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X-Press Pearl wreck leaking oil: Environmentalists appeal to President

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By Ifham Nizam

A group of concerned Sri Lankan environmentalists has appealed to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to intervene to stop the oil leak from the X-Press Pearl wreck.    

“We strongly believe that Your Excellency’s intervention is vital at this stage.  We hope you can access all of the relevant videos, photographs and daily reports which are in the hands of the Insurer, Caretaker Company, and Oil Response Team to understand, for yourself, the gravity of what has happened, and of the greater catastrophe that could happen, if this wreck is not made safe soon,” the team has written to the President.  

Experts are Ven. Pahiyangala Ananda Sagara Thera of Protect Sri Lanka, Ravindranath Dabare, Chairman, Centre for Environmental Justice, Hemantha Withanage Friends of Earth Chairman, who is also Senior Advisor to CEJ, Yohan Weerasuriya, Federation of Environmental Organisations, Thilak Kariyawasam- FIAN Sri Lanka and Sri Lanka Nature Group, Herman Kumara – National Convener-National Fisheries Solidarity Organisation, Vincent Bulathsinhala – Janawabodha Kendhraya, Negombo, Dilena Pathragoda – Executive Director, Centre for Environmental Justice, Chinthaka Rajapaksha- Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform, Sajeewa Chamikara- Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform and Jehan CanagaRetna– Wildlife and Nature Protection Society (WNPS).

“We see only the lethargic responses of the relevant Government agencies in taking any meaningful action. For the last one and a half months, we have received information that the oil leak has spread to Negombo. We have learned that this oil comes from the air vent connected to the oil tank which is located not far from the deck,” Attorney-At-Law Ravindranath Dabare, Chairman, CEJ, has said.

Resolve Marine, the ITOPF (the Emergency Response Team), Oil Spill Response Ltd. (OSRL) and the McLarens Group understood the seriousness of this oil leak, but they have not taken any steps to stop it, the environmentalists have pointed out.  

Ven. Pahiyangala Ananda Sagara Thera has said that the Sri Lanka Coast Guard and the Marine Environment Protection Authority(MPPA), despite being aware of the situation, has not taken any meaningful action so far.  

“According to our information, this oil leak can be prevented by merely placing a cap on the vent. The precise location of this vent could be pinpointed by placing an unmanned underwater vehicle or a simple underwater camera, or just by asking the shipping company for a plan of the ship. We are particularly alarmed as this oil leak can create long-term environmental damage to coastal habitats, especially to the coral reefs and fish populations,” Environmental Scientist Hemantha Withanage has said. 

The ship contained 81 containers of hazardous materials, and many others contained chemical products including lubricant oil, gear oil, brake fluid, lithium-ion batteries, and a number of other such goods.  

Some of these containers have heavy metals such as lead and they have the potential to destroy marine life.  

The environmentalists have informed the government that the agencies responsible for preventing the oil leak are more interested in calculating compensation instead of tackling the oil leak.  “We also agree that compensation to fishermen, and to others whose livelihoods have been affected by this accident, should be considered as a high priority, but the environmental damage must also be mitigated, they have said.

 “We do not believe that the Insurer, who seems to control every aspect of this operation, has Sri Lanka’s interests at heart.  Therefore, the government, instead of depending on the insurer, should get a local team of experts to handle the matter.  The location of the wreck is of prime importance as the Gas Terminal and Oil Terminal are in the same area. Therefore, it is important to remove this toxic wreck, and its chemical containers, as soon as possible,” Withanage has said. 

 

 



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GL follows up Udaya’s initiative, negotiates concessionary crude oil supplies with UAE

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Balance-of-payment crisis continues to stagger govt.

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The United Arab Emirates (UAD) has agreed to discuss a possible arrangement to provide Sri Lanka crude oil on concessionary terms in the face of the country experiencing a severe balance-of-payments crisis, according to the Foreign Ministry.

Foreign Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris took up the matter with UAE Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, on the sidelines of the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York. Prof. Peiris is on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s delegation to the UNGA.

In late August, Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila sought the intervention of the Acting Head of the UAE Embassy in Sri Lanka, Saif Alanofy. Minister Gammanpila also met the Iranian Ambassador in Colombo in a bid to explore the possibility of obtaining oil from Iran on concessionary arrangements.

The Foreign Ministry statement on Prof. Peiris meeting with the UAE Minister dealt with the financial crisis experienced by the country. “Foreign Minister Peiris explained the challenges Sri Lanka is experiencing in respect of its external budget, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Prof. Peiris focused in particular on the country’s requirement for oil and requested concessionary arrangements from the UAE.”

The Foreign Ministry quoted Minister Al Jaber as having said that the UAE would be happy to assist and proposed the establishment of a strategic framework to take the process forward.”

The ministry stressed that both sides agreed to follow-up rapidly.

Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila earlier told The Island that concessionary arrangements were required to procure oil as part of an overall strategy to overcome the developing crisis.

Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU) leader and Attorney-at-law Gammanpila said that increase in fuel prices in the second week of June this year was only a part of the government’s response to heavy pressure on foreign reserves. Minister Gammanpila said that the decision was taken close on the heels of dire warning from the Central Bank.

Minister Gammanpila said that in spite of foreign currency crisis, the government ensured an uninterrupted supply of fuel. According to him, Sri Lanka spent as much as USD 3.5 to 5 bn annually on oil imports depending on the world market prices.

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President attends 9/11 commemoration in NY

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President Gotabaya Rajapaksa yesterday attended the special commemorative event near the Manhattan Memorial in the United States to mark the 20th anniversary of terrorist attacks in Washington and New York.

The terrorist attacks took place on September 11, 2001, targeting the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon, the headquarters of the United States Department of Defence.

Coinciding with the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism and the 9/11 Memorial Museum jointly organised the event. Other Heads of State and government representatives, who were in New York to attend the UN General Assembly, were also present at the event to pay tribute to those who lost their lives in those attacks.

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FSP calls on govt. allies not to pretend to oppose adverse deal with US firm

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By Anuradha Hiripitiyage

Due to the secret agreement signed with US firm New Fortress Energy, Sri Lanka would soon face a situation akin to the one already faced by Ukraine, the Frontline Socialist Party (FSP) predicted yesterday.

“Sri Lanka is trying to reduce its dependency on coal and switch over to LNG. With this in mind, several coal and diesel power plants are to be converted into LNG in the coming decade. Now, we will entirely depend on the US to provide us with LNG to power these plants. Given that the US intends to control the seas in which Sri Lanka is placed strategically, they will not let us off the hook once they establish their foothold here. We are in deep trouble,” FSP Propaganda Secretary, Duminda Nagamuwa said.

Nagamuwa said that some constituents of the government were pretending that they opposed the transfer of government’s shares in the Yugadanavi Power Plant to New Fortress Energy. “But this is not the time for theatrics but for concrete action”, he said.

Nagamuwa said that the agreement between the government and US Company New Fortress Energy to construct a new offshore liquefied natural gas (LNG) receiving, storage and regasification terminal at Kerawalapitiya as well as the transfer of government’s shares in the Yugadanavi Power Plant had to be scrapped.

“Even government ministers agree that the agreement was not discussed with them. Several affiliates of the government are trying to convince the people that they are fighting this decision from inside. However, past experience has shown that when push comes to shove they will stay with the government. They must show the leaders of the government that they are not puppets,” he said.

Nagamuwa said that if those affiliated to the government were serious in their opposition to undermining Sri Lanka’s energy security they should show their commitment by doing something concrete.

The Yugadanavi Power Station at Kerawalapitiya already produced 300 MWs of energy and there was a plan to build another 350 MW plant there. The US Company had now been allowed to build an offshore LNG receiving, storage, and regasification terminal and to provide LNG to the existing Power Station and the new 350 MW power plant to be built, he said.

“Now we are under the power of the US. We will soon be facing the plight of Ukraine,” he said.

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