President Gotabaya Rajapaksa yesterday directed officials to discontinue the cultivation of oil palm in the area considering requests made by people in Udagama in the Galle district.

The President made this decision after considering the request made by the people in Udugama in the Galle district. The President spoke to the people on his way to the Rajagiri Len Viharaya, Gomadola in Udugama where first of the District Coordinating Committee meeting was held.

They complained of the negative environmental impacts of oil palm cultivation which had resulted in scarcity of water in villages. Considering the concerns of the people.The President made the directive to discontinue the oil palm cultivation after considering their request.

“People should be encouraged to consume coconut oil. This will eventually help develop the coconut cultivation as well. Although, many rubber product manufacturing plants have been started, the supply of material is not sufficient. President directed officials to take steps to promote rubber as a cash crop cultivation. Attention was also drawn to limit the import of rubber,” he said.

A large number of issues including urban and rural economic development, disaster management and tourism industry were discussed during the meeting held at Gomadola, one of the poorest villages in the Galle district.

Special attention was drawn to political, social and economic problems faced by the people in the area.

Area political representatives highlighted the shortage of English teachers in schools in the area. President directed to fill all the existing vacancies immediately and to regularise the recruitment of more teachers for Science and Mathematics.

The shortage of drinking water in several areas including Neluwa, Nagoda and Udugama was also discussed. The President said to complete community and other water projects which are currently underway by providing necessary funds.

The issue of solid waste management was also one of the major topics of the discussion. The President instructed the Local Government Authorities to assist in the cleansing projects while appraising the public at the local level. Attention was also paid to improve healthcare facilities in rural medical centers. The President instructed the health authorities to provide adequate facilities to the people including the appointment of required number of doctors and nursing staff to those centers. He said this would greatly reduce the overcrowding in hospitals in Colombo and other major cities.

Attention was also paid to the construction of rural roads and bridges, flood control systems in the Galle district and to provide speedy solutions for the issues arising in the process of urban development.

Galle District occupies a special place in the tourism industry of the country. President Rajapaksa instructed officials to appraise the relevant authorities regarding the importance of the protecting the tourists visiting beaches in Hikkaduwa. It has also been decided to establish a tourist police station in Unawatuna. Steps must be taken to identify the problems related to the fisheries harbours in the district with the aim of uplifting the fishing industry under the purview of relevant ministries.The President advised the officials of the respective ministries to take immediate action to solve the identified problems of the people.

Some of the issues raised at today’s District Development Committee meeting were immediately solved. These included providing a water bowser to the Udugama Hospital, appointing Principals to schools where there are no Principals and providing funds for small scale water supply projects.

Cabinet and State Ministers, Secretary to the President, Dr. P.B. Jayasundara, Secretary to the Prime Minister Gamini Senerath and other Ministry Secretaries and officials were present at the District Coordinating Committee meeting headed by Galle District Leader Minister Dr.Ramesh Pathirana.

A tree planting programme was also initiated parallel to the District Committee Meetings. The President planted a tree in the temple premises to mark the inauguration of 300-tree planting programme in the Galle District.

President Rajapaksa also called on the Chief Incumbent of the Viharaya and received his blessings.