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President embarks on observation tour to Pekoe Trail (Pics)



President Ranil Wickremesinghe visited the Court Lodge Estate, owned by the Udupusellawa Plantation Company in Nuwara Eliya this morning (16) to explore opportunities for the revival of the tourism industry around the picturesque hills of Nuwara Eliya. Notably, the President embarked on this journey by traversing the Pekoe Trail.

The “Pekoe Trail” spans 300+ km through the Central Highlands of Sri Lanka, regarded as one of Asia’s best-kept secret routes. Originating from the renowned city of Kandy, it extends south towards the Hatton and Horton Plains National Park, then east through Haputale and Ella, before meandering around the charming town of Nuwara Eliya. Originally constructed during the British colonial period to transport tea from vast plantations to factories, the trail holds historical significance.

During his walk along the Pekoe Trail covering a distance of 3.2 km, the President engaged in friendly conversation with the workers employed at the Court Lodge estate. Welcoming the President warmly, the people expressed their heartfelt wishes for a joyous Sinhala and Tamil New Year.

The Court Lodge estate, overseen by Browns Plantations, spans 264 hectares and employs a total of 349 workers. During his visit, President Ranil Wickremesinghe personally inspected the fundamental requirements of the plantation workers, addressing issues related to education, healthcare and housing. He particularly focused on the prospects of the children within the plantation workers’ community, especially those set to complete their schooling after the G.C.E. Advanced level examination.

The factory at Court Lodge is known for producing “Light Bright” tea.

During his tour, President Ranil Wickremesinghe also emphasized the importance of providing Pekoe Trail tourists with the opportunity to savour a freshly brewed cup of tea. Furthermore, he explored avenues to bolster the tourism industry associated with Sri Lanka’s central highlands by leveraging the Pekoe Trail.

Mr. Miguel Cunat, the visionary behind the Pekoe Trail expedition, who has extensively explored the central mountains of Sri Lanka over the years, expressed his belief that Sri Lanka can be mapped internationally as one of the premier hiking destinations globally.

Pekoe Trail offers tourists a unique opportunity to explore a variety of terrains, delve into the region’s storied history, engage with its vibrant culture and savour authentic local cuisine and beverages. Comprising 22 stages, the Pekoe Trail can be tailored to suit one-day or multi-day excursions, catering to a range of preferences. Plans are underway to further develop the trail, enhancing it with necessary facilities to ensure a seamless and enjoyable experience for visitors.

The European Union (EU) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) have extended their support to the Pekoe Trail project, aligning with Sri Lanka’s national tourism strategies. The initiative encompasses various aspects, including sustainable environmental development, to foster the growth of tourism in the country.The goal of the Pekoe Trail project is to draw in a new wave of tourism, including adventure seekers, to Sri Lanka while simultaneously improving the livelihoods of rural communities. Mr. Miguel Cunat conveyed his appreciation to President Ranil Wickremesinghe for the support provided in initiating the Pekoe Trail and commended the President’s vision to revitalize the country’s economy by transforming the tourism industry.

(President’s Media Division)

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President highlights Global North’s failure in climate change financing




President Ranil Wickremesinghe delivered a compelling speech at the 10th World Water Forum, held in Bali, Indonesia today (May 20), highlighting the stark contrast between global funding priorities, pointing out the willingness of the Global North to fund death and destruction in Ukraine while showing reluctance to finance measures to combat climate change.
Accordingly, President Wickremesinghe proposed a 10% levy on the annual profits of global tax evasion assets deposited in tax havens, estimated at $1.4 trillion annually. He suggested that funds raised through this levy could support Blended Finance projects focused on climate change adaptation and mitigation.

In his opening remarks, President Wickremesinghe extended his gratitude to President Joko Widodo of Indonesia for hosting the event, which centres around the theme “Water for Shared Prosperity.” He praised Indonesia for its leadership in promoting the “Sustainable Management of Lakes” resolution at UNEA-5, emphasizing the collective responsibility in managing water resources, essential for all life and ecosystems.

Following is the speech delivered by President Ranil Wickremesinghe;

At the outset let me thank the President of the Republic of Indonesia, H.E. Joko Widodo for hosting the 10th World Water Forum in Bali. The theme ‘Water for shared prosperity’ focuses on collective responsibility in managing water resources, the life blood of all living beings and ecosystem services. This follows the “Sustainable Management of Lakes” Resolution proposed by Indonesia at the UNEA-5.

During the UNEA -6 held this year, the European Union together with Sri Lanka brought about the resolution “6/13 Effective and inclusive solutions for strengthening water policies to achieve sustainable development in the context of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution”.

I also take this opportunity to congratulate the Government of Indonesia for taking the initiative during the G20 Presidency to launch the Global Blended Finance Alliance. Sri Lanka expresses its willingness to become a pioneering member.

Climate Change and water stress are two sides of the same coin. The cumulative effects of Climate Change are the main reason for what we see today as the water resource crisis. According to IPCC projected climate scenarios till 2090, Sri Lanka’s dry zone will get drier and the wet zone will get wetter in an unprecedented manner. Sea level rise will cause salt water intrusion in coastal areas resulting in salinization of land. I took this example from Sri Lanka while appreciating the fact that this is what is happening all over the world.

In global terms the solution to water stress revolves around climate mitigation and adaptation. Combating the triple planetary crisis with specific measures aiming at water. In the Nationally Determined Contributions water is classified under the adaptation sectors. On the other hand, mitigation is equally important as emissions are the root cause. Combating the threats to water resources posed by climate change requires colossal amounts of financial resources.

The Global North has failed miserably in adhering to the commitments to provide financial resources for Climate Change. There is a notable lack of political will after the euphoria of the Glasgow COP was over. Climate Change denial is gaining ground in the West.

The establishment of the Loss and Damage Fund, after a long drag, if effectively implemented can help to bridge the gap. This is a big IF. The Summit for a new Global Financing Pact will hopefully reach a conclusion by September this year. Nevertheless, the final outcome will depend on the results of the US Presidential Elections in November.

The OECD in 2021 projected the investment for global water related infrastructure at US $ 6.7 trillion for 2030 and US$ 22 trillion for 2058. The UNEP Report 2023 “Underfinanced – Underprepared” estimate the under financed gap to combat climate change at US$ 194 – 366 billion per year. The Global North is willing to fund death and destruction in the Ukraine. But there is an unwillingness to fund measures to avoid death and destruction caused by climate change.

Since money is not coming our way in anticipated amounts and at anticipated pace, to overcome the resource gap, Sri Lanka presented to COP 28 the Tropical Belt Initiative. A novel concept of harnessing commercial investments in the natural forests, mangroves, swamps, grassland water bodies and other natural resources in the Tropical Belt towards tackling the triple planetary crisis. The Tropical Belt from the time of its existence has been a ‘shield’ for the whole world. It is a catalytic accelerator of solutions to the ongoing triple planetary crisis. Investment in the tropical belt will bring in transformative changes to combat the triple planetary crisis.

In this context, the Initiative on Global Blended Finance will enable the Global South to mobilise the much needed financial resources. The US$ 9.4 billion available to commence this fund is a good example of leveraging concessional finance. The Tropical Belt Initiative will also benefit from this facility. In this context Sri Lanka proposes a 10% levy on the annual profits of global tax evasion assets deposited in tax havens. The annual profits are estimated at US$ 1.4 trillion per annum. The levy can be enforced by imposing sanctions, similar to those imposed on Russian Banks on the Banks and the Financial Institutes which fail to implement the levy. The monies raised by these levies to be made available to be utilised by the Blended Finance projects on Climate Change adaptation and mitigation.

The Global Blended Finance initiative is a supplement to the Loss and damage funds – not an alternative. These two measures must work in tandem. Therefore at this forum, let us express our appreciation for the hard work done by Indonesia in proposing this Initiative at the G20 culminating the establishment of the Alliance Secretariat.

Again, our thanks to President Joko Widodo for his contribution both in respect to the management of water resources and for bringing together the Global Blended Alliance.”

The World Water Summit, themed “Water for Common Prosperity,” began on May 18 in Bali, Indonesia, bringing together world leaders, experts, academics, entrepreneurs, and policymakers. The conference aims to unite nations in a collaborative effort to address global water issues.

Since its inception in 1997, the World Water Summit has been held every three years, serving as a premier platform for countries worldwide to share experiences and knowledge on best practices for water management. The summit facilitates dialogues among stakeholders on water, sanitation challenges, and sustainable development goals.

This year’s event sees the participation of key United Nations organizations, including the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the United Nations Environment Programme, the United Nations Development Programme, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the United Nations International Children’s Fund, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, and the United Nations Climate Change Organization.

Meanwhile, Indonesian President Joko Widodo hosted a dinner at the Bali Cultural Park yesterday (19) for the heads of state and representatives attending the conference. President Ranil Wickremesinghe was also in attendance.

(President’s Media Division)

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Govt. to transform agriculture using modern tech – President




President Ranil Wickremesinghe emphasized that the government plans to transform Sri Lankan agriculture using modern technology, including Artificial Intelligence (AI). The government is committed to support the private sector entrepreneurs interested in this initiative.

The President further mentioned that 100 Divisional Secretariat Divisions have been selected this year for the Agricultural Modernization Program. In the first phase, 25 Divisional Secretariat Divisions will receive the necessary facilities, while the second phase will extend modern agriculture practices to an additional 75 Divisional Secretariat Divisions.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe made these remarks during an observation tour of the AiGrow Company’s greenhouse in Nelumdeniya, Kegalle this morning (17). The inventor of Vega Car and the Group CEO of Vega innovations Dr. Harsha Subhasinghe accompanied the President on this visit. The AiGrow greenhouse is the first in Sri Lanka to utilize artificial intelligence technology.

With over seven years of experience in Sri Lanka’s agricultural sector, the AiGrow Company applies AI in both greenhouse and open cultivation, utilizing automated methods to enhance efficiency and productivity

The company designs and constructs customized greenhouses to meet specific customer requirements, offering continuous service and maintenance support for these facilities.

The company’s inaugural greenhouse, located in Nelumdeniya, Kegalle, comprises three sections where tomatoes, bell peppers and lettuce are cultivated. Additionally, AiGrow operates a separate greenhouse for mushroom cultivation.

AiGrow exports a significant portion of its harvest and supplies its branded products to local supermarkets.

Furthermore, the green agricultural automation devices produced by this company are being promoted to both local and international markets.

Additionally, AiGrow collaborates with local universities to provide educational opportunities in the field of applying AI to modern agricultural practices.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe conducted a visit to the AiGrow Company’s Nelumdeniya, Kegalle Greenhouse this morning, where he observed first-hand agricultural operations and production activities carried out using the modern technology.

During his visit, President Wickremesinghe also observed the electric three- wheelers and motorcycles developed by Dr. Harsha Subhasinghe.

Subsequently, the President participated in a discussion held at the premises, where he reiterated the government’s commitment to introducing modern agriculture to the country. He emphasized the government’s willingness to provide necessary financial support and training for this endeavour.

Additionally, President Wickremesinghe instructed officials to propose a bank loan system to facilitate this initiative.

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ASLCSCC holds Chinese Cultural exhibition in Colombo (Pics)




An exhibition of Chinese Culture kicked off in Colombo yesterday (May 09) at the exhibition hall of the Public Library, Colombo.

The exhibition, organised by the Association for Sri Lanka – China Social and Cultural Cooperation (ASLCSCC), showcases photographs, art, crafts and calligraphy and will be held today as well.

The event kicks off a series of events which will be held to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Founding of the People’s Republic of China, which will take place on October 01.

Speaking to ‘Sri Lanka Mirror’, ASLCSCC Chairman – Mr. Indrananda Abeysekera said that this event will be the first of 75 events planned by SLCSCC.

Officials of the Cultural section of the Chinese embassy, ASLCSCC members and school children attended the exhibition opening yesterday morning.

(Pics : Shanika Jayasekara)

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