SRI LANKA NEWS – NOVEMBER 2020-Compiled by Victor Melder. 

Victor Meldor

Sri Lanka’s emergency needs in various sectors including agriculture, education, ICT, transport and disaster management brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic are to be handled at cost of over Rs.10 billion under the Contingent Emergency Response Components (CERCs) framework, a Finance Ministry report revealed. Following the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, the ministry has requested the banks to activate several CERCs in the existing portfolio to finance a set of emergency activities for the COVID-19 response. The funds from several project CERCs will be “pooled” into one Designated Account (DA) to finance a common emergency action plan and similar activities, the Treasury document disclosed. A sum of Rs. 3.15 billion has been set aside to assist agriculture and food security during COVID -19 while Rs. 985.28 million was allocated for the establishment of a system for tele-education and e-learning for school and university students. Emergency needs in the establishment of a platform for the government to implement home-based work will see a financial allocation of Rs.1.08 billion. A sum of Rs. 4.55 billion has been set aside as support for public transport to implement sanitation and physical distancing measures and SLTB operating costs and introduce pre-paid cards for buses that operate within the Western Province. Flood response activities and project management during COVID-19 will be done at a cost of Rs. 396.74 million. The safeguards due diligence process will be managed via this Environmental and Social Management Framework (ESMF) which has been developed to cover the CERC financed activities defined in the CERC Emergency Action Plan (EAP). The Presidential Secretariat (PS) will provide overall oversight and monitoring for the implementation of CERC activities as the PS also coordinates the Presidential Task Force for COVID-19 Response. A CERC Steering Committee (CERC SC) will be established under the Presidential Secretariat to provide overall oversight, monitor implementation progress and decide on critical multi-sectoral actions to address implementation challenges. Apart from this, the Finance Ministry is implementing a strategic preparedness plan since March to date to achieve the key objectives of preparedness and response to sporadic cases of COVID-19 at a cost of Rs. 98.billion. With the current transmission scenario of having clusters of cases, the interim plan has been updated to consider the evolving situation and needs and to plan for combating possible community transmission. The COVID-19 Emergency Response and Health Systems Preparedness Project is supporting the government’s ‘test, track, isolate and treat’ strategy to control the pandemic by providing a steady supply of essential medical necessities, testing kits  (Sunday Times, 1.11.2020)

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Two species of snakes from Knuckles-by Nayanajeewa Bandara

snakes

Source:Dailymirror

A group of researchers, including one of the leading herpetologists in Sri Lanka, Mendis Wickramasinghe and Herpetology Researcher at Natural History Museum, London, Evolutionary Biologist Dr. David Gower, has been able to discover two species of snakes endemic to Sri Lanka in Riverston and Rassagala, Balangoda in the Knuckles mountain range. 

Researches say that with these two discoveries, the number of endemic snakes in Sri Lanka increases to 108 and the number of shieldtail snakes increases to 18.

This new species of snakes discovered in Riverston area of Knuckles mountain range situated at an elevation of 1400 metres above the sea level, show similarity to Phillip’s Earth Snake in its outward appearance. This new species has been named Gunasekara’s Shieldtail.

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