02/11/2013, 00.00
SRI LANKA
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Science and nature field research centre reopens in Jaffna

by Melani Manel Perera
Established in the 1960s, the historic facility's mandate is to promote scientific education on Jaffna Peninsula. During the country's civil war (1983-2009), the station was shut down. The new centre hopes to bring students from across Sri Lanka to work together for reconciliation on the island nation.

Jaffna (AsiaNews) - The Thondaimanaru Field Research Station in Jaffna (Northern Province) has reopened. Its purpose is to serve as a centre for the study of science and nature that is open to students. During the country's civil war (1983-2009), it was shut down, its assets dispersed across the island nation.

The Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka (FOGSL), the Centre for Children's Happiness (CCH) and the Dilmah Tea Company rebuilt the facility at the original location to serve the needs of local students.

The new station, which includes a number of laboratories, a library as well as other services, was inaugurated on 1 February. Students from Jaffna's Hartly College in Point Pedro were present at the ceremony. For them, the facility will provide an opportunity "to develop our minds and talents."

The original station was opened in 1968 by a group of academics who wanted to improve scientific education on Jaffna Peninsula by giving students a chance to study in new fields of research.

"For the centre's founders, education was a fundamental part of a healthy community, not only in Jaffna but in the entire country," said Mr Anandarajah, the current vice president of the station. "During the war, the equipment was taken away and placed in other facilities. The latter however were never as successful as the Thondaimanaru Field Research Station."

About a year ago, officials from the Dilmah Tea Company and the Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka decided to reopen the station, and on 24 January 2012, they laid down the foundation stone.

Jaffna Peninsula (which has a Tamil majority) was one of regions most affected by the conflict between the government and Tamil Tiger rebels who wanted an independent Tamil state.

"During the war, we went through terrible days," some students said at the inauguration. "We were unable to go to school or even have the time to breathe. When the conflict ended, we went back to school; we were finally free again. [. . .] However, something was still missing from our lives. We still lacked something to develop our talents and interests."

Through its Dilmah Conservation, the Dilmah Tea Company launched a programme called 'Reconciliation through the Power of Nature' whose aim is to protect the island's environment and typical ecosystems and use them to promote unity in Sri Lankan society.

According to programme coordinator Asanka Abeykoom, the station will become a point of reference in which "students from northern and southern Sri Lanka will work together for the country's reconciliation."

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