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Wednesday, 13 January 2010

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Urbanization: prize of poor land management

For many who live in the country, life is intricate: water and fuel ought to be carried long distances; crops are often ruined by droughts or floods and farmland is being eroded away in consequence of poor land management. There are few jobs left outside the farmstead. Accordingly, many rural people of the world have moved and are moving to the city in search of an easier life and better jobs.

The decision to move is not always made voluntarily. When the soil is damaged to such an extent that crops can no longer be grown, farmers and their families are forced to be in motion. Many of them have moved to cities that were already collapsing under the pressures of too many people.

Authorities concerned in these hectic cities cannot deal with the growing numbers of citizens. In many areas, high birth rates have already resulted in overpopulation. When those arriving from rural areas are added to the numbers of people already there housing, communications, transport, services and water supplies cannot be met with the demand. The result is, at best, urban sprawl and at worst, a steady increase in the size of urban slums.

In most cases, civic responses to the predicament of urban areas have been inadequate. While the problem has already been recognized, it is far from being solved. Few mechanisms have been found to handle the problem of financing housing for poor families. Grassroots movements are frequently thwarted by the inflexibility of existing policies and institutes.

The increase in the size of cities has had other unwanted effects. As cities get expanded, they lay claim to the fertile agricultural land which surrounds them. In developing countries, it is expected that by the end of this Century, urban areas will occupy more than twice the land they occupied in 1980.


Global warming and rising sea levels

The UN climate talks in Bon in April 2009 revealed a one-meter sea level rise in the world caused by global warming as a result of the release of Greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. This was double the UN projection made in 2007. Many coastal areas of countries and low Islands are doomed. They will be subject to slow but cure inundation because of melting of the polar ice caps and the melting of high mountain ice and snow. Already there are records of Antarctic temperatures having risen 3 Celsius in the past 50 years which has resulted in thick sheet ice and iceberg melts over a large area in that region.

A more alarming report in the ‘Environmental News Network’ has it that an ice-free Arctic ocean is a possibility in 30 years. But it is reported that some research models now show that this may be as early as 11 years, indicating other than imminent natural disasters the danger of escalating geo-political tensions and conflicts amongst countries in the Arctic region vying for its natural resources.

Added to this danger is a threat from the increasing frequency and fury of rainstorms, cyclones and high tidal waves caused by Tsunamis, all of which would add to the devastation by the sea. In the tsunami that hit Sri Lanka in 2004 tidal waves did crash into the tops of coconut trees on the affected coast.

It is therefore necessary for countries namely island nations like Sri Lanka to prepare in advance large scale detailed topographical appropriately spaced contour maps of all vulnerable coastal and adjacent areas up to say 100 meters AMSL or so for information and translocation of people and to prepare and implement land use systems including practical protective constructions where possible in these vulnerable areas to meet this threat which according to predictions is not far off.

The main point is where is Sri Lanka to get the massive funds to do all these things. The country could make a start to do its own thing with appropriate inexpensive local traditional land use systems before it gets any promised handouts from World Climate Funds of other International Financial Agencies 11 years or 30 years or even 100 years is not a long time. The sea is on the move and there is no time to lose.

V.R. Nanayakkara

Cutting down of forests must be stopped

Newspapers report, daily incidents of forests being cut down and the timber is transported but seized by the Police. There must be lot more incidents where Police failed to catch the timber racketeers.

The Forest Department is also find it difficult to stop this menace as there are forests in varied parts of the island. Sometimes the timber racketeers carry automatic firearms.

Now that the war is over I suggest that armed soldiers accompany the forest rangers when they go on inspection.

Cutting down of forests leads to climate change and other disasters. I hope Environment and Natural Resources Minister Champika Ranawaka takes action.


Minimize cruelty to animals

It is common knowledge that animals are subject to cruelty and harsh treatment before they are slaughtered by the butchers.

The meat trade is a big industry and the demand for meat is so high that the Government may not be able to enforce a complete ban of killing of the animals at this stage.

The Government however could bring in stringent punishments to minimize the cruelty that the animals go through. The laws are already available and it is the responsibility of the authorities to enforce it.

We recommended the Government to enforce the following disciplines:

1. The number of animals transported should be restricted to avoid overcrowding

2. Fodder and water should be provided during the period of transport

3. The authorities should ensure every time that a razor sharp knife is used and they should be present at the time of slaughtering.

4. The Police and municipal authorities should ensure that only the animals for which a permit is issued should be slaughtered.

5. Illicit slaughtering should be stopped forthwith and severe punishment with heavy penalties should be given.

6. The stealing of cattle for slaughtering should be dealt with severe penalty.

7. The animal should be free from any disease and this aspect should be closely monitored.

8. We are of the opinion that a modern Abattoir will ensure that the following facilities can be provided:

Slaughtering of animals can be centralized and closely monitored

Animals to be slaughtered can be isolated

The area of slaughtering/skinning and cutting can be hygienically maintained

Outlets for unclean water and blood can be provided

Separate areas appropriately designated for waiting animals can be allocated

In conclusion we must say the active support of the following is needed to effectively carry out this program.

The Police Force, The Municipal Health Authorities, members of the Muslim clergy, members of the Animal Lovers’ Association, members of the Butchers Association, lorry owners/transporters etc.




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