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X-Press Pearl disaster: Govt. to submit initial US$ 50 million claim as compensation



by Ifham Nizam

The government will submit an initial claim for US$ 50 million as compensation from the owners/insurance agents of the X-Press Pearl vessel, which was destroyed in a blaze in Sri Lankan territorial waters, a top government official said.

A Marine Environmental Protection Authority (MEPA) team is now working on the preliminary compensation proposal to be submitted shortly.

The Sunday Island learns that the team has also sought inputs from various other sectors affected by the enormous environmental disaster caused by the fire-stricken cargo vessel to prepare separate claims for compensation.

Central Environmental Authority’s Chemical and Hazardous Waste Management Unit, Director, Ajith Weerasundara said they would shortly spell out their recommendations regarding the extensive damage by the waste around the sea areas.

He termed the impact as “huge” with a strong chemical spread in the vicinity/

“MEPA is handling the calculations on the negative impacts on the ocean and to marine biodiversity”, he said.

Environmental Scientist, Hematha Withanage said only eight of the 1,486 containers had been cleared from the sea. “The longer the delay, the more extensive will be the damage caused”.

He said the fisheries sector has lost around Rs. 80 million per day and in addition, the clean up will have to go on for many more years though it may not be possible to trace 40 per cent of the debris.

The billions of plastic pellets that were washed ashore will remain intact for the next 500 to 1,000 years, Withanage asserted. “Every single plastic pellet is an environmental threat. We may collect 50 per cent, but the rest will remain buried in the sand the along the affected coastal belt”.

The ship seems to have been transporting around 42 different chemicals and around 45 different materials (of the declared goods) that possibly contain hazardous chemicals, he claimed.

He said while some are known toxics, the others are not chemicals of concern in their pure form. However, as the chemicals were ignited and also mixed with sea water, the damage will have a multiple ecological impact.

For example, the ingots when burned could emit lead vapour that cause air-borne contamination, he pointed out.

Oil Spill Response Limited (OSRL) and The International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation (ITOPF) are the ship owners and insurance companies, respectively.

Environment Minister Amaraweera said that the ship’s VDR (Voyage Data Recorder) would reveal those responsible for the ecological and economic disaster. “They should be held accountable”.

The environmental damage caused by the burning ship cannot be quantified as it’s so enormous , he  said.

He said the Marine Environment Protection Authority Chairman informed him that a team has already been sent to the vicinity of the sunken ship to investigate and obtain the oil samples.

“I received the list of cargo aboard the vessel. There were 193 items in about 1,486 containers”, the Minister said.

Debris from the container ship has affected more than 150km of Sri Lanka’s coastline, according to International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation (ITOPF) experts who are on site.

ITOPF said more than 1,000 people are involved in the clean up operation. The specialist pollution response company Oil Spill Response has also arrived in Sri Lanka and will work with ITOPF in providing technical assistance.

The Wildlife Conservation Department said dozens of dead marine species have been found on beaches countrywide.

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Shocking 17,500 video clips of Lankan children being sexually abused



By Norman Palihawadane

There were over 17,500 video clips of Sri Lankan children being sexually abused, on the Internet and action had been taken to arrest those responsible, Police Spokesman Senior DIG Ajith Rohana said yesterday. The Sri Lanka Police had sought the assistance of international law enforcement agencies and the Internet service providers to track down the persons involved in uploading those video clips and child sex trafficking via internet, the SDIG said.

Crimes against children in Sri Lanka were rising at an alarming speed, the SDIG said.

The police would conduct a special awareness programme together with the National Child Protection Authority to curb the alarming trend, he said.

The first programme was held recently in Nuwara Eliya where it especially focused apprising police officers attached to that Division.

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Private buses to insist that inter-provincial commuters carry proof of vaccination?



By Rathindra Kuruwita

A limited number of Sri Lanka Transport Board (SLTB) and National Transport Commission (NTC) buses and trains would maintain limited inter- provincial operation from 01 August, State Minister of Transport, Dilum Amunugma said.

The State Minister said that certified documents issued by the respective depot superintendents and the letters of approval by the NTC were mandatory, he added.

“The buses and trains will be permitted to operate only in the morning and in the evening for office workers,” Amunugma said.

The State Minister added that passengers should behave responsibly when using the inter-provincial transport services and understand that those services were only for commuters engaged in essential services.

“The Delta variant is spreading rapidly. If one infected passenger travels in a bus, all other commuters will contract it” he warned.

The Lanka Private Bus Owners’ Association (LPBOA) has decided to make proof of vaccination compulsory for inter provincial travel from 01 August

LPBOA President Gemunu Wijeratne said they had written to the President and Transport Minister asking for permission to enforce it.

Wijeratne said that all bus operators in the Western Province should ensure they were inoculated by August 15.



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TNA Leader complains against appointing Sinhala officers to Tamil areas



By Dinasena Ratugamage

Tamil National Alliance (TNA) Leader, R. Sampanthan had written to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister, Mahinda Rajapaksa, objecting to the appointment of Sinhala government officers to the Northern Province, former TNA MP Mavai Senathirajah told journalists on Wednesday (28.)

The President and the Prime Minister are appointing officials violating democratic principles, Senathirajah said after a meeting of party activists at Karachchi Divisional Secretariat Office, Kilinochchi.

“A lot of Sinhalese are appointed to the North and the East. They must appoint Tamils. These appointments undermine our struggle for a just language policy,” he said.

Senathirajah said that it was customary to appoint Tamil officers to Tamil majority areas. However, this tradition was being violated increasingly in recent times, the former MP said.

“The TNA has nothing against Sinhala government officers. However, appointing Sinhala state officers to majority Tamil areas is a great injustice to the people. So, our leader has written to the President and the Prime Minister asking them to stop this practice,” he said.

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