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WNPS Forges New Groundthrough Private Land Acquisition for Biodiversity Conservation

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Wildlife and Nature Protection Society (WNPS) is pleased to sign their inaugural Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), under the PLANT Guarantee Company.

PLANT – WNPS’ Preserving Land and Nature Trust, was set up with the aim of acquiring privately owned lands for the purpose of conservation (outright or on a long-term lease) and to collect funds through the Trust, to purchase lands for the purpose of conservation. Sustainable forest-grown Ceylon tea brand Kaley Teas will be partnering with WNPS on this ground-breaking PLANT initiative.

In a time of rapid development and increasing demand for resources such as now, land conservation and reforestation play an important role in safeguarding wildlife habitats. Protecting unharmed forests is also among the most efficient and cost-effective ways to combat climate change. The PLANT (Preserving Land and Nature Trust) strategy is to acquire as many acres of private land as possible for conservation purposes under a Single Purpose Vehicle (either through lease or outright donation of land and by collecting funds under the Trust for purchasing of land). Acquiring private land for the purpose of biodiversity conservation is not a new concept and is practiced globally with a lot of success. The aim of the vehicle is to increase the land extent available for conservation, as remaining habitats are being eroded by unplanned development and unsustainable agricultural practices that cause grave and unprecedented threat to both forest cover and wildlife.

Pioneers in conservation

Established in 1894, the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society (WNPS) is the third oldest conservation society in the world and the largest in Sri Lanka with a membership base of over 3,000. For the last 127 years WNPS has been working with many stakeholders including scientists, researchers, policy makers, conservationists, activists and the general public, to protect Sri Lanka’s rich biodiversity. Partnering with companies and supporters who share the same vision, allows the WNPS to springboard its efforts in protecting Sri Lanka’s flora and fauna for future generations

 

Protecting Sri Lanka’s wildlife habitats is now more important than ever

Sri Lanka is known as a global biodiversity hotspot for its high number of species, in a relatively limited area. Sri Lanka’s biodiversity also has a high rate of endemism – about 27% of the country’s plants are endemic and 22% of its amphibians, birds, mammals, and reptiles. Sadly, Sri Lanka has one of the highest recorded rates of primary forest destruction in the world (Global Forest Watch). Primary forest cover has fallen from 84% in 1881 to less than 17% today (Mongbay). Habitat loss is the leading threat to Sri Lanka’s native ecosystems and species. It should come as no surprise that 30 species of mammals, 14 species of birds, 13 species of reptiles, 75 species of amphibians, 121 species of fish and 298 species of plants in Sri Lanka are listed as Threatened (IUCN Red List version 2020)

The biggest threat to Sri Lanka’s forests and wildlife habitats are human activities such as urbanization, agricultural expansion and ill-advised development projects.

Government decisions, such as the decision to abolish Circular No. 5/2001 and hand over forested land classified as Other State Forests (OSF) from the Forest Department (FD) to the Divisional Secretaries and District Secretaries for selected development projects, will destroy even more of our wildlife habitats.

 

Partners with a shared vision

Kaley Teas is a pioneering Ceylon tea, which comes from a single garden surrounded by forests, bordering Sinharaja Rainforest. The tea is grown organically, made with the finest leaves that are hand-picked, naturally withered from the winds from the rainforest and hand made.

Kaley continues to restore abandoned tea lands stripped of its natural balance by re-establishing bio diverse forest eco-systems. As Kaley’s teas are grown in a forest environment, the income of the community who grow and make tea is totally dependent on the existence of the forest. In this regard, Kaley Farms has set up a multi-pronged program to enrich the living standards of the families involved in the growing, plucking and making of Kaley Tea. Kaley will share their life stories, especially those of women and children who face various challenges on a daily basis. This will enable their partners to relate much closer to their communities. Ultimately, Kaley hopes that these actions will positively impact the 300 or so families in the village and will also help build a model that could be rolled-out elsewhere in the country.

Through this partnership WNPS and Kalay Teas hopes to protect and further develop the forest eco system and biodiversity, carry out research, publish findings which can aid in conservation and conduct training programs to educate village communities to ensure sustainability.



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Lift restrictions on 21 June, and be prepared for dire consequences – Medical Specialists

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Association of Medical Specialists (AMS) President Dr. Lakkumar Fernando yesterday urged the government to reconsider its decision to lift the travel restrictions on 21 June on account of the detection of the Indian or Delta variant of COVID-19 in the country.

Speaking to The Island yesterday, Dr. Fernando said: “The Ex-Co and COVID committee of the AMS met on Thursday before it was announced that the Indian variant had been found in the community, and we decided to ask the government to continue the travel restrictions until 28 June.”

The AMS President added that the detection of the Indian variant from Dematagoda was an alarming development as the Indian variant was more transmissible than the UK variant.

“Reopening the country even after this detection is a very bad idea. We detected the UK variant on 08 April 2021 but we allowed people to celebrate the New Year. I feel that the government is repeating the same mistake,” he said.

Dr. Fernando urged the government to have discussions with a broad section of experts in the coming two days and take a more informed decision as we are likely lose more valuable lives if we are not careful enough in our decision making. “I don’t think the government has sought advice from experts,” he said.

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SLPP will not let disputes with Gammanpila undermine govt.

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…will vote against SJB’s no-faith motion

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) yesterday (18) said that whatever the differences the party had with Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU) leader and Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila, it would not undermine President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s government. A senior SLPP spokesperson said so when The Island sought their response to Samagi Jana Balavegaya planning to move a no-faith motion against attorney-at-law Gammanpila over the recent increase in prices of fuel.

The SJB early this week declared its intention to hand over a no-faith motion against Gammanpila to Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena. Already, the JVP and the UNP have questioned the SJB’s exercise.

The SLPP stood solidly with the stand taken by its General Secretary attorney-at-law Sagara Kariyawasam, MP, in respect of Minister Gammanpila, the official said. According to him, SJB’s certain defeat at the forthcoming vote should not be considered an endorsement of the energy minister.

However, the SJB would not be allowed to exploit the dispute between the party and Minister Gammanpila, under any circumstances, party sources said. The SLPP has been in touch with SLPP strategist Basil Rajapaksa, currently in the US, throughout the conflict, sources said.

The SJB’s no-faith motion would be easily defeated, sources said, pointing out that the SLPP group in the government parliamentary group accounted for 115 excluding the Speaker. The SJB parliamentary group comprised 54 members, including seven National List appointees. One of the NL members, Diana Gamage has switched her allegiance to the SLPP.

Sources revealed that on behalf of the SLPP group, the General Secretary of the party, lawmaker Kariyawasam discussed the developments with SLPP leader Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The SLPP group is expected to meet coming Monday (21) to reach consensus on a settlement. Sources said that a no holds barred discussion was with MP Kariyawasam getting an opportunity to explain his stand.

Referring to a statement dated June 12 issued by MP Kariyawasam demanding Minister Gammanpila’s resignation, SLPP underscored the need to set the record straight.

The SLPP General Secretary did not challenge the fuel increase announced by Minister Gammanpila as the party realized the government had no other option, sources said. However, there was no change in the SLPP’s stand in respect of Minister Gammanpila as he did nothing to improve the energy sector coming under his purview, sources said. The SLPP alleged that Minister Gammanpila had done nothing except taking advantage of gullible media.

Responding to another query, sources questioned the rationale in a recent statement issued by eight political parties, affiliated to the SLPP, in support of Minister Gammanpila. Except one political party therein, other parties comprised just one lawmaker each. There were two National List members, too among that eight-member group, sources said, adding that PHU, was represented in parliament by just one MP (Gammanpila.)

Sources said that the SLPP felt that there should be a consensus among the main party and its constituents on major policy decisions. Sources questioned the National Freedom Front (NFF) and the PHU pursuing an agenda inimical to the government. How could they take a different stand on some contentious issues publicly having been members of the cabinet of ministers, sources asked, accusing them of sabotaging key policy decisions.

The SLPP emphasized that the ruling coalition would have to reach a consensus on a common agenda or face catastrophic consequences.

Sources alleged that Weerawansa-Gammanpila led group sabotaged an agreement the incumbent administration worked out with India on the East Container Terminal (ECT) of the Colombo Harbour.

Asked to explain, sources said that the previous Sirisena-Wickremesinghe had finalized agreements in respect of Mattala airport, ECT, remaining tanks at the Trincomnalee oil tank farm and LNG plant at Sampur with India. Following the last presidential election, the incumbent government decided to go ahead with only the ECT project in the Colombo South Harbour.

The SLPP said that the agreement on ECT was certainly not a popular one though it could have helped efforts to revive the national economy. But, Weerawansa-Gammanpila group as usual played politics with the issue at hand and took credit for stopping the project.

Sources said that the country would have faced eternal blackouts if the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa gave into pressure meant to stop Norochcholai coal-fired power plant.

 

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1,390 more lockdown violators arrested

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The police had arrested 1,390 persons who violated lockdown regulations on Thursday (17), Police Spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana said. The bulk of the arrests numbering 172 were made by the Kuliyapitiya Police, 133 by Matale Police and 121 by Kandy Police.

The police have arrested 38,311 people so far for violating quarantine regulations since 30 October 2020.

About 6,797 people were questioned at checkpoints set up at 14 entry and exit points in the Western Province on Thursday and 108 of them were warned and sent back for attempting to cross provincial borders in violation of the current travel restrictions.

Meanwhile, the Police are planning to carry out a special operation during this weekend to arrest those who violate health regulations by increasing mobile patrols, roadblocks and motorcycle patrols, DIG Rohana added.

Drone operations too will be conducted in Colombo and suburban areas to identify individuals who violate lockdown rules and regulations.

 

 

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