Halt 97 Square Mile Sugar Project in Sri Lanka’s Indigenous Wanniyalaeto (Veddha) Medicinal Gardens and Elephant Habitat.

  • by: Rahula gunasekera
  • target: His Excellency President Sirisena of Sri Lanka, and the management of the companies involved:

His Excellency President Sirisena of Sri Lanka, and the management of the companies involved:

Please halt the destruction of sections of Gal Oya National Park and the adjoining Elephant Habitat for a 62,500 acre sugarcane plantation. This land grab orchestrated by IMS Holdings of Sri Lanka and financed by Gazelle Ventures of Singapore and New York based Community Development Venture Capital Alliance (CDVCA) has to be halted for the following reasons:

1). The project is being disguised as a poverty alleviation program to overcome opposition to the project by local residents; farmers are being given 2.5 acres of land of which 2 acres has to produce sugar cane for the project. This means farmers will not have the flexibility to choose a profitable crop when sugar prices drop, and for 18 months while the sugarcane crop matures farmers have no income. Big projects like this have failed in the past victimizing small farmers. (1) (4) (14)

2). The project will cause the extinction of endemic medicinal plant heritage of the Indigenous Wanniyalaeto (Veddha) people of Sri Lanka. These are the original inhabitants of Sri Lanka and their culture is already highly threatened and we need to protect their priceless heritage which in return will inevitably enrich modern medicine.(19)(20)(21)(22)

3). Sri Lanka has an ongoing human-elephant conflict and over 70 people and 250 elephants each year are killed in conflict. This war also results in financial losses from crop and property damage. The elephants are killed in a cruel manner by explosives put in food, electrocution and by shooting. This project will only add to this death, financial loss and suffering. (5)(23)

4). The Dry Zone of Sri Lanka, where this project is located, is not suitable for labour intensive agriculture such as sugarcane and rice cultivation. These farmers eventually develop painful kidney disease (CKDu) and die. (6)(7)

5). These farmers have by default been labeled too simple, and rural to be taught the latest agricultural skills such as hydroponics and vertical farming or even adequate to fill the construction labour shortage that Sri Lanka’s construction boom has created. As an alternate to this project these farmers can be settled in the many acres of abandoned farmland around cities/towns in the fertile wet zone and given the freedom to choose their employment and future prospects, instead of being dumped in the jungle as cheap labour for foreign investment. The government’s agricultural initiatives such as this sugar project exacerbate the human-elephant conflict and the farmer has unwittingly become the government’s frontline soldier in its war against elephants. (5)(8)(9)(10)(23)

6). Sugarcane farming needs a dry climate, however Sri Lanka’s dry zone only yields 18-20 tons of sugarcane an acre and is heavily dependent on imported pesticides and fertilizer to be offered to farmers on a subsidy. In contrast places such as Hawaii yields over 90 tons of sugarcane an acre. Therefore it may be cheaper to import sugar than to import farm machinery, fertilizer and pesticides and produce subsidized sugar locally and these savings can then be passed on to the consumer. As a last resort money needs to be invested to increase the yields of existing sugarcane fields so farmers’ incomes can be boosted and no new areas of wildlife habitat have to be cleared for sugarcane. (17)

7). This project will cause even more death and destruction due to CDKu and human elephant conflict since the Sri Lankan government does not have a solution to CDKu or the human elephant conflict. (5)(6)(7)(23)

8). Four million Sri Lankans (20% of the population) are diabetics, therefore it makes more sense to reduce Sri Lanka’s sugar consumption by the 14% this project will add to local production. If the sugar is for export it would be unethical given the unsolved problems of human-elephant conflict and CDku. (2)(11)(12)

9). Sri Lankan President Sirisena, has ratified the Paris Agreement to fight climate change. The loss of 62,500 acres (97 square miles) of forest equates to almost 2% of the 5,000 square mile (20% of land area) of existing natural forest cover in Sri Lanka and will be a move away from the pledges made in Paris. (13)(15)

10). The Sri Lankan President is the Minister of Mahaweli Development and Environment; this is a conflict of interest. The President has shown a history of favouring the Mahaweli Development, which destroys the environment to achieve its goals. The President needs to create separate Ministries of Environment and Mahaweli Development so that the environment can have an adequate voice to defend itself from destructive projects such as this sugar project. (16)

11). The company press release says the project will create 1,000 direct employment jobs. Even if all these jobs are for the farmers that get 2.5 acres it only comes to 2,500 acres, what will be done with the remaining 60,000 acres of the 62,500 acres gazetted for this project? If the 97 square miles of forest is left intact, it would not be difficult to create more than 1,000 good paying jobs in the eco-tourism sector and an equal or greater number of spin-off jobs than the sugar project creates minus the death and destruction associated with the sugar project. (1)(2)

12). Why does it take US$152 million to create 1,000 direct jobs? This does not even take into account future property and crop damage this project will initiate through escalated human-elephant conflict, the loss of water causing reduced yields to other farmers, lost Indigenous Vedda (Wanniyalaeto) heritage, lost biodiversity and lost eco-tourist revenue due to this project are also not factored in. When all the costs are factored in this project does not provide adequate return on investment. Sri Lanka uses 90% of its revenue to service debt, and the country cannot afford the added burden this project will create. (1)(2)(18)(23)

13). Locals not connected to the project, Sri Lanka’s Indigenous Wanniyalaeto (Veddha), Buddhist clergy and environmental groups in Sri Lanka are opposed to the massive destruction this sugar project will cause, they have another petition at this address that can also be signed and shared, https://www.ipetitions.com/petition/forest-land-was-given-for-sugarcane-to-gazelle/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=sign-pet (3)(19)(20)(21)

1.http://cens.lk/?p=1101

2.http://www.economynext.com/I.M.S._Holdings,_Gazelle_Ventures_in_$152mn_Sri_Lanka_sugar_cane_project-3-7349-9.html

3.https://www.ipetitions.com/petition/forest-land-was-given-for-sugarcane-to-gazelle/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=sign-pet

4.http://www.humanosphere.org/environment/2013/10/souring-sugar-industry-kenya

5.http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-39874289

6.http://www.cbsnews.com/news/medical-mystery-rare-kidney-disease-killing-sri-lanka-farmers

7. http://www.cnn.com/2016/05/02/health/mystery-kidney-disease-global-spread

8. http://www.theborneopost.com/2017/04/19/sri-lanka-battles-labour-shortage-amid-massive-building-boom

9. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/04/this-futuristic-vertical-farm-could-feed-an-entire-african-town

10.http://www.agrilearning.goviya.lk/Paddy/Paddy_Research/Paddy_pdf/SE1.pdf

11.https://www.news.lk/news/business/item/5701-nearly-four-million-diabetics-in-sri-lanka

12.http://www.ips.lk/talkingeconomics/2016/04/07/beat-diabetes-in-sri-lanka-too-much-sugar-is-not-that-sweet

13.http://www.sundaytimes.lk/160911/news/sri-lanka-formally-ratifies-paris-climate-agreement-208190.html

14. http://www.sundaytimes.lk/001029/news4.html

15. https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007%2F978-94-009-1685-2_50

16. http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.lk/cab/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=25&Itemid=23&lang=en

17. http://www.sundaytimes.lk/050508/ft/8.html

18.http://southasianmonitor.com/2017/01/24/sri-lankan-governments-90-revenue-goes-debt-repayment/

19. https://www.facebook.com/janaka.withanage.31/posts/1673917709303716?pnref=story

20. http://www.lakbima.lk/oldpapers/daliylakbima/2017/June/last_07_06_17/main.pdf

21.https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1682302948465192&set=a.102436839785152.5631.100000565091983&type=3&theater

22.http://vedda.org/

23.https://roar.media/english/reports/environment-wildlife/who-should-deal-with-the-human-elephant-conflict/

 

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