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SJB, JVP move SC against Finance Secy. for contempt of court



The main Opposition, Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB), and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) yesterday (21) moved Supreme Court against Treasury Secretary Mahinda Siriwardana over his failure to provide funds required by the Election Commission to conduct the Local Government polls, ignoring an interim order issued by the apex court, on 03 March.

Ranjith Madduma Bandara, MP, is the petitioner for the SJB and Vijitha Herath, MP, moved court on behalf of the JVP, the leading party in the Jathika Jana Balawegaya (JJB).

Two Opposition parties declared action against Siriwardana the day after the Freedom People’s Alliance (FPA) issued a seven-day ultimatum to the Finance Secretary to release the funds.

EC Chairman Nimal Punchihewa is on record as having said that in spite of SC directive he didn’t receive fresh funding.

The petitioners sought the issuance of summons on Siriwardana for contempt of court over failure to carry out its interim orders, given on 03 March.

The petitioners want the Finance Secretary punished in terms of Article 105 (3) of the Constitution.

The SJB stated that Siriwardana had refrained from carrying out the March directives, on the basis of a Cabinet decision, taken on 13 Feb., 2023. The SJB also pointed out that the offensive conduct of the Treasury Secretary, inter alia, causes grave prejudice to the esteemed authority of the Supreme Court and in turn disturb the public confidence in the authority of the highest Court in the country. (SF)

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Minister indicates reduction in fuel prices in April



Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekara told Parliament yesterday that fuel prices would be reduced considerably according to the fuel price formula at the next fuel price revision, due in April.

The Minister said that the government would be able to procure fuel shipments, at lower prices, during competitive bidding, with the receipt of the IMF bailout.

There had been practical issues, and problems, in opening Letters of Credit, and obtaining credit facilities, in the recent past, as Sri Lanka could not give a guarantee to fuel suppliers, Minister Wijesekara said.

“We could not open LCs and obtain credit facilities when procuring fuel. After the IMF bailout, we will be able to procure fuel at lower prices during competitive biddings. We will be able to obtain a long-term credit facility as well. Fuel prices in the global market seem to have declined and the rupee has also gained strength against the US Dollar. Having considered all these factors, fuel prices will be reduced by a considerable margin which could be felt by the people,” he said.

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IGP tells CID not to brook any interference from any quarter while they probe ’Harak Kata’ and ‘Kudu Salindu’



By Norman Palihawadane

IGP CD Wickramaratne has directed the CID to maintain a special log of names and details of any attempts by external parties to influene the ongoing investigations on notorious drug traffickers Nandun Chinthaka Wickramaratne aka Harak Kata and Salindu Malshika aka Kudu Salindu.

The suspects are currently under the custody of the CID.

The IGP issued the orders to the DIG CID and its director during a meeting of senior police officers on Monday, police headquarters said.

Sources said that the IGP has further instructed not to allow statements from the detainees to be taken by any police team other than the team currently investigating the suspects.

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