Business Times

340,000 disease-affected coconut trees in Weligama to be destroyed

By Quintus Perera

While the government was thanked for the issue of fertilizer for coconut cultivation at subsidized rates, two major issues came up for discussion and decision at the 17th AGM of the Coconut Growers Association of Sri Lanka held last week in Colombo.

One issue is the disease prone coconut palms in Weligama area and the other is the perennial problem of coconut thefts from coconut estates. With regard to the Weligama coconut disease, Jagath Pushpakumara, Minister of Coconut Development and Janatha Estate Development who was the Chief Guest said that in the Weligama area the disease has affected almost the entirety of the coconut plantation in that area and the government has decided to fell down 340,000 coconut trees as they are found to be disease prone.

He said that he has just completed a tour to Kerala and there he was told that the same disease affected the coconut trees in Kerala and 90% of the coconut plantations had to be destroyed. He said that Kerala could not find a solution for the disease and therefore the Government has decided to cut down all the affected trees in Weligama.

There was a plea from the Weligama coconut growers through Bandula Seneviratne, President, Southern Province Coconut Growers Branch to spare the livelihood of a large number of people in that area as some of the people live on coconut sales. The plea was rejected and Mr Pushpakumara said that if they save the disease prone coconut trees in Weligama, there is a possibility of the disease spreading to other parts of the country and for the sake of saving other coconut plantations in other parts of the country and as a national issue they would be cutting down all these coconut trees.

R.M. Gunawardene, a former Ayurvedic Commissioner who is a coconut grower in Weligama, said that for sometime he has been using a different mixture to his coconut plants and the disease has not affected his plantation.

These pleadings went unheeded and Mr Pushpakumara said that they have no confidence in certain so-called scientific research as they have found that some of which are just individual ideas (Mathayak) and they have decided to cut down all the trees as they cannot spend any more time to wait till the research is over as they fear that the disease might spread to other parts of the country.

In the case of coconut thefts it was pointed out that there were large scale thefts and there should be a stop to this menace. (Coconut thefts were reported in these columns on 31/10/2004). Quintus Raymond, SSP, Police Environmental Protection who was presnt undertook to look into the matter and bring a solution to the problem.

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