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Tuesday February 27th, 2024

Sri Lanka’s extreme weather death toll climbs to 17; 26,000 displaced in floods, landslides

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s extreme weather death toll has risen to 17 as floods and landslides displaced some 26,000 people over the past few days, the Disaster Management Centre (DMC) said on June 07.

So far 271,110 people have been affected by floods and landslides in the Gampaha, Ratanapura, Colombo, Puttalam, Kalutara, Nuwara Eliya, Kegalle, Kandy and Kurunegala districts, the DMC said.

According to DMC statistics, a majority of the affected are in the Gampaha district recording 161,383. In Colombo, 65,465 have been affected while Puttalam recorded 29,049.

Five persons have died in Kegalle and three each in Gampaha, Ratnapura and Puttalam. One death each was reported in Colombo, Kaluthara and Galle.

One person each is missing in Kalutara and Kurunegala. The DMC said searching operations are under way.

The number of relief centres has been increased to 106. The DMC said as of June 07, 26,806 people from 6,177 families have been evacuated to these camps.

Seventeen properties have been completely destroyed and 978 properties also sustained damages due to floods and landslides, the DMC said.

Measures are being taken to pay compensations for the damaged properties, the DMC said in its statement.

Meanwhile, Paragoda and Yatagampitiya on the Molkawa-Bulathsinhala road in Kalutara,Wiyaligoda, Mottunna, Wandurawa, Manalagoda, Bandaranayaka, Oruwathota, Ja Ela, Miris watte Pahlagama, Malwana, Minuwangoda–Veyangoda and Wattala roads in Gamapaha district have been blocked by flood water.

The Department of Meteorology said showers will occur at times in the Western, Sabaragamuwa and North Western provinces and in the Galle, Matara, Nuwara Eliya and Kandy districts on June 07.

“Fairly heavy rainfall about 50mm can be expected in parts of the Western and Sabaragamuwa provinces and in the Galle and Matara districts. Showers or thundershowers will occur in parts of the Uva and Eastern provinces during the evening or night,” the Met Department said.

Showers or thundershowers are also expected in several sea areas extending from Mannar to Matara via Colombo and Galle. Wind speeds are forecast to increase up to 50-55 kilometres per hour from 30-40 kilometers per hour in the sea areas extending from Galle to Pottuvil via Hambantota and from Puttalam to Kankasanturai via Mannar.

“The sea area extending from Galle to Pottuvil via Hambantota will be rough at times. Other sea areas around the island can be fairly rough at times. Temporarily strong gusty winds and very rough seas can be expected during thundershowers,” the Met Department said.

The DMC meanwhile said water levels in the Kelani, Kalu, Gin Ganga, Niwala, Maha Oya and Attanagalu Oya rivers are expected to fall in the next few days. However, minor floods can occur in N’ Street, Putupaula, Ellagawa, Kalawellawa (Millakanda), Baddegama and Dunamale areas, it added. (Colombo/June 07/2021)

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Sri Lanka parliamentary committee says electricity tariffs should be reduced by 20 pct

ECONOMYNEXT — A parliamentary Sectoral Oversight Committee on Alleviating the Impact of the Economic Crisis has recommended to the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL) that electricity tariffs be reduced by at least 20 percent.

A statement from parliament said on Monday February 26 that, following an analytical review of the figures presented by the Electricity Board, Public Utilities Commission, etc. and taking into consideration all other factors affecting the price of electricity, including considering the opinion given by experts that the existing electricity price can be reduced by about 33%, price of electricity should be reduced by at least 20% in the year 2024 so that the state-run Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) will not suffer any loss.

PUCSL officials have informed the Committee that by the end of this month, they can submit the necessary recommendations to reduce the electricity bill, according to the statement.

The matter was taken up for discussion when the committee, chaired by MP Gamini Waleboda, met in the Parliament on February 22.

Officials from the Ministry of Industry, Ministry of Finance, Central Bank of Sri Lanka, Public Utilities Commission, Industry Development Board, Enterprise Development Authority, Department of Population and Statistics, Department of Inland Revenue and from government institutions including the Micro, Small and Medium Scale Industries Board and a group of industrialists had also been called for the meeting.

“The Committee gave several directives to the relevant institutions and officials to identify the micro, small and medium scale industries that are directly affected by the economic crisis and to activate the local economy and increase the foreign exchange earnings by reviving the industry sector.

“The Committee pointed out that due to the increase in electricity bills, the number of electricity connection cuts reported across the island has exceeded one million. It was also emphasised that in order to alleviate the pressure on the industry and the society, it should be arranged to provide electricity connections again by charging only 50 percent of the outstanding charges at the initial stage with the concessional basis of payment of outstanding electricity charges on installment basis,” the statement said.

The committee was also of the view to allow the customer to pay the connection fee in installments so as to avoid discouraging new entrepreneurs to start micro, small and financial industries due to high charges for getting fixed electricity connection and instructed to review the new connection fee and work to reduce it as much as possible.

The committee chair has instructed the PUCSL to conduct an audit on the electricity consumption in the public sector as an approach to ensure energy security.

“The Committee recommended to the Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank to start a loan scheme at subsidised interest for the purchase of solar panel systems with a view to promoting solar energy as a source of energy supply to industries. The Ministry of Finance expressed its agreement to provide refinancing facilities subject to a maximum as per the proposal made by the Committee to implement a loan scheme targeting micro, small and medium scale industrialists under subsidized interest rates.

The committee has also recommended that raw materials that must be imported from abroad and impose tax concessions on such raw materials be identified to ensure the supply of raw materials required for the smooth running of micro, small and medium scale industries. Copper, lead, aluminum and other industrial scraps used as raw materials in various domestic industries currently being sold by the CEB to external buyers and other entities should also be issued to micro, small and medium scale industrialists recommended by the Ministry of Industry and the Industrial Development Board, the committee has recommended.

The definition used by the Department of Population and Statistics for micro, small and medium industries and the definition used by other institutions such as the Industrial Development Board and the Central Bank for those industries are different from each other, which is an obstacle in making policy decisions, the committee had noted, directing the Department of Population and Statistics to support to the policymakers by releasing statistical data based on a common definition.

“The committee also recommended that the Credit Information Bureau should take prompt action to remove their credit information from the blacklists so as to facilitate access to credit facilities for micro, small and medium scale industries facing financial crisis to activate their balance sheets and to review all existing laws and procedures for registration of micro, small and medium scale industries as well as to obtain licenses and introduce a simple system.

“The committee informed all the parties to establish a steering Committee headed by the Ministry of Industry to implement the recommendations given by the Committee and to report its progress within a week,” the statement said. (Colombo/Feb27/2024)

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Sri Lanka sets up fund to help children of Gaza

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East is mandated to provide education, health, relief and social services, and emergency assistance to refugees. (Pic courtesy UNWRA)

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s cabinet of ministers have approved a proposal by President Ranil Wickremesinghe to set up a fund to help children caught in the war in Gaza, a statement said.

The government will contribute a million US dollars and use funds allocated by state agencies for Ifthar celebrations.

Public contributions are also called.

The Presidential Secretariat is requesting public donations citizens for the “Children of Gaza Fund” to be contributed to account number 7040016 at Bank of Ceylon (7010), Taprobane Branch (747) by 11th April.

Deposit receipts should to be forwarded to 0779730396 via WhatsApp. (Colombo/Feb27/2024)

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Top US official calls for inclusive reforms, deeper defence ties with Sri Lanka

ECONOMYNEXT — United States Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources Richard Verma in discussions with Sri Lanka officials had called for inclusive reforms and stronger human rights and also discussed deeper defence and maritime cooperation.

The United States remains committed to the economic growth and prosperity of Sri Lanka, statement from the US Embassy in Colombo quoted the official as telling government, civil society and economic leaders during his February 23-24 visit to Sri Lanka.

“Verma met with President Ranil Wickremesinghe and Foreign Minister Ali Sabry to discuss progress on Sri Lanka’s IMF program, including inclusive economic and governance reforms aimed at keeping Sri Lanka on the path to sustainable economic growth.  Deputy Secretary Verma stressed the vital need to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression. They also explored opportunities to deepen defence and maritime cooperation between the United States and Sri Lanka, including strengthening the Sri Lanka Navy’s capabilities to safeguard national security and promote a more stable Indo-Pacific region,” the statement said.

 On February 23, aboard the SLNS Vijayabahu, one of three former U.S. Coast Guard cutters transferred by the United States to Sri Lanka, Deputy Secretary Verma said: “I am pleased to announce that the Department of State has notified Congress of our intent to transfer a fourth medium endurance cutter to Sri Lanka.  The Department obligated $9 million in Foreign Military Financing to support this effort.  We look forward to offering the cutter, pending the completion of Congress’ notification period.  If completed, this transfer would further strengthen defense cooperation between the United States and Sri Lanka.  The ship would increase Sri Lanka’s ability to patrol its Exclusive Economic Zone, monitor its search and rescue area, and provide additional security for ships from all nations that transit the busy sea lanes of the Indian Ocean.” 

 Participating in the announcement at Colombo Port were Sri Lanka State Minister of Defense Premitha Bandara Tennakoon, Commander of the Sri Lanka Navy Vice Admiral Priyantha Perera, and U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka Julie Chung, who remarked, according to the statement: “The United States has previously transferred three cutters to the Sri Lankan Navy, which deploys these ships for maritime operations and law enforcement missions, countering human trafficking and drug trafficking, while supporting humanitarian assistance and disaster response efforts. The eventual transfer of a fourth vessel would be just one more point in a long history of cooperation between Sri Lanka and the United States in preserving a free and open Indo-Pacific region.” 

Verma also visited the site of the West Container Terminal (WCT), a deepwater shipping container terminal in the Port of Colombo. The WCT, currently being constructed by Colombo West International Terminal (CWIT) Private Limited with 553 million US dollars in financing from the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, will provide critical infrastructure for the South Asian region, the embassy said.

“Operating near capacity since 2021, the Port of Colombo’s new addition will be the port’s deepest terminal and aims to boost Colombo’s shipping capacity, expanding its role as a premiere logistics hub connecting major routes and markets, boosting prosperity for Sri Lanka without adding to its sovereign debt,” it said. (Colombo/Feb27/2024)

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