Northern agricultural revival
The North and the East made a very significant
contribution to the country's agricultural output before the
conflict escalated in 1983. In fact, areas such as Mannar were
known as 'rice bowls'. The resourceful farmers in the two areas
continued to cultivate paddy and other crops even during the
height of the conflict, but they had little or no access to the
markets in the South. However, paddy cultivation in certain
areas of the North and the East was totally neglected.
Now that resettlement and lasting peace are on the horizon,
the North and the East are poised to enter the agricultural
picture in a big way.
Agricultural development is a pivotal component of the Uthuru
Vasanthaya (Northern Spring) and Negenahira Navodaya (Eastern
Resurgence) programs helmed by Senior Presidential Advisor Basil
In line with this goal, the Government on Thursday
inaugurated a massive cultivation project in Jaffna peninsula on
1,124 acres of paddy land. These paddy lands in Thananthilappu
and Marawankkulav south of Chavakachchari were left abandoned
due to LTTE terrorist activities for over 10 years.
The re-cultivation project will directly benefit 624 farmer
families and will provide many indirect employment opportunities
as well. More lands have already been earmarked for cultivation
next year. The Government will grant a cultivation subsidy of Rs.
4,000 per acre and in addition provide fertilizer and seed paddy
free of charge to encourage the farmers. They should also be
provided with modern equipment at concessionary rates.
Starting agricultural activities in Kilinochchi and
Mullaitivu, which were dominated by the LTTE for several years,
will take some more time as the Government has to meet the twin
challenges of mine removal and resettlement. Once resettlement
is under way, the farmers will again be able to take up the
cultivation of paddy and other crops.
The opening of the A9 and several other roads for commercial
traffic and hence, the availability of the Southern market, will
immensely benefit the farmers. A proper mechanism must be
evolved to purchase their paddy sans middlemen, as there have
been many problems in this regard in the rest of the country.
A bigger agricultural output from the North and the East will
also help reduce imports of agricultural products and save
foreign exchange. Sri Lanka would certainly regain its earlier
reputation as the Granary of the East if the North and the East
also add their output to the record harvests we have seen in
More Sri Lankans are now realizing the importance of
protecting the environment. 'Green awareness' is at a fairly
high level in the country, thanks to constant media exposure on
this vital issue. But it is also important for the authorities
to take frequent action to protect the environment.
The latest initiative in this regard is the Rs.150 million
'Green Circle' (Haritha Kawaya) project whereby steps are being
taken to create environmental oases at the eco-diversity Park
near the Diyawanna Oya, the Bird sanctuary in Attidiya and
several other areas under the supervision of the Urban
Development Authority and the Environment and Natural Resources
Ministry. Several well-known roads will also be cleaned up and
beautified under this scheme.
This is a timely move, as people literally need some
breathing space in the concrete jungle. Such 'Green Lungs' allow
residents and visitors to appreciate the beauty and tranquillity
Another aspect of this project is wetland conservation. Many
wetlands, which are biodiversity hotspots, are being threatened
by garbage and illegal reclamation and constructions. The
demarcation of these zones as eco-friendly Green Circles will
hopefully see an end to such activities.
One problem that has affected almost all of our cities is
that they are unplanned. Green areas are lacking in these cities
as buildings have been constructed in every available land. Even
Manhattan in New York, perhaps the world's busiest city, has the
famous Central Park where residents can unwind.
The city planners there had the sense to demarcate a special
area as a green zone. On the other hand, it is not very easy to
'retro-fit' green areas into built-up cities, given the
logistical and financial challenges.
But it should done at least to a limited extent. This factor
should be borne in mind in Northern rehabilitation and
reconstruction, where planners have an opportunity to 'build
It is also opportune to explore the possibility of
implementing such initiatives as a car free day, pedestrian-only
zones in major cities and 'green rewards' for individuals,
companies and Local Government bodies who show an exemplary
commitment to environmental conservation. Indeed, environmental
conservation is a collective responsibility of the society.
Even a seemingly minor action such as carrying a re-usable
bag for shopping instead of non-biodegradable polythene bags can
have a positive impact on the environment. There could be a few
inconveniences, but the rewards are many.