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Friday June 21st, 2024

Sri Lanka in biggest ever nurdle hunt after X-Press Pearl spill, volunteer hunters arrested

OPERATION NURDLE: Sri Lanka Air Force personnel mopping up plastic granules spilled from X-Press Pearl

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s state authorities are engaged in the biggest nurdle hunt in the country’s history following a spill from X-Press Pearl though at least eight volunteer hunters have been arrested by police probably in the world’s first, amid a Coronavirus lockdown.

Nurdles, little plastic pellets the size of a lentil or wheat grain is the raw material used in factories to mould plastic goods and polythene sheets.

Tonnes of the white nurdles have turned up on the beaches of Sri Lanka after several containers toppled off X-Press Pearl when a fire blazed through the ship amid gusting winds and the stricken vessel developed a list.

Police arrested at least eight nurdle hunters who took sacks of nurdles before they broke up. Some braved possible chemical contamination of seawater from the burning vessel to take the plastic granules out, visuals showed.

Sri Lanka had planned to deal with debris from the ship, Chairman of Sri Lanka’s Central Environment Siripala Amarasinghe Authority told reporters, though, on the first day, members of the public unexpectedly jumped into the effort.

The clean up was progressing well now he said.

“The honour should go to the tri-force who helped us and also the general public,” he said. “Because in the first 24 hours – rather unfortunately on the 26th – members of the public disregarding government requests not to approach the debris, they got into this for their private reasons.

“So we had to stop that by making appeals.”

The clean up was deployed in earnest from June 27. He said Sri Lanka’s Coast Conservation Department and Sri Lanka’s military also assisted by CEA officials had recovered all debris.

Among the debris were seen 25-kilogram plastic granules made by Qatar-based Qapco.

Television visuals showed volunteer salvors taking away 25 kg packs of latrine branded polyethene granules made by Qatar-based Qapco.

Oil-producing nations are key producers of plastics. The granules or nurdles can accidentally spill during transport. Plastic pellet containers are usually carried on deck for safety.

Police said at least eight nurdle hunters or in maritime terminology volunteer salvors were arrested. Volunteer salvors belong to a long tradition in seafaring.

A claim has to be submitted to the receiver of the wreck who may give part of the salvaged items to the volunteer salvor. If the danger is high, a large portion may be given, analysts familiar with international practice say.

Related

Cargo rush: Sri Lanka police arrest eight for collecting debris off a burning container ship

Amarasena said about 34 containers of debris were so far collected by Sri Lanka authorities and there was also sand in them and it was too early to give a count.

Environmentalist jargon generally refers to nurdles not in tonnes or kilograms, but in hundreds of millions or billions of pellets.

In September 2020, a 743 million nurdle spill was calculated in the Mississippi River.

RELATED LINKS

Nurdle spill cleanup is ‘too little, too late’ as plastic pellets continue to spread, gather in drifts

Nurdle spill covers South African beaches in plastic

In Sri Lankan social media numbers such as several billions of nurdles have been mentions.

It is not clear what happened to the eight arrested nurdle hunters in the X-Pearl disaster.

However, they could also estimate the number of nurdles collected based on the likely number in a 25-kilogram bag and submit it to the website, www.nurdlepartrol.org which is supported by

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Organization have provided guidance to, nurdlepatrol.org a community website where nurdle hunters could submit their finds after they are released from custody observers say.

RELATED LINK

The Nurdle Patrol: Citizen Scientists Fight Pollution, One Pellet at a Time

The nurdle hunters could put themselves on the map and possibly set 2021 by entering the data by estimating likely nurdles in a 25 kg pack into the Nurdlepatrol.org website. (Colombo/June04/2021)

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Indian FM meets Sri Lanka political leaders; focuses on committed deals

ECONOMYNEXT – Indian External Affairs Minister (EAM) S. Jaishankar met President Ranil Wickremesinghe and a range of political leaders during his visit to Sri Lanka, focusing on commitments made by Sri Lanka to India, including land and energy pipeline connectivity.

Sri Lanka has committed to renewable energy deals for the Indian Adani group, Trincomalee port development, an investment zone around the port, a bridge between the island nation’s Northern Mannar and South India’s Rameshwaram, a power grid, and an oil and gas pipeline between the two nations.

Though most of the committed projects have been discussed and some already signed, they face delays amid public protests, court cases on environmental concerns, anti-Indian sentiments triggered by high prices of renewable projects, local politicians as well as perceived Chinese influence, analysts say.

India has been pushing Sri Lanka to fast-track these deals under Prime Minister Narendra Modi.Jaishankar’s visit also comes ahead of Sri Lanka’s presidential polls later this year.

Jaishankar met President Wickremesinghe in a one-on-one meeting, Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, and Foreign Minister Ali Sabry before delegation-level talks with Ports, Shipping and Aviation Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva, Agriculture and Plantation Industries Minister Mahinda Amaraweera, and Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera.

“Appreciated the progress made on various bilateral projects and initiatives. Under President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s guidance, we discussed the way forward for India-Sri Lanka cooperation, especially in power, energy, connectivity, port infrastructure, aviation, digital, health, food security, education, and tourism sectors,” Jaishankar said on his official Twitter platform.

He also met former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, opposition leader Sajith Premadasa, and leaders of various political parties from the North, East, and the upcountry region.

“Interaction of EAM with the leadership of the Government of Sri Lanka provided an opportunity to review and accelerate progress in the multifaceted India-Sri Lanka partnership,” the Indian External Affairs Ministry said in a statement.

One of the key focus areas of discussion was the Vision Document adopted by President Wickremesinghe and Prime Minister Modi during the Sri Lankan leader’s visit to India in July 2023.

“Discussions added momentum to the ongoing projects as well as initiatives for promoting connectivity in all its dimensions, particularly in domains of energy, physical infrastructure as well as economic and people-to-people ties.”

Jaishankar also met leaders of Sri Lanka’s upcountry Tamils, who originally came from India as plantation workers. He discussed development and devolution of power with an eight-member delegation of Tamil leaders from the Northern and Eastern provinces, including Shanakiyan Rasamanikkam and M. A. Sumanthiran.

India helped Sri Lanka with financial and humanitarian aid when the island nation faced an unprecedented economic crisis amid delays by the International Monetary Fund loan to rescue Sri Lanka.

“Following Sri Lanka’s economic recovery and stabilization, forging deeper long-term economic cooperation was underlined as a priority for sustainable and equitable growth of Sri Lanka, and mutual prosperity in the Indian Ocean Region,” the Indian External Affairs Ministry said.

Though the Sri Lankan government has claimed that Jaishankar’s visit was a precursor to Indian Prime Minister’s visit, the Indian External Affairs Ministry did not mention anything about a possible Modi visit.

This visit is Jaishankar’s first bilateral visit after the formation of the new government.

The Adani wind power project in the Northern district of Mannar has seen some public protests over environmental concerns after some experts said the project has failed to conduct a proper Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). Critics also protest against its transparency.

President Wickremesinghe, opposition leader Premadasa, and Marxist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) leader Anura Kumara Dissanayaka are expected to contest in the election to choose the island nation’s 8th leader.

Sri Lankan leaders have been under pressure from India in the past two decades amid increasing Chinese influence in the island nation, seen as a security threat to India, analysts say.

The docking of a Chinese nuclear submarine in 2014 led to a dramatic government change in the 2015 presidential poll with the ousting of former leader Mahinda Rajapaksa, who later accused India of orchestrating his defeat.

Rajapaksa’s brother Gotabaya in 2021 unilaterally canceled a key port terminal project given to India’s Adani group after promising Jaishankar to sign the deal.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa was later forced to flee the country in 2022 after mass protests due to his economic policies. (Colombo/June 21/2024)

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Sri Lanka car permit tax losses Rs14bn in two years of partial disclosure

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka has lost 14.3 billion rupees in taxes from car permits given to public servants, including doctors, military officers, central bankers, finance ministry and tax officials, in 2019 and 2020 information disclosed by the finance ministry shows.

Inclusive of some 2021 tax losses when imports were banned for the rest of the year, 14.4 billion rupees of foregone revenue from a waived luxury tax is shown.

The list only shows waivers of a so-called ‘luxury tax’ imposed on larger vehicles above a certain value and size.

The list does not show other vehicles imported under car permits such as double cabs or cars below a certain size.

The list also does not seem to include tax free cars imported by politicians.

In 2019, Sri Lanka has lost 8.3 billion rupees from the luxury tax on car permits and in 2019 the loss 5.92 billion rupees.

In 2021 when car imports were stopped as the central bank started printing money to cut rates and target ‘potential output’ only 85.6 million rupees were lost.

Among the biggest tax waivers of over 10 million rupees went to some doctors and military officers. Doctors were among the biggest users of tax slashed car permits in the list.

Sri Lanka at one time did not allow cars imported by state workers to be transferred for many years.

But reportedly after Customs raided a finance company involving a fleet of vehicles, the rule was relaxed by the then President.

Among the largest tax waivers listed were given to Rolls Royce and Maclaren assigned to Melwire Rolling (Pvt) Ltd.

The 45.6 million rupee Rolls Royce was given a 42.1 million rupee tax waiver.

The 41.46 million McLaren was given a 37.9 million tax waiver.

There were also a large number of Audi A5 and Q2 vehicles listed at prices over 80 million rupee. It is not clear whether the disclosure is an error. The market value of the A5 and Q2 are much lower.

Up to end 2023, 138 cars imported under a migrant worker remittance scheme was listed to lose 436 million rupees in luxury taxes.
The total for the three years was listed at 14.86 billion rupees, involving 2,034 cars in 2019 and 1,470 cars in 2020.

It is not known how much the total tax losses or total vehicle imported through ‘car permits’ is. (Colombo/June20/2024)

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Construction of Sampur solar power plant to begin mid-July

ECONOMYNEXT – Joint energy projects between India and Sri Lanka, including the Sampur solar power plant due to begin next month, took centre stage during bilateral discussions between president Ranil Wickremesinghe and visiting Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Thursday.

Wickremesinghe and Jaishankar discussed initiatives aimed at enhancing energy connectivity and developing the renewable energy sector, a statement by his media division said.

“Significant attention was given to plans for an LNG supply, a proposed petroleum pipeline linking the two countries, and advancing oil and gas exploration projects. Additionally, it was announced that construction of the Sampur Solar Power Plant is set to commence in July 2024.”

The visit comes amid delays in key Indian projects including land, oil and gas pipe, and grid connectivity deals, Adani’s wind power plant deals which are facing a legal battle, and port and investment zone projects in the Eastern port district of Trincomalee.

Indian supported projects for developing Trincomalee and expanding the Kankasanthurai port, the ongoing development of Jaffna Airport and Colombo Airport, and the expediting the unique digital identity card project were discussed.

The efficiency of projects supported by the Indian government aimed at bolstering Sri Lanka’s liquid milk industry and fertilizer production, were also examined.

Sri Lankan leaders have been under pressure from India in the past two decades amid increasing Chinese influence in the island nation as the move is seen as a security threat to India, analysts say. (Colombo/Jun20/2024)

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