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Coconuts: Hiding the Ace and playing the Joker

Coconut - Yes the simple coconut has catched the face nation of everybody and has become one of the hot topics often subject to discussion. People of all walks, talk about it, write about it.


A coconut estate

Some time back I penned a few articles on coconuts and coconut estates. I explained in detailed the doom and decay which the future holds. I was very explicit about hove, which will creep in as a result of partitioning, coconut estates. It appears I have played the flute for a set of deaf audience. It appears that my comments, concerns and danger signals have failed to produce any results. All is gone with the wind.

Now coconut has become the hot topic, hotly debated. We hear the Coconut Cultivation Board (CCB) is back in action and coming up with a scheme to supply coconut plants, Coconut fertiliser subsidies being increased. Steps have been taken to provide a number of relief measurers, including interest-free bank loans. Usually coconut takes a lengthy period as long as 10 years to grow, mature, and yield nuts. And many more facilities are said to be in the pipeline.

Hiding the Ace, and playing the Joker could be the reason for the sad state of affairs, which engulfs the coconut industry today. Mica epidemics and the ferocity of the weather gods are often quoted as reasons for the skyrocketing prices in coconut. But one could call it the height of duplicity exhibited by the powers that matter. But the undeniable reason is the partitioning of coconut land into plots of 10-15 perches in extent and selling them with least regard to the ensuing disastrous results. Fast buck quick cash is the motive.

The Sinhala saying Ballo Marala Hari Salli Hoyanawa (come what may, spare not even a dog if it has a price on it) becomes true in case of the individuals and business entities engaged in this endeavour individuals who buy those partitioned plots rejoice as if they have won a fortune, quite unaware of the calamity they are causing.

Who is responsible for this sorry state of affairs? Is it the people who partitioned the coconut lands and put them on sale or those who grabbed them with no second thought? But the governments of different hues and colours who ruled the country stand accused for the lacklustre attitude shown towards a burning issue.

Amidst all these clamour and callings. One question emerges out prominently. i.e. Do we have coconut estates? Is the coconut triangle as fertile as profuse and prolific it was in the past.

New varieties of coconuts, yielding nuts in a short period have been introduced to cut down on the number of years. The Coconut Cultivation Board makes a valiant effort to uplift the coconut industry through these measures.

In the absence of effective laws to act as a deterrent against wanton destruction of fertile coconut lands, the interested, organised clans and culprits continue their misdeeds against fertile coconut lands without a qualm or feeling of guilt, as a drunkard who rapes his own daughter.

The reality is that there are more coconut estates. They have already been partitioned into plots. They have been plundered, the interested parties, who were bent on making a fast buck.

Neither the economy, nor the prosperity, of the country matters to them. A pocket full of cash was their only objective. The glorious coconut triangle has been desecrated and destroyed. In fact they would have to take one birth after another to pay for these criminal acts.

Gampaha, Puttalam and Kurunegala districts form the coconut triangle within the boundaries of which a vibrant industry based on coconut flourished. Kalutara, Galle Matara and Hambantota districts too had a good portion of fertile lands under coconut cultivation. Sri Lanka produced enough nuts to meet the local demand and the excess was exported.

Coconut enjoyed parity status with the other leading export crops, tea and rubber. But today the position has deteriorated to such an extent that Sri Lanka Coconut in the near future.

Could there be a specific reason for this strange phenomenon, which shot up the prices in leaps and bounds? The apparent reason is the generosity of the companies engaged in property development tempered with fine doses of marketing.

These companies had to reserve a good portion of the land they purchased for re-selling for roads and other basic requirements compelling them to jack up the price of the remaining portion to make good, the sum invested in the original land.

Further they have to recover projected profits and the cost of free cell-phones, and costly cars offered as incentives to would be purchasers of land. Eventually price of a perch of land is fixed at astronomical levels and partitioning land became a lucrative game to be played with consummate ease to reap windfall profits.

The law applicable to a jak tree is not applicable to a coconut tree. No law stands in the way of a property developer obstructing him from partitioning coconut lands in the country.

The partitioning of coconut lands into plots of 5-15 perches should be forbidden. Changes in title if any should cover the entire extent of the land, in acres and roods not plots and pieces of 5-15 perches.

Question might arise regarding the plight of an individual hunting for a plot of land to have a shelter over his head. The Government should intervene and encourage property developers to build high storey housing complexes in unfertile abandoned lands. It would far exceed the so-called kind heatedness of the money-minded property developers.

Then partitioning of fertile coconut lands will come to a halt possible solution will be provided for the paucity of coconuts for the ordinary consumers. The intensity of the housing problems would be mitigated to a certain extent. The property developers should be complexes and begin cultivating coconuts in the fertile lands left over in their possession under strict government supervision.

Will there be a halt to this wanton destruction. When will it be? Will it be? These are the questions begging for a reply from the related authorities, institutions and agencies. It is now or never that a concerted effort should be made to arrest the ruin that has set in.

Tell me not haven't foretold this. Haven't greased questions on this. If this trend continues, coconut would have to be imported from abroad. People eking out their existence through employment in coconut related industries could be thrown to the roads with a begging bowl in their hands.

Destruction of coconut lands would ring the death knell of a number of industries, which provide employment to a host of people especially in the rural areas. Coconut-oil mills, coir factories, distilleries and even the simple toddy-tapper would suffer and the problem of unemployment would raise its ugly head.

Conversion of a fertile paddy land into a barren wasteland earns equal condemnation and an approval from the relevant state agencies is a prerequisite to engage in such activities.

Similarly felling commercially valuable trees and transporting them by road ways require approval. But it might be through a quirk of destiny, no such authority, no such approval is required in respect of a coconut tree, the tree that never fails which enjoys a close bond with people. Felling of coconut trees is carried on with consummate ease, with no restraint and with constraint.

The irony of the matter is that felling of coconut trees is not a crime against the nation, a transgression of nature.

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Gamin Gamata - Presidential Community & Welfare Service
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