28th May 2000
Front Page
Editorial/Opinion| Plus|
Business| Sports| Sports Plus|
Mirror Magazine
The Sunday Times on the Web

Call for joint effort to curb dengue

By Faraza Farook 
The Ministry of Health has called for public support to eradicate mosquito breeding places in order to control the dengue disease which is likely to break out with the onset of rains.

The Department of Health has arranged for programmes to get the public, health authorities and municipal authorities involved in the project to control the disease. 

Programmes involve getting students in small groups accompanied by either a teacher, a medical officer or a PHI to identify mosquito breeding grounds and suggest suitable measures to eradicate them. 

Meanwhile provincial departments have been asked to monitor the situation in their respective areas. 

"Cleaning the surroundings is the first step in the eradication programme," Health Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva said. 

A survey carried out by the ministry showed that the Western Province was more prone to be affected by the disease than any other part of the island. The Colombo Municipal Council area has been identified as one of the worst areas with most patients being reported. The survey also revealed that tyres provided an ideal place for the mosquitoes to breed. 

Some of the main breeding sites identified were commercial establishments, bus depots and schools.

Medical Research Institute Director Dr. Gaya Colombage said that bus depots have a 90% chance of providing mosquitoes a suitable breeding ground while commercial establishments were ranked second with an 80% chance and households with a 30% probability.

In a consultative meeting held last Wednesday to brief Municipal authorities, PHIs and the media on the dengue control programme, Dr. Colombage suggested ways of preventing mosquito breeding. Tyres, one of the commonest breeding places, have to be covered with plastic covers, polythene or asbestos if they are stacked. In schools, where tyres are used for sports activities, the ring should be filled with sand (the area where water can collect when the tyre is vertically placed). Holes in trees can collect water, therefore they should be filled with sand. Adding salt to flower pots controls mosquito breeding. Having guppi fish in tanks or ponds too arrests breeding. The Health Ministry has launched on this programme in order to prevent a possible outbreak in the coming months. Dengue breaks out with the monsoon rains during the months of June / July and during the end of the year.

Children between the ages of five and nine are the most vulnerable to the disease. The need to change the behavioural patterns of the public was pointed out.

"Keeping the surroundings clean should be a continuous process and be made part of your routine work instead of confining it to only to times of outbreak," Dr. Tilak Kulatilake, from the Infectious Diseases Unit said. 

Conserve power or face cuts, says CEB

By Hiranthi Fernando
The Ceylon Electricity Board appeals to the public to conserve power in order to avert power cuts. The severe drought in the catchment areas of the reservoirs has brought the country to the brink of a power crisis. 

During the last 12 months there has been little rain in these areas, thus causing a sharp reduction of the water levels in the reservoirs. Unless the south-west monsoon sets in within the next week, power cuts may become unavoidable. 

'If the public cooperates by reducing consumption, we will not have to resort to measures that inconvenience the people, such as cutting of power supplies', said Ananda Gunasekera, Acting Secretary, Ministry of Power and Irrigation at a press conference on Friday. He said the purpose of the press conference was to explain to the media the position regarding power supplies. 

Due to the prevailing drought in the catchment areas, the volume of water in the reservoirs has been reduced to an average of 18% as at today. During the last few days, the consumption of electricity has been as much as 20 million units per day. 

Acting General Manager, D.C. Wijeratne explained that if the drought continues it will not be possible to meet the peak demand, which is at night. When the water level drops to a certain level, some machines will have to be shut down because the turbines cannot work. For example, the water level at the Castlereigh reservoir has dropped to 49 feet below spill level and at Moussakelle to 61 feet below spill level. The lowest level they can go down to is 59 and 72 feet respectively. If the levels drop further, electricity cannot be generated from the water in those reservoirs. 

Mr. Wijeratne said that simple measures to conserve power by the public can help to carry on with power supplies for a few days more. 'However, if we have one or two days of rain for a couple of hours, we can get over the problem'. he said.

The Chairman, Ceylon Electricity Board, Arjun Deraniyagala requested the media to convey to the public the need to conserve power at this critical juncture. 

'Unfortunately, power consumption has gone up drastically, while we were trying to conserve', he said. He stressed that it was necessary to be careful by using minimum lighting. In households, a conscious effort to reduce the use of fans and irons can help. In the case of commercial and industrial establishments, starting up the air-conditioning one hour later and shutting it down an hour earlier is recommended. Illumination at carnivals should be stopped or reduced. Neon signboards and advertisements should be switched off. Even in the case of street lights, every alternate light could be switched off. 'If we adopt such measures, we can effect a considerable reduction in the consumption', Mr. Deraniyagala said. 

Today, over 60% of the power supply is supplied by thermal power and approximately 40% by hydro power. During the power crisis in 1996, the consumption was 14 million units per day, while today it has increased to 20 million units. In 1996, there were two thermal generation plants at Sapugaskanda and Kelanitissa generating three to four million units per day. Today CEB thermal power stations generate about 12 million units of power per day. It also has a scheme to purchase power from private sector owners of generators and mini hydro power systems to augment the national grid. It is felt that if the daily consumption of power could be reduced by two million units harsh measures could be avoided. If the consumption is not reduced, the CEB is considering the imposition of a temporary surcharge on excess usage and the extreme measure would be the power cuts.

Sucked into river at dead of night

By Prasanna Sanjeewa and Niroshana Godellage
For the Karunasena family who were living at Wellampitiya by the side of the Kelani river the sound of the water beating against their rear wall was familiar. They had been living close to the river for the past five years.

With the river flowing behind the house and the water levels rising on various days the family had earlier sensed danger and had lodged complaints with relevant authorities. During the last Presidential election similar complaints were made .

Various promises were given to them. But elections were over and everything was forgotten.

One of the assurances was that they were to be given land in the Himbutana area. Rs. 500 was collected from each of them and Karunasena who earns a living by collecting sand from the river had paid up Rs. 500 assuming that he will be entitled to a block of land and could live safely.

As days went by the land portion behind Karunasena's house began to erode

Karunasena's daughter who had been living in Gampola had left for West Asia two years back and returned following her contract ending. She had left her daughter Iresha with the grandparents during her stay abroad.

Iresha was brought up by the grandparents and in January she was admitted to Year I of Sedawatta Madhya Maha Vidyalaya. 

Last Saturday they went to bed as usual and were conscious about the water level around the house. Iresha slept with her mother and brother in a room which parallels the river.

The sound of the water beating against the house was familiar and they did not take notice of it, but suddenly the mother woke up. The next scene was shocking.

The soil on the side of the wall facing the river had washed away and through a small gap the little girl had been sucked into the river.

Until the next morning there was no trace of the child and the body was finally recovered 20 feet away from the house.

The freak incident which led to the death of the girl has shocked many who live dangerously beside the Kelani river.

Several hundred more families live beside the river in this manner but are unable to move away mainly due to poverty.

Snuff under tongue makes the young aggressive 

A powder, commonly known as the 'snuff' now marketed widely and popular among the young, is believed to contain a powerful narcotic. The snuff sold in packets at Rs. four or five and popular among the youth have brought complaints from parents that their children show extreme signs of aggressiveness.

Some parents who have brought this problem to the notice of doctors have complained that their children show extreme signs of elation or aggressiveness or talk forcefully about ten minutes after taking the powder. 

Another interesting fact is that the youngsters don't sniff the 'snuff' as is done usually, but instead keep it under their tongue where absorption is rapid.

The product which is also popular in the upcountry reportedly brings about a marked behavioural change in the user. 

A medical officer from Hatton said, "the changes in behaviour and temperament is alarming and I myself have seen these changes and symptoms in many youngsters who come here for treatment for other ailments".

This medical officer suspects that the product contained a powerful narcotic or amphetamine. He said complaints made to the local Excise authorities went unheeded.

The Drug Regulatory Authority in Colombo said this problem has not been brought to its notice but would investigate the matter.

Reporter assault: two out; two remain

By Chris Kamalendran
Police investigating the alleged assault and illegal detention of The Sunday Times investigative reporter Leon Berenger have so far recorded the statements of at least 25 persons including two persons who shared the same cell, Police Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Jayantha Wickramaratne said yesterday.

Those questioned include witnesses from the Police and several others, he said.

According to the DIG the matter is being investigated and once the inquiry is completed the findings will be submitted to IGP Lucky Kodituwakkuwa.

The two chief suspects as named by Mr. Berenger are Inspector Senaka Ratwatte, the Officer in Charge of the Crime Detection Bureau (CDB) of the Dehiwela police and another constable identified only as Prassana. However two other officers who were also present at the time of the alleged arrest and assault continue to remain in the same unit of the Dehiwala police.

IP Ratwatte has already been transferred to the Field Police Head Quarters at Bambalapitiya and the constable to the Sri Lanka Police Reserve (SLPR) pending the completion of the probe, DIG Wickramaratne told The Sunday Times.

According to DIG Wickramaratne, who heads the southern range of the western province the inquiry is likely to drag on for at least another one week before a final decision could be taken.

Earlier Media Minister Mangala Samaraweera ordered police to hold an inquiry at the highest level in this connection following a complaint made by the The Sunday Times Editor. President Chandrika Kumaratunga was also apprised on the matter.

In his complaint to police, the journalist had stated that around 11.15 am on May 15 he was assaulted and illegally detained for over six hours at the Dehiwala police after he was picked up from the road near Anderson Junction. He had immediately identified two of the officers' as IP Ratwatte and PC Prassana

The police officers named in the complaint are also alleged to have insulted the media, damned the Burgher community to which Mr. Berenger belongs to and even threatened him with bodily harm. 

He was subsequently released following pressure from the residents who had turned up in large numbers at the Dehiwela police station once the news had got out.

During his six hours of alleged illegal detention the journalist was denied access to a toilet, food and water and also a telephone call to which he is entitled to.

Weeks prior to the incident he had repeatedly, through The Sunday Times, exposed alleged links between certain police officers and the underworld adding that drug barons and the likes were calling the shots.

The incident also drew wide condemnation in both the Government and private media who in unison called for a quick probe and justice while warning that such incidents should not be allowed to happen against a journalist in future.

Index Page
Front Page
Sports Plus
Mirrror Magazine

More News/Comment

Return to News/Comment Contents


News/Comment Archives

Front Page| News/Comment| Editorial/Opinion| Plus| Business| Sports| Sports Plus| Mirror Magazine

Please send your comments and suggestions on this web site to 

The Sunday Times or to Information Laboratories (Pvt.) Ltd.

Presented on the World Wide Web by Infomation Laboratories (Pvt.) Ltd.
Hosted By LAcNet