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Some politicians, businessmen don’t understand value of wetlands – Amaraweera

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By Ifham Nizam

It was not easy to explain the value of a wetland to some politicians and businessmen, Environment, Minister Mahinda Amaraweera said. Briefing the media to mark World Wetlands Day, which falls today-February 2, he said the government had taken legal action against those who destroyed wetlands. “Anyone who destroys wetlands will be brought to justice,” he said. Amaraweera stressed that it was the responsibility of everyone to protect the wetlands. “Six major wetland systems in our country have been designated as Ramsar Wet Sanctuaries; The Bundala National Park, the Anavilundawa Sanctuary, the Maduganga Sanctuary, the Wankale Sanctuary, the Kumana National Park and the Wilpattu National Park. In 1971 the World Wetlands Day was declared at a convention held in Ramsar, Iran, and countries around the world implement various programmes to commemorate World Wetlands Day. The theme of World Wetlands Day 2021 is “Wetland and Water.” Minister Amaraweera said: “We have to fight with some businessmen, underworld gangs and other such elements, besides some government officials to protect the Muthurajawela Wet Sanctuary.”More than 30 such individuals had already been prosecuted for causing damage to the environment, the Minister said.Environmentalists believe that Muthurajawela filters the groundwater in the Colombo and Gampaha Districts. There were reports of some individuals damaging the Muthurajawela and Anavilundawa wetlands in the recent past. Amaraweera said that he had personally visited the sites and taken necessary steps to protect the wetlands. Arrangements have been made for a special programme at the Ministry of Environment today to mark the World Wetlands Day.

According to the National Environmental Act, No 47 of 1980 (as amended) and the Environmental Impact Assessment regulations gazette 722/22 of June 1993, “filling of more than four hectares of a wetland, removal of trees from more than one hectare needs an EIA. Surely, the CEA is aware that Muthurajawela was a wetland with many ecosystem services which cannot be sacrificed for a development project of this nature, Centre for Environmental Justice, Environmental Scientist Hemanatha Withanage said. “Muthurajawela is a marsh connecting the Kelani River and the Negombo lagoon with a 30km long wetland area – a critically important flood control system for the Gampaha district – to drain water from paddy lands in the upstream lowlands.”As the country’s largest saline coastal peat bog, the Muthurajawela marshes are 3,068 ha (7,580 acres) in extent. It is one of 12 priority wetlands in the country. The marsh, together with the Negombo lagoon forms an integrated coastal wetland ecosystem (6,232 ha in total extent). The marsh-lagoon complex is believed to have originated about 5,000 years ago.



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Cardinal: Was there any link between passage of 20A and Easter Sunday probe outcome?

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… stands by his claim of foreign involvement

By Norman Palihawadana

Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith yesterday said that there could be a connection between the outcome of the probe into the Easter Sunday attacks and the enlisting of Muslim MPs’ support for the passage of the 20th Amendment.

The Cardinal said: “The leader of a Muslim political party voted against the 2Oth Amendment. But his MPs voted for it. The brother of Rishad Bathiudeen too was released around the same time. These are questionable developments. These events could be part of a deal.”

The Cardinal reiterated that international forces were behind the Easter Sunday attacks and that he did not believe that there had been any local political group directly involved in the Easter attacks.

Addressing the media yesterday, the Cardinal said that the remarks he made on Sunday had been misunderstood. He stood by his claim that international forces had been behind the attacks, he said.

“However, some people claim that I said a local political group was behind the attack. I have always maintained that there are international forces that use religious and ethnic extremists such as Wahabists to create conflicts. I was referring to such groups.”

The Cardinal added that only a small group of Muslims was involved in extremism.

The Archbishop also said that former President Maithripala Sirisena believed that taking action against extremists like NTJ leader Zahran Hashim would create unnecessary issues.

“Something along these lines is also in the PCoI on Easter Sunday attacks. The report also implies that the then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was lenient in dealing with growing extremism in Sri Lanka.”

The Cardinal urged the government to protect the country and ensure that there would be no repeats of incidents like the Easter Sunday attacks.

The Archbishop of Colombo requested all religious leaders to work on rebuilding trust among all communities.

 

 

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AG appeals to Supreme Court against granting of bail to Ravi, others

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The Attorney General yesterday appealed to the Supreme Court against bail for former Minister Ravi Karunanayake and seven others indicted in the bond case by the Colombo Special High Court Trial-at-Bar.

The eight accused were arrested and remanded over the bond scams. Later, they were released on bail.

The court warned that if the accused attempted to exert influence on the witnesses, by any means, bail would be revoked and they would be placed on remand until the end of the trial.

 

 

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26 more coronavirus cases detected in Jaffna Tirunelveli market area

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Another 26 COVID-19 cases had been detected on Sunday, from the Tirunelveli Market in Jaffna, which was the epicentre of the recent outbreak in the town, Dr. A. Kethiswaran, Regional Director Health Services told the media yesterday.

The market and its surroundings had been reopened on April 11 following a 19-day lockdown. However, 378 PCR tests were conducted after the Sinhala and Tamil New Year and 26 of them proved positive.

Dr. Kethiswaran warned last week that there might be a spike in COVID-19 cases in Jaffna after the New Year celebrations.

A large number of COVID-19 cases had been reported in Jaffna in the past few weeks. Thus, the people should adhere to health guidelines. If people did not follow the guidelines, there would be a spike in cases and then some places would have to be lockdown, he warned.

“It’s too early to say whether we have to close the area down. We are monitoring the situation,” DR. Kethiswaran said.

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