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16th September 2001
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Big blaze at Wellawatte
Five shops in one building at 
Wellawatte were gutted in a big
fire caused by a gas cylinder 
explosion yesterday evening, 
police said. Fire fighters battled 
for more than three hours to extinguish
the blaze while Police struggled 
to ease a massive traffic jam on the 
busy Galle Road junction. 
A communication, a vegetarian 
hotel, a textile shop, a sweetmeat 
stall and a paint shop were hit
by fire. Pic by Lakshman Gunatillake 
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Rains forecast while reservoir water levels drop further

By Shelani de Silva.
Water levels in the hydropower reservoirs have dropped further with hardly any rain in the catchment areas.

The capacity of water in the three main reservoirs, Kotmale, Randenigala and Victoria is now below 20%. 

Click the image for a larger viewClick the image for a larger view

Kotmale with a total capacity of 141,000 acre feet has only 3.4% of water, Victoria with 509,800 acre feet has 6.4% and Randenigala with 697,000 acre feet has 16.1%.

The water level in the Randenigala reservoir has gone below the minimum level at which the plant can be operated while the turbines at the Kotmale power plant are being operated for shorter periods, fearing damage to the turbines with the water level being so low.

Meanwhile the Meteorology Department is predicting thunder showers specially in the catchment areas.

It has said there are clear signs of the country receiving rain within the next few days, at the tail end of the south-west monsoon.

A Met Department official said there is a change in the weather pattern, and inter-monsoonal rain is expected.

'It is difficult to give an exact time period but rain will be experienced during this month. There will be thundershowers mainly in the Central and North Central Provinces, which will later spread to the eastern, western and southern coasts,' he said.

However the Met Department made similar predictions last week, but no significant rain was received. 

He added that the main reason for the present humidity experienced during the night is because the sun is directly over Sri Lanka.


Population census reveals low growth rate

By Faraza Farook
This year's census conducted after a lapse of 21 years has been able to cover completely only 18 out of the 24 districts, with most parts of the North and East uncounted due to the ongoing war, Director General of the Census and Statistics Department Wimal Nanayakkara said.

Only Ampara in the North-East province was covered while other districts in the province were either partially accounted for or left out completely due to constraints. Thus the analysis is confined only to the 18 districts.

Accordingly, the population growth showed an increase of 28.2 % in these districts since the last census at an average growth rate of 1.2%. Mr. Nanayakkara said that the growth rate for the entire country would be 1.3%. Gampaha recorded the second highest growth rate of 1.9% after Ampara which showed 2%. The migration of people to export processing zones is believed to have been the reason for the increased growth rate recorded in Gampaha.

The census figures of population by sex, age, religion and ethnicity at District and Divisional Secretariat area level released by the Census and Statistics Department last week for 18 districts only showed marginal differences in most areas when compared with figures of the 1981 census.

The sex ratio showed that the total number of females in the 18 districts outnumbered the males by 176,616. The number of males per 100 females had declined from 103.9 units in 1981 to 97.9 this year. Only six districts exceeded the 100 mark (a sex ratio above 100 units denotes an excess of males and one below 100 denotes an excess of females). 

Matara showed the lowest sex ratio (93.3) which Mr. Nanayakkara says is due to men moving out of the district for employment.

Age distribution was available in two categories only under 18 and 18 and above. However, the census has shown that Sri Lanka's aged population is on the increase, Mr. Nanayakkara said. The under 18 population constituted only 1/3 (32.9%) of the population and showed a decrease of 8.7 % since 1981. This decrease was seen in all districts and is attributed to the declining number of births. Births have dropped to 320,000 now from 400,000 recorded in the mid eighties, Mr. Nanayakkara noted.

The ethnic composition for the 18 districts showed a marginal decrease in all groups except Sri Lankan Moor which had increased from 6.4 % to 8 %. In the Nuwara Eliya district, the number of Sri Lankan Tamils showed a sharp drop from 12.7% to 5.9% and a equally large increase in Indian Tamils (42.7% to 51.3%). This notable increase was due to people misreporting or misrepresenting themselves as Sri Lankan Tamils during the 1981 census which has been rectified to some extent this year.

Other ethnic groups showed minimal decreases when compared with 1981.

Religion wise too, Islam showed a proportionate increase as in its ethnicity. Other groups showed trivial variations when compared with the last census.

The sectoral composition of the population which identifies the urban, rural and estate population was not clear because only the Municipal and Urban Council areas have been accounted for in the urban sector. The Town Councils (now Pradeshiya Sabhas) which at the 1981 census came under the urban category are now considered as rural. 

Mr. Nanayakkara said that the exact urban and rural population can be calculated with the release of other details such as population density, housing units, in each Grama Niladhari division which would enable the Department to clearly demarcate the urban/rural population. 

The urban population, according to the present statistics is 14.6%, but Mr. Nanayakkara says this should ideally be around 30%. The rural population is 80% and the estate population 5.3%.

The highest urban population is concentrated in Colombo district (54.7%) followed by Ampara (19.1%) and Gampaha (14.6%). The estate population is highest in the Nuwara Eliya district (53.3%) and comparatively high in Badulla (20.2%) and Ratnapura (10.1%).

Mr. Nanayakkara said it would take at least an year to release the final report comprising all the statistics of the census.


Canada under pressure to crack down on terrorists

In the aftermath of the gruesome attack on the US by unidentified terrorists, a Canadian daily newspaper has come out strongly against the Canadian system which remains lenient on international terrorist groups like the Hamas and the LTTE. 

It has stressed on the need to review the situation on considering Canada's own vulnerability in the face of international terrorism.

The National Post on Thursday in a review titled 'A conduit for terrorists' has questioned Canada's vulnerability to global terrorism. It drew reference to a report filed by the National Post earlier this month on the Sri Lankan Tamil Tiger terrorist group using Canada as a funding base. 

The review made reference to the Al Qaeda group of Osama bin Laden, the Middle Eastern extremists Hamas and Hezbollah, the Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka, the Sikh militant groups fighting in India all having a presence in Canada.

"Given the nature of terrorism, it is hardly surprising agents of political violence seek out and exploit the weaknesses in the Canadian system to sport their campaigns," it said. 

With perhaps the singular exception of the United States, Canada's leading intelligence official, Ward Elock, said in his 1998 testimony to the special senate committee on security and intelligence, "There are more international terrorist groups active here than any other country in the world".

The National Post further claimed that Canada's vulnerability to infiltration by terrorists was deeply entrenched. Its refugees laws were probably the most lax in the western world and anyone who arrived on Canadian soil and claimed to be a refugee was entitled to a hearing, a lawyer and generous welfare benefits.

The Senate Intelligence Committee's January 1999 report had noted that while Canadians have not been major 'terrorist targets', the country was a 'venue of opportunity' for terrorist groups, a place where they may raise funds, purchase arms and conduct other activities to support their organizations and their terrorist activities elsewhere.

It also quoted the Federal Court of Appeal ruling on the case of Manickavasagam Suresh, the leader of the Tamil Tigers' Canadian Branch, that those who raise money to buy bombs are as culpable as those who actually plant them.

"But one might argue that Canada has already become an 'unofficial' terrorism sponsor. A top secret list of Tamil Tigers 'front organizations' compiled by CSLS lists the names of no less than eight groups in Vancouver, Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto, some of them funded with grants from the federal, provincial and municipal governments," it stated.

Commenting on the laxity of the Canadian laws in curbing global terrorism, the Post claimed that although Canada had no counter- terrorism law, the government appeared in no hurry to correct the gaping hole in its security system. The liberals have drafted a law that would deny 'charity status' to groups that supported terrorism, but it had been stalled, in part due to opposition from such lobby groups as the Canadian Islamic Congress.

There have also been talks of a law that would ban terrorists from fund raising, but it is not considered a policy priority within the Department of Justice, which is instead focusing on the development of anti gang-legislation.

In addition, some liberal MPs have attended rallies for the Tamil Tigers. Two Federal Cabinet ministers, Paul Martin and Maria Inna, were guest speakers at a May 2000 dinner hosted by the federation of associations of Canadian Tamils, which CSLS and the US state Department have labelled as fronts for the Tigers, the National Post added. 

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