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DateLine Sunday, 16 September 2007

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Provinces get their own flowers

A special programme was recently launched by the Environment and Natural Resources Ministry to designate and dedicate a flower to each province in the island as a measure of protecting Sri Lanka's endangered plants. Most of these flowers which have been thus designated are endemic (unique) to that region and hold cultural and scientific significance.

These are the flowers which have been dedicated to the provinces: North Central Province - Ehela, Sabaragamuwa Province - Vesak Orchid, Western Province - White Lotus, Eastern Province - (proposed) Goda Manel, Central Province - Maharatmal, Northern Province - (proposed) Wal Pichcha or Wishnu Kranthi, Southern Province - Heenbowitiya, Uva Province - Guruluraja and North Western Province - Etteriya.


Assistance to improve met. and disaster information network

Last week, we told you about the grant made by the Japanese government to Sri Lanka towards the development of a museum in Sigiriya. Japan, as you may know, is a good friend of Sri Lanka and has helped the island in so many ways over the years.

It has again extended its assistance, this time, to improve Sri Lanka's meteorological and disaster information network.

The assistance, provided under Japan's General Grant Aid Programme, is a grant of 807 million Yen (Rs. 726 million).

It will be utilised to develop a reliable communication network among the relevant institutions and to improve the meteorological observation system, thereby improving the meteorological and disaster information network in Sri Lanka.

This project, through the automation of 38 meteorological stations, will strengthen the island-wide weather information network and the automatic weather observation systems belonging to the Department of Meteorology in Colombo.

The automatic weather information system will be connected to the Head Office of the Department of Meteorology through a satellite communication network working on real time (as it happens).

Information and forecasts related to weather conditions as well as warnings of predicted disasters will be relayed to the relevant organisations through the intra-agency communication network which has now been proposed. The Japan International Cooperation Agency has provided its assistance in preparing the basic designs for the project.

The project will be implemented by the Meteorology Department under the supervision of the Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights in close collaboration with Japanese consultants and contractors.


Fifty more tsunami early warning centres

Who could forget the tsunami of December 26, 2004 that wreaked havoc across most parts of Sri Lanka and several other Indian Ocean countries? It is extremely unlikely that any of us will forget the tsunami in a hurry. We also worry day and night about facing that kind of situation again.

On that occasion, we were taken completely unawares, but now we are better prepared. One of the first steps in this disaster preparedness plan was the setting up of tsunami early warning towers.

The first of these towers was installed on the second anniversary of the tsunami at Hikkaduwa. Three more were established at coastal areas later. The government plans to set up 50 more of them along the coastal belt.

These warning centres, which would function 24 hours of the day, seven days a week, will have 16 loud-speakers connected by telephone with the country's main disaster management centre in Colombo.

They will also be connected to each other and with other early warning centres in the region. In the event of a disaster, warnings will be broadcast by these loud-speakers.

Warnings will be issued not only for tsunamis, but also for other disasters such as floods and landslides. People have also been made aware about what to do and how to react in such a situation.


Help for Batheegama students

Batheegama Maha Vidyalaya, Dickwella was one of the many schools that saw destruction and damage as a result of the tsunami. However, it was lucky enough to receive assistance so that the students can get back to their studies.

Students of the Beatrix Potter Primary School, London, who had watched a TV programme about the tsunami and its effects on this school, had decided to lend a helping hand. They conducted many fairs at their school, and with the money thus collected, helped the Sri Lankan school to purchase the much-needed furniture and equipment.

Three such donations had been made over the years under the guidance of Principal, Step Neil with the fourth one being sent to Batheegama Vidyalaya recently. The donation was presented to the school by Sri Lankan Ms. Florida Jayaratna, who is a staffer at the London school.

The students of the two schools have even started corresponding with each other and the compositions of the local students are prominently displayed in the London school.


Boost to local textile industry

Remember us informing you recently about the plans of the government to produce the material for the free school uniforms in the country itself without importing it from abroad.

The government has already saved foreign exchange worth around Rs. 192 million as a result of the moves to do away with clothing material imports from China.

Over Rs. 764 million worth of foreign exchange is annually drained from Sri Lanka due to direct imports from China. If the school uniform material is manufactured locally, the country would be able to save a sizable portion of this sum.

The foreign exchange thus saved could be used to develop the local textile industry. This in turn will create more demand for local textiles, thereby giving a boost to the local industry. It would also generate over 20,000 direct and indirect employment opportunities in the textile industry.

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