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What is govt. doing with National Action Plan to mitigate human-elephant conflict presented over three months back?

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

The human–elephant conflict has taken a turn for the worse in the Polonnaruwa District since 2011 due to rapid deforestation, Convener of the Biodiversity Conservation and Research Circle, Supun Lahiru Prakash says.

Prakash said that Polonnaruwa was the district with the second highest deaths, injuries and property damage due to the human–elephant conflict. At the Divisional Secretariat level, Dimbulagala and Welikanda DS areas had recorded the highest number of deaths, human and elephant, with Hingurakgoda DS in fifth position.

“Polonnaruwa was once relatively unaffected by the Human–Elephant Conflict. Even in the 2011 elephant survey, 82% of elephants in the Mahaweli administrative region in Polonnaruwa, lived inside areas that were protected by the Department of Wildlife Conservation. Things changed dramatically afterwards. Large swaths of forest land in and around Somawathiya, Flood Plans and Maduru Oya national parks were released for large scale agriculture projects and now a lot more elephants live outside protected areas,” he said.

Prakash said that the deaths of both humans and elephants had risen for decades. On average about 84 people had died each year between 2011 and 2020 due to the Human–Elephant Conflict. The average was 71 between 2005 and 2010 and 54 between 1992 and 2001. The numbers showed that human death rate had increased by about 14% from the previous decade and by about 50% from two decades ago.

“Averages actually can be deceiving when it comes to the current situation. 112 humans died in 2020.  On average 272 elephants died every year between 2011 and 2020. The number exceeded 400 in 2020. In 2005–2010 the elephant death rate was 200 per year 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 shows an extremely high increase recently, exceeding 300 for the first time in 2018 and 400 just a year after. The deaths in 2019 are double the average from a decade ago,” he said.

The wild life enthusiast said that the Human – Elephant Conflict  had spread to about 60% of Sri Lanka and it was due to the reduced quality and the quantity of the elephant home ranges, fragmentation of remaining home ranges, and repeating the failed mitigation measures. He said that Elephants were driven away from their home ranges due to various reasons ranging from development projects to illegal encroachments.

“Meanwhile the quality of the remaining home ranges is reduced by invasive plant species, illegal activities and livestock herding inside home ranges. Furthermore, conventional mitigation measures such as erecting electric fences in protected area boundaries, elephant drives, and elephant holding grounds are outdated and have failed in addressing Human – Elephant Conflict in the country,” he said.

 Prakash said that the National Action Plan for the Mitigation of Human-Elephant Conflict, prepared on a directive of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, had apparently been discarded and the government was violating those recommendations. The Action plan was prepared by a multi-stakeholder committee chaired by elephant researcher, Dr. Prithiviraj Fernando and was handed over to the government on 17 December 2020.

 “After three months, nothing has happened and by inaction the government continues to fuel the conflict in the country,” he charged.

 

 



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

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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

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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’

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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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