Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 8 November 2009





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Fisheries sector to contribute in a big way to economic growth - Deputy Minister of Fisheries

Deputy Minister of Fisheries Neomal Perera

The resettlement of the largest number of IDPs in the North took place recently with 41,685 IDPs resettled in Vavuniya, Mannar, Mulaitivu and Kilinochchi. Excerpts from the interview the Sunday Observer had with Deputy Minister of Fisheries Neomal Perera on his observations on the resettlement and in particular on the resettlement of fisher folks in the above regions.

Q: Could you describe the recent resettlement process?

A: I had the opportunity to witness the resettlement activities carried out recently in Adampan in Mannar. The people who have been resettled in their original places have been provided with all necessary requirements to immediately begin their livelihood. Farming equipment, utensils and building materials to put up their houses have been provided to those who have returned to their original places.

Rs. 5000 along with dry rations and a letter from President Mahinda Rajapaksa greeting them on their return to their original places were also handed over.

The places of worship in the war-torn areas in Vanni have been rebuilt along with the schools that were damaged. Clergy and teachers have also been allowed to engage in their activities in the areas where the resettlement has taken place.

University students have been allowed to leave the IDP centers on priority basis to continue with their higher studies.

I would say it is important to note that the resettlement process has been expedited. Unlike in other countries with IDP problems, Sri Lanka has taken prompt and swift measures to resettle the Vanni IDPs.

Q: What were the measures taken to provide with vital documents such as birth certificates and Identity Cards to those IDPs who have lost them?

A: They were re-issued and the IDPs were made to be comfortable in looking into their day-to-day official matters.

The Grama Niladhari offices and Police posts were recreated to cater to the needs of the people who have been resettled.

Q: What is the process of clearing land mines in those affected areas?

A: The clearing of land mines is being done swiftly. A large team of experienced personnel are employed in clearing land mines.

No causality has been reported so far due to land mines. Land mines are not visible. Therefore, one must be careful in clearing them. People and animals are used to detect them. The Army is making its best effort to detect land mines and it is hoped that there will not be any casualties in future when more people are settled in those areas where presently land mines are earthed.

Q: What are the facilities the government has provided to the resettled people in the development of the agricultural sector?

A: Government has provided lands and supplied water for the paddy fields and farms.

Apart from that, farmers were given all necessary items such as mamoties and other equipment for farming. Cattle, paddy seeds and fertilizer will also be provided once they start farming. Once they harvest their crop, they will be given a standard selling price for rice which they didn’t receive during the war period.

The capacity of the Giant Tank has been increased. Other lakes and tanks have also been repaired and extended. And culverts, sluice gates, canals etc. too have been repaired to provide water for lands which can be utilized as paddy fields.

We believe that with the facilities provided to them they will get a good income for themselves and thus contribute to the GDP of the country positively.

Q: How does the Fisheries Ministry assist these resettled people in developing a sound economic background?

A: After all, water bodies were repaired. Fisheries Ministry has provided them with fingerlings prior to the resettlement process. With the present rain all new water bodies are getting filled and this is the ideal period for fish breeding.

During the rainy season farmers will be provided with fingerlings once again. These fingerlings will weigh around 500g in another four to five months’ time. Fish is a good source of protein and they can be self-sufficient with their harvest or if they produce harvest in great deal, they may sell them. Fisheries Ministry has initiated all plans to start fish industry in all tanks in the areas where the resettlement took place. Farmers will be provided with necessary equipment for selling of their fish harvest such as motorbikes, bicycles with ice boxes fixed on them. Further we plan to build a hatchery in Iranamadu area which is estimated to cost around Rs. 200 million to provide fingerlings to the five districts in the North. At the moment we have only three hatcheries in Dambulla, Inginiyagala and Udawalawe which provide fingerlings for the entire country. I must mention that we intend to reduce inland fish prices in near future. Our intention is to provide fresh inland fish for people in areas where they do not get sea fish. There are advantages in inland fishery industries such as there is no wastage and inland fisheries industry can continue to provide whatever the amount of fish despite being affected by seasonal weather conditions. There are no huge inputs such as power to run motor boats. It is by paddling they harvest inland fish.

The restrictions for fishing in coastal areas which were imposed due to security reasons have now been removed. Fishermen can engage in fishing twenty four hours in those areas. Another important action the government has taken is the reduction of import of canned fish for which government spent 50 million dollars two years ago. We now plan to increase the duty imposed on those canned fish. Our aim is to encourage people to consume fresh fish.

Q: Have you made any plans to introduce ‘ornamental fish’ industry in those areas?

A: Ornamental fisheries industry is yet to be improved because there are several hindrances connected to it such as these people do not have connections with European and Middle East countries where the market exists.

Q: Do you think that the resettled people will make expected contribution to the country’s GDP?

A: There is no doubt about that. Those people are impressively hard-working. There are a lot of virgin lands which have not been cultivated for the last three decade.

Those people will be utilizing them and I am on a positive view that they will make positive contribution on the country’s GDP.

Q: What measures have you taken to improve the country’s fisheries industry in general?

A: There were several endangered fish species which were banned and the Fisheries Ministry is planning to import those species and breed them to export them. With the development of the tourism industry after the war, there will be lot of flights coming in and we will be able to provide a lot of cargo. We intend to increase the contribution from the fisheries sector by a great deal. Sea weeds, inland fish, tuna, coastal fisheries, sea weed culture etc. will be produced and our aim is to contribute to the GDP twice as much we did two years ago by 2010.



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