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Monday, 3 June 2013

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We should protect our biodiversity for posterity

Sri Lanka being a tropical country, has been rewarded by nature with a rich biodiversity. There are various types of ecosystems which harbour a high number of species of fauna and flora of various categories in the country. This diversity is accepted globally and the South Western part of the country is considered as a biodiversity hotspot, along with the Western Ghats range of India.

Out of 4143 flowering plants found in the country, 1036 are classified as endemic. Other recorded fauna biodiversity of key animal groups are as follows:

The endemic is about 38% of the total number of species but this figure increases when the indigenous fauna is considered.

It is much higher in land snails, freshwater crabs, reptiles and amphibians. When it comes to biodiversity, Sri Lanka is considered to be the richest per unit area in the Asian region with regard to mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish and flowering plants. A total of 161 fauna species were added to the biodiversity register during the period 2001 - 2011.

These were made of 125 new descriptions, 31 taxonomic revisions and 5 new records to Sri Lanka.

Due to the geo-climate variation and anthropogenic features of the country, Sri Lanka has a large number of different ecosystems.

These include forests and related systems, inland wetlands, coastal and marine ecosystems and agriculture ecosystems.

This high ecosystems diversity of the country has given rise to a wide range of indigenous species hardly found in other parts of the world. It is the duty of all citizens in this country to protect our rich biodiversity for posterity.


Provincial Councils – A white elephant

Provincial Councils were set up during J.R. Jayawardena's UNP regime. The SLFP and the JVP opposed Provincial Councils at that time and boycotted the first Provincial Councils elections. It cannot be denied that the LTTE led by Prabhakaran resorted to ethnic cleansing, especially in the North and the Sinhalese and Muslims living there were driven out. There was also an exodus of thousands of Tamils from the North to the South during the 30 years of terrorism in this country. Hence the status quo should be restored by resettling those who fled the Jaffna Peninsula due to LTTE terror, which is yet to be done.

Our experience is that the Provincial Councils have served no useful purpose. It is also not wrong to say that running the Provincial Councils is a drain on the country's exchequer. Then again, our country is small and the religious and ethnic group concentrations are such that Provincial Councils could cause problems in the long run and will not serve the interests of national unity.

Further, there is the danger of foreign countries dealing direct with Provincial Councils, which may destabilize the country cannot be ruled out.


Violation of Vehicle Ordinance should be policed

It is observed that most motorists seriously violate the Vehicle Ordinance. Vehicles halted in the middle of roads and on pavements totally hindering the movements of pedestrians is a common sight. Unfortunately even the Traffic Police seem to turn a blind eye to these matters.

Sect. 12 of Cap. 206 of the Vehicle Ordinance states that when a driver desires to stop his vehicle, he should draw it up on the extreme left-hand side of the road which he is proceeding and should not allow his vehicle to halt in the middle of the road for any purpose when it is possible to halt on the side.

The Ordinance clearly states that vehicles should not use pavements. I quote Sect. 15. ‘No person shall push, draw or drive any vehicle on any foot-path or pavement intended for the use of foot passengers by the side or sides of any street.’ Sect. 24 specifies that the maximum number of passengers which may be carried in a vehicle licensed to carry passengers should be determined by the proper authority, whose decision shall be final. Such number should be endorsed on the licence, and both the owner and the driver shall be guilty of an offence if more than the licensed number of passengers are carried. For the purpose of this rule, an infant in arms is not counted as a passenger and two children under 12 years are reckoned as one passenger. Sect. 24(b) states that in every vehicle licensed to carry passengers the number of such passengers should be clearly, visibly and legibly be displayed in the vehicle.

However, these regulations are hardly adhered to nowadays. We find vehicles parked on pavements blocking the pathways of pedestrians and that passenger buses operate without any indication of the number of passengers permitted. Violation of these laws not only inconveniences the general public but also create more accidents. Over to the Inspector General of Police.


An unusual Vesak experience

As a Buddhist, Vesak is a very significant time in my life. Although not a so-called 'practising Buddhist' it is my honest belief that Buddhism is a way of life as opposed to being a mere religion. It is only through a deep understanding of the Buddhist philosophy that one can truly find eternal peace.

This personal view has held me in good stead through the years. This year as Vesak dawned, once again I was excited with the activity and the bustle in the streets in the Colombo City which was lit up in reverence to Lord Buddha and His teachings. As is the usual practice of most Sri Lankans, we gather in droves and drive around the city during Vesak experiencing and enjoying the colours of Vesak and the sheer magnificence of the moment. It is on one of these sojourns that I saw first and then experienced one of the most creative concepts in the fabrication of Vesak pandals.

At the Isipathana Migadaye Vesak Zone a certain pandal grabbed my attention. Maybe it was because of the long queues or the curiosity as to why umbrellas were being handed out, that I eagerly moved in that direction with the crowds. I was also given an umbrella, the colour of the morning sun. I was taken by surprise when following the others, I had to open up the umbrella in order to walk under artificial rain, leading to the pandal arena.

It was definitely a different experience and to be honest I was curious as to what lay ahead. There seemed to be a sense of curiosity all around as none there seemed to have experienced such a phenomena before. It was when we entered the pandal arena that I grasped what the idea was.

Beautifully constructed as though life-like, was a giant Buddha statue embraced by a King Cobra.

The visual depiction immediately conveyed to me that the structure was the Muchalindha Nagha Dharanaya, where Lord Buddha was sheltered by a cobra as he meditated during his quest to attain enlightenment.

This was in fact in the seventh week of the Sath Sathiya. Being there amongst the crowds, taking in the sheer enormity of that moment, it dawned on me what parallel the brand Rainco was trying to draw.

Through an experience of being protected from the rain by an umbrella and later showing how a cobra protected the Buddha, the benefit of the umbrella brand was vividly provided. Most importantly, the experience created an impression and a positive memory in my mind for its innovation and novelty.

My wish is that next year too, the city will welcome us with exciting and thought provoking Vesak experiences such as this year.

 

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