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Voracious Sena caterpillar may soon invade paddy cultivations, warns MONLAR

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

Sena caterpillars would destroy paddy cultivation unless the agricultural authorities took steps to control the pest, the Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR) Moderator, Chinthaka Rajapakshe told The Island yesterday.

Rajapakshe said the governments, since 2018, had done nothing to counter the threat posed by the Sena caterpillars, which were now destroying crops in the Uva, Eastern and North Western provinces; that the Department of agriculture was again proposing to destroy the pest with highly toxic pesticides.

 “The Sena caterpillar first made its appearance in the world in 2016 in Africa and then spread rapidly around the world. It’s mainly associated with attacking maize crops but it is not a picky eater. Scientists say they like to feed on the leaves and stems of more than 350 plant species, including rice, sorghum, sugarcane and rwheat. Imagine the devastation it would cause if they started attacking paddy.”

Rajapakshe said that successive governments had been promoting mono-cropping in Sri Lanka and that it had made it easy for pests like Sena caterpillars to spread. Maize was mainly planted as a key ingredient of poultry feed. As the Sri Lankan poultry industry had grown over the years, its development has resulted in an increase in the extent of land under maize cultivation. A decrease in maize production can also affect the poultry industry.

 “The Department of Agriculture is promoting the use of highly toxic pesticides to eradicate the caterpillar. We have been doing this since 2018 but the caterpillar is back. We only spend colossal amounts of money, pollute the environment and increase farmers’ indebtedness. Instead, we should use more sustainable solutions like the push-pull’ approaches for controlling insect pests and weeds. Push-pull’ is about mixing, into a field of crops, plants that repel insect pests (‘push’) and planting, around a crop, diversionary trap plants that attract the pests (‘pull’).”



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Six nabbed with over 100 kg of ‘Ice’

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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.

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PM intervenes to iron out differences among coalition partners

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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.”

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Thilo Hoffman remembered

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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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