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We need a new agricultural revolution that is not against nature



President Gotabaya Rajapaksa addressina an event in Glasgow (pic courtesy PMD)

– President at an event in Glasgow

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has emphasised the urgent need for an eco-friendly agricultural revolution, and pointed out that people should coexist with nature.

The President made these remarks addressing a special conference organised by Sri Lanka, on the sidelines of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 26) in Glasgow, Scotland, under the theme Rediscovering Nitrogen: Solutions and Synergies for Climate Change, Health, Biodiversity and Circular Economy”.

The Conference was held yesterday (31) at 5.00 p.m. Scotland time.

“My government’s policy framework emphasises sustainability. This is reflected in Sri Lanka’s ambitious updated Nationally Determined Contributions to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Mechanism,” President Rajapaksa said.

“The challenge facing us now is to use modern scientific techniques and practices to enhance agricultural production without causing environmental degradation. For decades, chronic kidney disease has been a serious issue in Sri Lanka’s agricultural heartland. The overuse of chemical fertilizers has contributed significantly to this problem,” the President said, adding in this context that his Government took firm steps to reduce imports of chemical fertilizer, and strongly encourage organic agriculture.

‘Although this action has been broadly appreciated, it has also met with some criticism and resistance. In addition to chemical fertilizer lobby groups, this resistance has come from farmers who have grown accustomed to overusing fertilizer as an easy means of increasing yields’, the President said.

“This is particularly unfortunate considering Sri Lanka’s rich agricultural heritage”, he added.

The President said Sri Lanka’s progressive agenda on the environment is being implemented despite the resource constraints it faces as a developing nation, and pointed out that sustaining such an agenda alongside development programmes is challenging for all developing nations, especially following the pandemic.

The President expressed hope that developed countries will extend their fullest support to such nations through development assistance, technology transfers, skills development, investment and financing support. He mentioned that there is also a significant role for businesses in this endeavour, and significant returns to be made through investments into sustainability.

“All of us alive today are custodians of this planet on behalf of future generations. We must all work together towards ensuring its health by contributing in whatever way we can,” President Rajapaksa said. “If we all do this in a spirit of togetherness and good will, I am certain we will succeed in effecting positive change for our people and our planet,” he said.

While welcoming the foreign representatives to the forum, Environment Minister Mahinda Amaraweera said that Sri Lanka has become the first country in the world to take the decision to convert conventional agricultural lands, 100% organic. The Minister said this move aims to create a green socio–economy with sustainable solutions for climate changes.

The Minister appreciated all scientists, late, and alive, for their work on nitrogen and said, “Centuries after discovering nitrogen, we are rediscovering nitrogen.”

Environment Ministry Secretary Dr. Anil Jasinghe expressed views on Sri Lanka’s aspirations on climate resilience and adaptation: COP26 and beyond,” and High Commissioner of Sri Lanka to the UK, Saroja Sirisena also expressed views.

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Forex crisis will lead to power cuts, warns Ranil



Udaya pooh-poohs warning

By Saman indrajith

UNP leader and former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe yesterday told Parliament that the country would face power cuts soon if the government did not resolve the foreign exchange crisis urgently.

Participating in the third reading debate on Budget 2022, the UNP leader said the forex issue could result in Sri Lanka running out of money to import fuel.

Wickremesinghe called on the government to make a statement on the current situation.

The UNP leader pointed out that Sri Lanka had only Rs. 1.5 billion in foreign reserves, out of which Rs. 300 million were gold reserves, which meant only Rs. 1.2 billion was the liquid amount in foreign reserves.

The former PM said the low foreign reserves could lead to the country facing power issues in the future as there would be no funds left for fuel imports. However, the Minister of Power, Udaya Gammanpila, assured that Sri Lanka had enough fuel stocks.

The Minister said it was reasonable for people to assume that there would be power cuts in the future due to the foreign exchange crisis.

Reiterating that Sri Lanka had necessary fuel stocks, Minister Gammanpila said the fuel in hand was sufficient for the next 40 days.

Although the Sapugaskanda Oil refinery had been closed for 50 days, measures would be taken to resume operations at an early date, the Minister added, assuring that the foreign exchange crisis would not result in power cuts.

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State Minister Ranasinghe assures farmers using organic fertiliser compensation in event of losses



Provincial Councils and Local Government State Minister Roshan Ranasinghe speaking at a meeting held at the auditorium of the Polonnaruwa District Secretariat yesterday

Provincial Councils and Local Government State Minister Roshan Ranasinghe yesterday assured that the government would compensate any paddy farmer who suffered losses due to adopting organic fertiliser.

Speaking at a meeting held at the auditorium of the Polonnaruwa District Secretariat, the Minister said that even if the government had not proposed to allocate funds in the Budget proposals for possible losses to paddy farmers using organic fertiliser, funds would be obtained from a supplementary estimate for the purpose.

Ranasinghe said that it was wrong to state that the government shifted from chemical to organic fertiliser abruptly. The government had promised to do so in its election manifesto and people had approved it by giving a two-third majority of votes for that. The UNP too had planned to adopt organic fertilisers in place of chemical fertilisers some 30 years back.

The State Minister said that during the past 30 years all the governments had spent billions of rupees to increase awareness of organic fertilisers among officials and the general public. In addition, there had been numerous projects introduced with the assistance of the World Bank to promote organic cultivation in the country.

Minister Ranasinghe said that there were chemical fertilisers, weedicides and pesticides and there was information that some traders sell them at exorbitant prices. The government would get the Consumer Affairs Authority and police to implement the law against the black marketers.

He said that some farmers had raised concern that nano-nitrogen fertiliser would be washed away owing to the heavy rains, but the government would supply that fertiliser again as it was promised by State Minister of Organic Fertilizer Sashindra Rajapaksa.

The meeting was attended by ministry officials and representatives of the farmers’ associations in the Polonnaruwa District.

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Arjuna quits UNP



World Cup winning captain and former minister Arjuna Ranatunga yesterday quit the UNP over its failure to get its act together

Ranatunga has communicated his decision to leave the UNP to the Leader, Secretary, Deputy Leader, and the Assistant Leader of the UNP.

Ranatunga said, in a letter to the UNP leadership, that he decided to join the United National Front ahead of the 2015 presidential election to make a change for the common good.

He has said as the first step towards that objective he contested the 2015 general election and secured the highest number of votes from the Gampaha District.

Ranatunga said that when many left the party in 2020, he remained with the UNP in order to protect it.

He said in 2020 the UNP suffered a massive loss, “and what is required is to prepare a programme to overcome the present and future challenges”.

“However, as there seems to be no such preparation there appears to be no purpose in remaining with the party”, Ranatunga said.

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