The Uthayan newsper reported yesterday (09/02/2016) that a unanimous resolution has been passed in the Northern Provincial Council against its Agriculture Minister Ayngaranesan, at its monthly meeting.
The reasons given are in summary :
His actions relating to the,
- Irranaimadu water supply scheme.
- Parthenium weed eradication program.
- Pallai wind power generation scheme.
- Well water problems in Chunnakam.
- The scheme to desalinate sea water in Maruthankerni.
- The tree planting scheme of Karthikai (November-December).
- Distribution of disaster relief.
- Farmers day (Thaipongal).
- Flower Exhibition.
- Agriculture day.
- Soil day and,
- No action being taken to prevent the excess water from Irranaimadu tank running off into the sea at Maruthankerni.
- No action being taken to direct the run off water into the Jaffna lagoon system.
- Not keeping the PC members informed of his activities.
- Not informing the assembly members the cost of these events.
- Not remedying the problems in the co-operative sector.
- Not taking forward the programs of the agriculture ministry.
- Refusing to participate in the small tank reconstruction project proposed by the central government.
- Neglect of the Vavuniya district by the Agriculture ministry.
- Not paying heed to the complaints of the fisherman in Maruthangkerni.
Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran was requested to conduct an inquiry on the conduct of the agriculture minister.
The minister reied that the accusations are baseless and acused the Chairman of not knowing how to conduct the affairs of the assembly.
The accusations are wide ranging and point to serious problems in the affairs of a very important provincial ministry. Several of these problems have been highlighted in the past, but were largely ignored. It is a pleasure to see that the NPC has started , rather belatedly of course, paying attention to its manifold internal failures. Better late than never!
Among the issues raised by the Provincial Councilors are the issues relating to water, fisheries and agriculture. The ‘Jaffna River’ river project has to taken forwards to enable converting the laggon system in the peninsula into fresh water lakes. The Americans made the Missouri- Mississipi River flow in reverse, when there was a need to do so! As pointed out by Eng. O.E.D. Medis only a three KM canal needs to be cut to enable the fresh water accumulated in the Elephant Pass reservoir, to flow in to the Jaffna lagoon system. I am convinced this can be done using volunteers. Every Jaffna man and this country has a stake in making this dream come true. Further, at least the overflow water from the Irranaimadu tank should be made to flow into Elephant Pass reservoir, until the Mahaweli system is connected to the Irranaimadu tank. The quality of well water in the Peninsula will improve as a result and 11,000 acres of addition land will become available for agriculture. Inland fisheries and tourism potential of of these lagoons can be exploited creating productive employment.
The small tanks within the peninsula should also be de-silted, deepened and even enlarged. This will harvest precious rain water efficiently and will work in tandem with the Jaffna River, to recharge the aquifers.
Desalination of sea water to produce potable water has created problems in the Middle-East and California, as the aquatic environment – increase in salt content- changes and damages fish breeding areas. The concerns of the fisherman are legitimate.
The Chunnakam well water contamination issue has to be investigated in depth and remedies sought. This issue has been to my knowledge pussy-footed by Minister Ayngaranesan.
The other issue of concern to the farmers in the north is marketing their products at reasonable prices. Agriculture is a big gamble now and the farmers most times lose their shirt. The co-operative system has to be invigorated to pay a fair price, collect produce, market them and/or establish secondary industries to add value.
Extension services to farmers have collapsed under the Provincial Council system. Fertilizer, Weedicide and Pesticide peddlers from big companies have by default become the best friends of the farmers, in the absence of efficient extension services. There is excessive use of chemicals in agriculture now and this has resulted in soil and water contamination. Even fruits, are sprayed with chemicals to ripen them faster. The Grapes produced in Jaffna are a danger to consumers! The Provincial Ministry of Agriculture has done little to address these problems.
Alternate crops like Dragon Fruit and even dates have not been introduced by this Ministry, although farmers on their own have started small projects. There is a farm along the A9 in Iyakachchi that uis growing an acre two of dragon fruit now- a plant that requires very little water and bears fruits for at least 30 years! The few Dragon Fruit trees I planted two years back, have borne fruit last year. I have also around 80 date palm seedlings growing fairly well in Jaffna. There is absolute lethargy in the Provincial Ministry of Agriculture. It has lost its verve and creative ability.
The Jaffna peninsula and the Vanni in the North can be the agricultural (including Animal Husbandry) capital of this island, if the Provincial Ministry of Agriculture puts its boots and overalls on, rolls its sleeves and gets to work.