Rs. 48 mn for ship fire victims from EU
- 15,000 beneficiaries can apply through GN offices
- Red Cross to act as intermediary
By Pamodi Waravita
The European Union (EU) stated yesterday (23) that it would be providing Rs. 48 million in funding to the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society to aid over 15,000 people affected due to the MV X-Press Pearl maritime disaster.
In a statement to the press, the EU Delegation to Sri Lanka and the Maldives said that it would be working through the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society to provide emergency relief funds, especially to small scale fishing communities in the Colombo, Galle, Gampaha, Kalutara, Puttalam, and Matara Districts.
Furthermore, the aid would also provide necessary support for the local authorities to clean both hazardous and toxic materials from the country’s Western coastline.
Meanwhile, Ornamental Fish, Inland Fish and Prawn Farming, Fishery Harbour Development, Multi-Day Fishing Activities, and Fish Exports State Minister Kanchana Wijesekera stated yesterday that fisherfolk who lost their fishing equipment due to the disaster would be eligible to receive new equipment from his Ministry. Therefore, the State Ministry has requested fisherfolk who lost equipment to the disaster to inform their relevant District offices of the Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Department.
Samagi Jana Balawegeya (SJB) MP Dr. Kavinda Heshan Jayawardhana said earlier this month that the SJB has lodged a complaint with the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) regarding the disaster and its effect on various industries, especially the fisheries industry.
“The fisheries industry workers were especially affected, as they cannot engage in their livelihoods or support their families. Small boat owners, ‘madhal himiyo’ (fishermen who operate close to the shore and fish using nets), fisherwomen who stitch nets, fishermen operating on the Negombo Lagoon, those who trade in crabs and other shellfish, and many others involved in the industry such as transporters of fish, deserve justice for this disaster,” stressed Dr. Jayawardhana.
Meanwhile, the National Fisheries Solidarity Movement (NAFSO) Convenor Herman Kumara also raised concerns earlier this month about whether the compensation received by the country would trickle down to the fishermen who had been directly affected by the disaster.
“We feel that the Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Department would just calculate the impact based on the number of fishermen who are already registered with them, which would completely disregard many others who make their livelihood on the coast, such as fisherwomen,” said Kumara.
He also noted that the registered number of fishermen in the Negombo division is approximately 6,000.
However, the State Ministry subsequently said that forms would be accessible via Grama Niladhari (GN) offices for all those affected by the disaster to provide their details to receive compensation.
The MV X-Press Pearl ship caught fire on 20 May approximately nine nautical miles away from the Colombo Harbour, after having anchored there a few hours prior to the fire. A subsequent explosion on 24 May led to the fire spreading and a number of containers aboard it falling into the sea, thus releasing pollutants including plastic pellets into the water. Since then, debris and deceased marine life have washed up on the country’s Western coastline, heavily affecting both the fisheries industry and the country’s marine environment.