Sunday, July 31, 2011
|Short-term elephant drives not the answer say conservationists adding that villagers must cooperate more with Wildlife Dept.|
|By Malaka Rodrigo|
Residents of the area blocked Palagala junction last week, demanding a solution for their Human-Elephant Conflict (HEC) issue. About 1,500 villagers gathered at this junction on July 20, protesting the death in the last two months of 7 villagers killed by elephants, according to media reports. Traffic from Kekirawa, Galewela and Mahawa was blocked, causing severe inconvenience to the public. The Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC) had to assure the villagers that they would relocate the troublesome jumbos and for the protesting villagers to disperse.
This was not the first time villagers blocked roads in protest. It is now becoming a common occurrence to bring a victim’s body to the road or, to the Wildlife Field Office, demanding a remedy to their life-threatening issue.
Apparently, the Wildlife officers’ immediate solution is relocation of the elephant. But elephant expert Dr. Prithiviraj Fernando points out that the present form of mitigating the HEC is very much from the human perspective, and it only worsens the problem.
In the long term, it is detrimental to the very people it is meant to protect. He emphasises that people and politicians need to understand that translocation or elephant drives are not long term solutions.
Experts also point out that the DWC cannot be alone held responsible for the HEC. HEC is a very complex issue with multiple causes fuelling it, resulting in the annual loss of at least 200 elephants and 50 people.
Even though scientific evidence clearly indicates that translocations or elephant drives don’t work, the DWC opts for the easy way out, when political pressure and people pressure override scientific evidence.
Manori Gunawardena, another elephant conservationist also points out that elephant management decisions such as drives are politicized, and therefore, will not mitigate the conflict in the long term.
The DWC usually engages in HECs only after development plans have been drawn up. For example, the resettlement process in the North and East are under way, but elephant conservationists haven’t noticed any plan in place to minimise potential HECs.
Manori pointed out that the resettlement plan is based on land tenure, from as long ago as the early 80's. But most of these ‘original places’ became jungles and now a rich wildlife habitat. People have no choice but to settle there, in dense forest, along with leopards, bears, elephants etc. Nowhere in the resettlement process do they address the elephant factor, complains Manori.
She points out that the DWC lacks the capacity to assist and implement conflict mitigation at this level with the development authorities, which will create another warfront of HEC in North. At a Stakeholder workshop on HEC, initiated by Born Free Foundation, it was pointed out that the protests were not regular and took place only if a next of kin was a victim.
It was pointed out that villagers were anything but cooperative of the DWC’s efforts at mitigation of HEC, preferring to sit it out on the sidelines, while expecting the DWC to go it alone. The villagers’ apathy towards cooperating with the DWC, even went to the extent of pilfering wires connected to the electrified fence, for its sale afterwards.
Sri Lanka has much scientific data to manage HEC, with the drafting of the National Policy for the Conservation and Management of wild elephants in Sri Lanka, several years ago. But this is yet to be implemented. Sri Lanka’s conservationists also had high hopes that the US$ 30 million World Bank (WB) loan for Ecosystem Conservation & Management Project would facilitate new conservation oriented programmes to alleviate HEC in the long term.
However, the Ministry of Finance informed the WB that this project did not address the development priorities of the government, and suggested modifications to the project design and the inclusion of additional activities which were not conservation oriented.
This resulted in the loan’s cancellation and with that went the efforts of the scientists. HEC needs a well-planned conservation approach, and if the Government and the policymakers are not willing to address the problem in conservation terms, these kind of protests are inevitable. The DWC alone will not be able to provide a solution.
|The proposed road adjacent to this World Heritage Site, may bring relief to people but it could destroy the rich biodiversity of the area, warn conservationists|
|By Malaka Rodrigo|
Roads that are being constructed across many wildlife sanctuaries in the name of development are in the news these days. The latest among these is a road that will be constructed adjacent to the World Heritage Site of the Sinharaja Rainforest. The proposed road will connect Pothupitiya/ Illuokanda to Rakwana/Deniyaya A17 road near Suriyakanda.
Tagged as a major project to connect Kalawana and Kolonne, local politicians are promising the people of the area that the road would bring much relief to them. However, this road, work on which began on July 27, will be harmful to the rich biodiversity in the area, environmentalists warn.
The proposed road will mainly go through lands adjacent to the Morning Side of Sinharaja , say conservationists attached to the Green Movement of Sri Lanka. Most of the forest lands which are under the Land Reform Commission (LRC) will be cleared for this road and the next inevitable step would be the distribution of LRC lands in the vicinity of the road to private owners, Green Movement’s Bandu Ranga Kariyawasam said.
He claimed a considerable area of forest patch is to be cleared under this project, although the Central Environmental Authority had not carried out an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and the Forest Department too seemed to be silent on the issue.
Environmental Lawyer Jagath Gunawardane stressed that any development even close to 100 metres was not legal. He said there was a possibility that this road would cut across protected areas too, adding that authorities should investigate the matter.
Sinharaja was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a Man and Biosphere Reserve (MAB) due to its unique biodiversity.
The Morning Side of Sinharaja has a unique ecosystem and is the only home for many of the threatened endemic animals and plants including several amphibian species that have been recorded only on one single location. These sites are sometimes outside the protected areas either on private lands or LRC lands. This highlights that there could be many more undiscovered species new to science on the adjacent forest patches to Sinharaja and other rainforests and clearance of a small patch of forest could make a species extinct within a few days. Even if this road results in the clearing of rainforest patches outside the boundary of the protected area it would still make a big impact.
Sri Lanka has been tagged as one of the 35 Biodiversity Hotspots of the world considering the number of species present in a unique land area, especially in tropical rainforests and cloud forests. Although these rainforests do not have charismatic species like elephant or bear, they are home to endemic lizards, amphibians, plants, freshwater fish, birds etc. The clearance of such a forest in this area is 10 times more destructive than clearing of a forest in a dry zone. But 80% of Sri Lanka’s Protected Areas are located in the dry zone and the wet zone which results in forests in the hill country being encroached for different reasons.
Environmentalists also say the conservation of these tropical rainforests is linked to the conservation of natural forest cover and this is emphasized in the 1997 report “Designing an Optimum Protected Area System for Sri Lanka” which has been collectively prepared by IUCN and the World Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC). It recommends Sinharaja Forest Reserve be conserved as a contiguous forest. This means adding LRC forest lands too to the protected area. But even after 11 years, this has not been implemented resulting in fragmentation and deforestation of the forest.
Mr. Gunawardane also pointed out that a cabinet paper was approved in 2004 to handover LRC lands adjacent to the Sinharaja to the Forest Department when A.H.M.Fowzie was the environmental minister. The Green Movement also says that the cabinet paper instructed to value these lands Rs.0/= (Zero value) and give them to the Forest Department. But LRC has valued these lands, claiming money from the Forest Department and Forest Department apparently had no funds to get these lands back. Due to these ongoing disputes valuable rainforest patches in these LRC lands are under threat.
The cultivation of tea and vegetables is a major reason for encroachment into forest land in these areas and the proposed road will entice more people to encroach, warn environmentalists. In a move to exert pressure on authorities to take steps the Green Movement has written to UNESCO seeking that Sinharaja be named a ‘World Heritage in Danger’ which would give more protective measures.
|By Tharaka Basnayaka|
The Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) took over the operational and administrative duties of the Norochcholai coal Power plant from the China Machinery and Equipment Import and Export Corporation last week. Prof. Wimaladarma Abeywickrama, chairman of the CEB in a press briefing held at the Norachcholai Power plant, Puttalam said that the plant was now contributing 300 MW to the national power grid which amounted to 17% of the nation’s energy requirement.A further 600MW is to be added to the national grid after the completion of the second phase of Norochcholai Power Plant..
The chairman refuted the allegations of using diesel as an energy source to generate electricity in Lakvijaya Coal Power Plant saying that diesel was only used as the fuel for the start up for the boiler and it was not used afterwards.
Lack of rain resulting in low water levels in hydro reservoirs and a sudden breakdown in the Lakvijaya power plant led to occasional power disruptions in the country which are now being overcome.
Speaking to the media, the Deputy General Manager of the Lakvijaya Coal power plant, Saliya Panditharathna said, “Norochcholai power plant produces a power unit (1kWh) consuming 40g of coal, at a cost of Rs. 9.50, sold for Rs. 13.50 which is cheaper and profitable compared to the hydrocarbon power plants. A Hydro power unit costs around Rs. 2.50 while Sapugaskanka furnace power plant produces a power unit at Rs. 10.50. Comparatively one power unit produced by wind mills at the Norochcholai power plant costs Rs.22, yet it is a world renowned renewable energy source.”
He urged the people, NGOs and other civil and religious organisations who are pointing fingers at the Norochcholai coal power plant to have a closer look at the Utukorin Thermal power plant which is situated at Tamil Nadu that emits around 25-30% of ash to the atmosphere that could have a direct effect on Sri Lanka due to the usage of impure coal content.
Despite the recent floods in south Australia that made the coal prices rise, the global coal prices are likely to be stable as the major contributors like China , India, etc. being economically stable compared to the global petroleum industry. Indonesia is the main source of coal for the Norochcholai power plant which is affordable and low sulfur concentrated thus being environmental friendly and keeping the sulfur dioxide emission to less than 1.2%.
Although the latest technology is more effective in resolving the energy crises, it is expensive and the Chinese technology used for Norochcholai Power plant is moderate and affordable and is suitable to the country, he added. The separation of coal ash has brought new revenue as 12 tons of coal ash is separated and stored per hour. Coal ash can be two types, one is Fly Ash, widely brought by the cement companies while Bottom Ash is taken by the National Engineering Research and Development Center (NERD) who are currently researching on using bottom ash to use as a filling substance.
Expressing his views on the 2,000-odd Chinese labourers he said that despite of the obstacles in communicating with the Chinese labour is more efficient and effective compared to the locals yet the villagers don’t find them too friendly. The Chinese have established a noodles manufacturing facility at the plant so there’s no need for them to buy them from outside.
Panditharathne also commented about the issue of school children not being taken inside the complex. “We always look forward to the school children who come to explore the power plant but the elders who are accusing us should get to see the danger that is associated with it. So we are cautious when dealing with the future generation of this country. That is why we have come up with a plan to employ a guide and take the children to selected places”.
Furthermore Panditharathna refuted the allegations of power plant’s machinery and equipment being old and used. “Establishing a power plant near the coastal region is always demanding for the machinery and equipment. We received brand new machinery from the Chinese government which are being exposed to the salty coastal atmosphere causing them to rust. But efforts are being taken to keep them in the best condition,” he said.
The fishermen who made a living out of ‘Madu Dal’ industry have been provided with boats and gear. During the off season the fisherman are able to cultivate in the land given to them by the government. The villagers who were displaced due to the project have been resettled with minimal effect to their social environment, said Anura Wijepala, Deputy chairman (CEB). He denied the allegations of providing free electricity from the Norochcholai power plant for religious purposes or events.
The Sri Lankan government spent Rs. 5,300 million for the 1st phase of the project and the Chinese government contributed with USD 455 million out of which USD 155 million were given at a low interest rate of 2% while the balance USD 300 million was given at an interest rate of 6%. The contract agreement for the second phase of the project was signed between EMEC and CEB in June 2009. A further 600MW is to be added to the national grid after the completion of the second phase. The Chinese contribution for the 2nd phase is USD 891 million funded by Chinese government through EXIM bank of China and the Rupee funding is by the government of Sri Lanka.
CEB Chairman Prof. Wimaladharma Abeywickrama, CEB Vice Chairman Anura Wijepala ,CEB Operational Director Prasanna Guanasena, CEB Additional General Manager Nihal Wickremasuriya and Deputy General Manager of Lakvijaya Coal Power Plant Saliya Panditharathna, were among the officials present at the event.
|‘Customer is the king’ says the well-known maxim, yet in reality it is questionable. How many of us would stand up for our individual consumer rights which will ensure the welfare of an entire nation’s consumers? Instead of being passive bystanders before infringements of consumer right violations, it is time consumers recognise their rights and obligations as a progressive step towards building a content society. The Nation spoke to Dr. Ajantha Perera, Chairperson Association for Consumer Action and the former Board Director and Member of the Pricing Committee and Complaint Resolving Committee of the Consumer Affairs Authority|
|By Randima Attygalle|
You walk out of a boutique or a supermarket with a bar of chocolate and once unwrapped, find white specks. The expiry date is a far ahead and you ruffle your brain, ‘how could it be’? You often come to the resolution, ‘tough luck’ and discard the chocolate. In a super market you may pick up an item priced at Rs.250 and at the counter you’re told its Rs.50 more, as the price has soared only a day before. You grudgingly pay knowing little that it’s your right to pay only what the label says!
On another occasion, the receptionist at an organisation gives you misleading information and you miss out an opportunity of a lifetime! You moan and groan and curse the entire bureaucracy and remain a passive bystander. “This should not be the case. Instead of remaining a passive, unsatisfied consumer, you got a right and an obligation to bring up the grievance before the Consumer Affairs Authority for the welfare of all consumers in the country,” says Dr. Ajantha Perera.Ensuring consumer welfare
Be it goods or services, the common reaction of the unsatisfied consumer is either to cease patronising a particular brand or the source it comes from or look at a particular forum with a critical eye. As a responsible consumer, our mandate is much larger than making a mere verbal fuss or swapping the shop or the super market. As Dr. Perera observes, lodging a complaint with the Consumer Affairs Authority enables the authorities to summon the complainant and the particular manufacturer of a good or an organiSation rendering a particular service to a common platform and inquire into the grievance and offer the aggrieved consumer compensation. “It is not merely the cost of the inferior good which is compensated but the possible vulnerability it would have caused such as medical expenses and loss of wages. This applies to services as well,” explained Dr. Perera.
A written complaint with sufficient evidence is mutually beneficial in ensuring consumer welfare and quality assurance on the part of the manufacturer and as Dr. Perera advises, retaining a receipt for goods or services obtained or a wrapper, carton of a particular consumer good, serve as sound evidence before the Consumer Affairs Authority when investigating into a grievance. As she further observes, despite the increase in the volume of such complaints over the last few years, there still exists a dire need to create consumer-awareness on a larger magnitude. “Lodging a complaint should always be viewed in a positive light because the purpose is to better the society. A complaint is brought up to ensure the wellbeing of the entire population of a country and just as the authorities of the Consumer Affairs Authority takes a decision in good faith on behalf of all consumers, there is a corresponding obligation on the part of the consumer,” Dr. Perera opined.
A lightly-printed bill where figures are hardly visible, a bill where the ink blotches moment it’s touched, may escape the notice of most of us, ignorant of the fact that they are shrewd marketing strategies devised to wipe out the best evidence consumers may hold. A product in the market which doesn’t adhere to the basics of consumer safety including the price, manufactured date, packed date (in case of bulk products which are re-packed), expiry dates are products to be shunned by the consumer as Dr. Perera observes. “In addition to the above, there are certain products in the local market such as bottled water which requires mandatory SLS certification as well as Health Ministry’s certification. Many consumers are also unaware that the consumer protection legislature requires a display of prices pertaining to all products which do not endorse a price on the label. This requirement is specifically related to unpacked items such as rice, grains, flour etc,” elaborated Dr. Perera.
The legislative provisions stipulated in the Consumer Affairs Authority Act (No. 9 of 2003) are large in scope extending to goods and services provided by both state and private owned bodies enabling the consumer to exhaust his/her full rights as a consumer. However, the obligation which lies on the shoulders of the consumer should not be forgotten, making the bottom line, ‘common sense’. Readily paying whatever the seller demands and realising later that there is a discrepancy with no receipt to claim leaves the consumer in the lurch. Failing to sign the ‘guarantee card’ and post it to the seller on time will offer you no remedy if an electrical good causes trouble within the guarantee period. As Dr. Perera advises, “knowing the seller personally may not always do the trick!”
Emerging a decision maker
Advertisements which always aspire to win the attention of the consumers towards the ‘unknown’ are a yardstick which can also assess the decisive power of the consumers. “Everything that glistens is not certainly gold which is applicable in the case of advertising. TV advertising does not promote pure water, mangoes or jak fruit but goods which people are not aware of. This again doesn’t mean that if you don’t drink a certain milk powder you will start falling apart after 40 or your child will get more intelligent when fed on a supplement,” Dr. Perera explained adding that the customer should necessary possess the intelligence to ‘read between the lines’ and to emerge a decision maker.
Society wants a wise consumer and not necessarily a consumer going with the Bandwagon. As Dr. Perera notes, it’s the consumer who got the money in hands to cater to the marketing strategies and he or she should spend a little time pondering if everything that glistens is actually gold…
Spending a little time reading the labels and learning to bend down are two golden tips Dr. Perera offers to the consumer. “A well-known global marketing strategy is to place the most expensive products at an eye level and cheaper goods at the bottom compelling a customer to squat and bend down and select. Since most of the consumers don’t take the trouble to stoop down, this marketing strategy is often achieved,” pointed out Dr. Perera who also warned that goods displayed in a jumble at a super market may not necessarily be cheap or discounted items and at times, they may even turn out to be more expensive than the rest.
The secret behind a happy society is the consumer satisfaction and it’s necessarily a society which strives to ensure this satisfaction. “In the developed part of the world, people are very conscious of their earnings and they will ensure that the hard-earnings are productively spent. Today, we are also a nation moving towards development and no longer existing in the cave age, thus consumer welfare is a progressive step to be taken in that direction whilst ensuring quality life and increasing consumer awareness,” concluded Dr. Perera.
|Consumer Affairs Authority Act (No. 9 of 2003)|
|• Sect 11- Selling or offering to sell above the marked price|
Any person who sells or offers to sell any goods :the price marked on the goods in accordance with a direction issued under section 10, shall be guilty of an offence under this Act• Sect 26- Trader to display price list
26 (1) Every trader shall exhibit conspicuously in his place of business, a notice specifying the maximum retail or wholesale price, as the case may be, of goods available for sale in his place of business other than the price of any goods, the price of which is marked on the goods itself or on the wrapper or pack containing it or marked in any other manner as may be required by any law.
(2) A complete list of the price of goods, available for sale shall be kept within the place of business at all times for inspection whenever required.
• Sect 31- False representation
31. Any trader who, in the course of a trade or business, in connection with the supply or possible supply of goods or services or in connection with the promotion by any means of the supply or use of goods or services:
(a) falsely represents that goods or services are of a particular standard, quality or grade, or that goods are of a particular style or model;
(b) falsely represents that goods are new;
(c) represents that goods or services have sponsorship, approval, performance, characteristics accessories, uses or benefits they do not have;
(d) represents that such trader has a sponsorship approval or affiliation he does not have ;
(e) makes false or misleading statements concerning the existence of, or amounts of price reduction or price increase;
(f) makes false or misleading statements concerning the need for any goods, services, replacements or repairs; or
(g) makes false or misleading statements concerning the existence or effect of any warranty or guarantee shall be guilty of an offence under this Act.
|Head of the CMC health division warns vendors|
By S. Selvakumar
All packets of lunch brought into the city should be sold within four hours of preparation, Head of the CMC health division Dr. Pradeep Kariyawasam told a meeting of lunch packet sellers held at the Municipality Auditorium earlier this week.
This was one of the measures adopted by the Colombo Municipality following complaints by several consumers as well as following detections made by Public Health Inspectors that food parcels, especially lunch packets brought to the city from the suburbs were often did not meet the expected quality and sometimes spoilt.
At this meeting addressed by Dr. Kariyawasam over 100 sellers of lunch packets were present along with various Municipal officials including Public Health Inspectors.
It was also told that a ban has been imposed to pack food in rigifoam containers and in newsprint which he explained was a health hazard that could even lead to dangerous diseases like cancer if consumed regularly since the oily matter in the container and newsprint get absorbed to the food.
Dr. Kariyawasam also explained that a scheme has been implemented to register those food sellers in the city that would help CMC authorities to keep a constant tab on them. The PHIs have been authorised to subject the food in the packets for inspection to ascertain the quality and purity, he told the vendors. He requested them to cooperate with the authorities to ensure clean and wholesome food mainly to thousands of office workers who patronise them daily.
“This was only a start aimed at ensuring quality and clean lunch to office workers since many of them cannot afford to eat at posh hotels. The scheme will be intensified in the future and those vendors who fail to adhere to standards specified by the CMC would be prosecuted after a few initial warnings,” Dr.Kariyawasam said.
Saturday, July 30, 2011
15 National Parks closed for three days - Elephant census to cost Rs. 20 mn
By Pabodha Hettige
The Department of Wildlife Conservation is conducting sessions to train its officials on how to conduct the countrywide elephant census, scheduled to take place next month, sources from the Wildlife Department said. "Mock training sessions have been conducted in all parts of the country and are now being carried out in the Northern Province with the assistance of the armed forces," the DWC said.
The DWC is planning to obtain the assistance of nearly 4,000 people to carry out the census. They will include wildlife officials, university students, NGO personnel, members of the armed forces and the residents of the respective areas. The officials have been trained to avoid double counting of the jumbos and to avoid jumbo attacks. The officials will be deployed at 1,553 counting points in all the national parks, the DWC said.
Fifteen National Parks countrywide will be closed for three days in this regard from August 11 to 13, the DWC said. Accordingly Kumana, Wilpattu, Yala, Bundala, Gal Oya, Maduru Oya, Lahugala, Udawalawe, Wasgamuwa, Somawathi, Lunugamwehera, Minneriya, Angammadilla and Kaudulla National Parks and several other places will be closed for visitors due to the census.
"It is estimated that the census would cost nearly 20 million rupees," the DWC said. The census would categorize elephants into males, females, baby jumbos, wounded elephants, tuskers and record their respective numbers. A special study would be carried out regarding tuskers and the size of their tusks.
The census is based near water ways and the DWC has chosen the dry season to conduct it since the elephants come to drink water at least once a day. The DWC believes that there could be nearly 6,000 elephants’ island wide.
Previously few censuses on elephants had been carried out but this is the first countrywide census. In 1993 a census was carried out in the country except the Northern and Eastern Provinces and a total of 1,967 elephants were recorded. In 2004 nearly 1,400 elephants had been recorded in the North Western wildlife region, covering Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Puttalam and Vavuniya districts. The last census was carried out in the Mahaweli wildlife region in 2008, where 2149 elephants were recorded, the DWC said.