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17th May 1998

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Cry against baby corn project

By Dilrukshi Handunnetti

Will Sri Lanka hit international headlines by planting baby corn in a dangerous area prone to constant earthslips?

Initiated by a consultant to a VVIP to grow baby corn in Aluthwela in Haldumulla close to the easthslip prone Kosalanda, the massive cultivation project is being launched by a private company. But it is being opposed by some for the ensuing threats to wild life, forest cover and the adverse effects on the feeder waterways of Kuda Oya.

The Sunday Times learns that the project which has received the dual blessing from a Deputy Minister from Nuwara Eliya and the controversial consultant has caused much heartburn to the people of the area. It is being initiated despite reservations by forest officials.

The project was approved without an Environment Impact Assesment despite the area being designated erodabale and prone to earthslips since the 1950's. Forest officials do not favour it since it might affect feeder waterways of Kuda Oya, destroy valuable trees and create more conflict between man and beast.

In June 1997, the site was inspected by a group of professionals including Forest Department officials who strongly recommended that the land should not be leased to Agro Trading Lanka (Pvt.) Ltd. and warned of dangerous conseqences if cultivation was undertaken there.

The project area covering several hundreds of acres has squatter families and many abandoned chenas. The closest mountain range, Hamina Kanda has thick natural forest cover and several waterways including Ambadola Ara and Naw Ara nurturing Kuda Oya.

The project report prepared in May 1996 triggered a wave of protests from Haldumulla residents who feared that further clearing of forests would pollute water and restrict the elephant habitat which would cause mass destruction of crops and property by elephants. Their pleas to disallow cultivation in an area not marked for agricultural purposes have fallen on deaf ears.

Illicit felling and unlawful clearing for chena cultivation have also caused rapid depletion of forest cover and wild elephants have started migrating to nearby villages.

Report on Koslanda landslides ready

By Shelani de Silva

A comprehensive report will be submitted to President Chandrika Kumaratunga shortly on a series of landslides in the Koslanda area which occurred early this week.

The report came to be completed as authorities were planning an alternative route in the area after one of the main routes had been affected by a fresh landslide in the area.

A special Task Force was appointed to look into the reason for the earthslip which caused immense damage to families living in the vicinity. The Koslanda road which is the trunk road leading to Nakatiya became impassable.

The Task Force assisted by the RDA, and the Divisional Secretary finalised the interim report a few weeks back.

Forestry and Environment Ministry Secretary K.A.S. Gunesekera who was appointed Chairman of the Task Force told The Sunday Times that the interim report which is very technical is at present being edited and will be handed over to the President the moment the work is completed, and added that more officers have been put on the job.

This area is prone to such dangers. It is a geological issue where the soil gets disintegrated. There is nothing we can do than to warn the people of the dangerous situation. Human habitation should not be encouraged. Cultivation and other activities should be done to the minimum. We had discussed the risks and the effect it will have, the Secretary said.

He further added that the RDA is exploring the possibility of making an alternative route, but this too as a long-term solution.

Meanwhile, the Budulla District Secretary W.M.A. Wijekoon said nearly 100 acres have been affected and due to the heavy showers experienced recently, the road is in a bad condition. However, he added that there have been no loss of lives.

There are about nine families living in the vicinity, and they desire to move out. The matter is under consideration, he said.

Vehicles proceeding to Nakatiya from Penagala and Wellawaya had to seek alternative routes. The road affected is nearly 350 feet in length. Due to the earthslip children living in the area who attend a school a few miles away have been affected.

UL debate coming live

The controversial AirLanka-Emirates deal will be taken up for a full day's Parliamentary debate on Tuesday with much fanfare including live TV coverage. In response to a request by the UNP, that all parties be given equal time five of the eight hours in the debate will be given to opposition speakers.

The postponed debate on the widely criticised, Milko Amul agreement on the local dairy industry will be taken up on Wednesday. This debate was moved for by the opposition.

Memorial oration

UNP MP Anura Bandaranaike, will deliver R.I. Fernandopulle Memorial Oration on May 30 at Maris Stella College Negombo at 7.00 pm. on "The Liberal Tradition in Sri Lankan Society since 1948".

The late Mr. Fernandopulle was a leading citizen and was closely associated with Maris Stella College.

Tigers condemned

The SLMC has strongly condemned the alleged LTTE attack inside a mosque at Akkaraipathu on Friday and accused the rebels of blatantly violating norms of human behaviour.

It is reported that an LTTE gunman entered the mosque on the pretext of being a Muslim and shot at a policeman while he was at prayer.

The gunman while fleeing from the mosque had also thrown a grenade at people outside the mosque.

The LTTE while accusing the security forces of desecrating places of worship is doing the same by these attacks on mosques and temples all over the country, an SLMC spokesman said.

The party urged the Muslims and all peace loving citizens to remain calm at such provocations and help the government and all progressive forces to achieve peace.

SLMC weighs options for polls

By Chamintha Thilakarathna

The Sri Lanka Muslim Congress is under pressure from its provincial members to contest the upcoming PC elections independently, a party spokesman said.

Deputy Minister M.S.M Hisbullah, said the SLMC was weighing the pluses and minuses of linking up with ruling People's Alliance in the election company.

"We have not taken a final decision to go independently," he told The Sunday Times.

SLMC hopes to contest in the central, north central, western and north western provinces. Mr Hisbullah said the SLMC felt it was also important to have elections in the Eastern province where the party has its power base.

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