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A divine intervention needed to save rubber industry



J. A. A. S. Ranasinghe

Productivity Specialist/Management Consultant

Former Director of Rubber Research Institute (RRI), Dr. L. M. K. Tillekeratne’s article in The Island of 26 October, has dealt with several core issues that have contributed to the near collapse of the rubber industry in the country. The importance of clone balancing appears to have escaped the attention of the stakeholders. His piece has not only aroused much public interest but also served as an indictment of the Rubber Development Department (RDD) and the Ministry of Plantation Industries (MPI).

Rationale for clone balancing

Clone balancing means that a country at any given time should have a basket of different clones more than five for the survival of the rubber plantations.

The RRI has asked all stakeholders (Regional Plantation Companies (RPCs), large plantations and smallholders) to abide by the recommended composition of different varieties of clones without depending on one or two clones countrywide as an insurance against possible losses on account of plant diseases. History shows the enormous losses countries have suffered due to their dependence on a few clones. In 1977, clone RRIC 100 was withdrawn as it accounted for more than 40% of the rubber cultivation. Similarly, clone PB 86 was withdrawn twice in 1983 and 1989. With this aim in mind, the RRI periodically prescrib

es the healthy and proper balance of clones to be maintained for the survival of the rubber plantations.

The former RRI Director has stressed the advisability of having a series of recommended clones so that rubber plantations could be commercially run on a profitable basis.

An analysis of the above three scenarios would show a startling deterioration trend. Had a pathogen attacked the rubber plantations in 2002 approximately 68.4% (PB 86 – 43.6%) and RRIC 100 (24.8%) of the Sri Lankan rubber plantations would have been wiped out, leaving a meagre hectarage of 42.6% of the plantations. This disastrous situation had been more or less the same if a pathogen attacked RRIC 100 and RRIC 121 clones, thus destroying 65.9% of the entire rubber plantations. However, the current scenario in 2020 is much graver in that 73% of the rubber plantations with the same clone (RRIC 121) will face a calamitous situation. In the case of RRIC 121, smallholders will be the worst affect as they have cultivated 55,635 hectares with RRIC 121 and as a percentage it would be around 54.20% as per the following table.

The inevitable result of this situation would be that approximately 450,000 employees would lose their employment, and such an eventuality will lead to social unrest amidst a pandemic. It behoves the main stakeholders namely Ministry of Plantation Industries

, Rubber Development Department, Regional Plantations Companies, Rubber Research Board, Rubber smallholders to be fully awake to this situation and comply with the guidelines on clone balancing criteria as well as other best agricultural practices stipulated by the RRI.

All nurseries managed by the Regional Plantation Companies (RPCs), Rubber Development Department (RDD) and Private sector Nursery Owners are periodically inspected by the RRI to ensure that they meet the quality standards and also to ensure that such nurseries abide by the clone balancing stipulated by the RRI.

The fact remains that RPCs, RDD and private sector nursery owners have not strictly adhered to the basket of specific clones advocated by the RRI. Both RDD and private nurseries are primarily responsible for the issue of plants to the smallholders and they are duty bound to issue plants in keeping with the RRI specifications. It is abundantly clear that this requirement has not been complied with. How come the rubber smallholders have cultivated an excessive hectarage of 55,635 with a single clone of RRIC 121, covering an extent of almost 84.20% of the cultivation as seen above. If a leaf disease attacks this clone, total extent of rubber of 46,355 ha will have to be destroyed. It is unfortunate that our stakeholders have not realised this situation.

As Dr. C. S. Weeraratna, former Director of the Advisory Services of the Rubber Research Board has pointed out the country will have to forego an annual foreign exchange loss of Rs. 4.920 million. Can the country afford a loss of this magnitude at this juncture?

The blame for this sorry state of affairs should be placed at the doorstep of the RDD, which is responsible for the issue of plants to the smallholder sector. The Director General (DG) of the RDD is an Ex-Officio of the Rubber Research Board and he interacts with the RRI on clone balancing amongst any other matters and why he had ignored an important requirement involving the life and death of the rubber plantation is a moot point.

Although the RRI is responsible for supervising the nurseries managed by the RDD, it has limited access to the private rubber nurseries managed by the RDD. The private rubber nursery owners have a system of sub-con

tracting nurseries with hardly supervision. If one visits Ruwanwella, Dehiowta, Yatiyantota in the Kegalle District, one can see more than 1,000 individual nurseries sub-contracted by the RDD. It is a mere business for them. They are completely unaware of the clone balancing aspects to be maintained. The clone balancing has already gone out of control of the RRI.

The writer is of the view that the responsibility for managing all nurseries should be taken over by the RRI. The scientists of the RRI are quite capable of handling this task more scientifically. It is relevant to place on record that RRI was given the task of managing the nurseries that were managed by RDD in 2002, when the government decided to close down the RDD. With the change of the government in 2004, this decision was reversed and the task of managing the nurseries was entrusted to RDD at the behest of the bureaucracy, disregarding all the scientific advice. We are 

where we are today, as a result.

Both Ministry of Plantation and Rubber Development Department have been in a deep slumber for many years without taking proactive measures to overcome this situation. Many articles that have appeared in The Island during the recent years should have galvanised the authorities concerned into action. All smallholders of the rubber growing districts sent more than 60 representatives to Parliament at the last general election, believing in assurances given in election manifestos, but these MPs done precious little to protect the rubber industry. Rubber smallholders are of the view that at this rate it will be impossible to save the industry without a divine intervention.


Publication of Bulletin on Rubber

The non-publication of the RRI bulletin containing the research findings since 2018 has been a serious lapse on the part of the RRI. My inquiries have revealed that the majority of the scientists have left the institute to join our national universities due to better prospects.

2. From this year onwards RRISL will pay more attention on clone balance while nursery inspection for plant quality improvement. 

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Hair Growth and Thickness



LOOK GOOD – with Disna


* Oil:

Oiling is an old home remedy for hair growth and thickness. Oiling is also used for the strength, shine, and length of hair, from ancient times. The use of coconut oil, especially, is very effective when it comes to the amplification of hair health. Additionally, there are many essential oils for faster hair growth which you can use, too.

* How to Use: Generally, hair oiling works best when applied overnight. You could use this therapy every night, or after each night, then wash your hair, in the morning, before heading for studies, or work.


* Aloe Vera:

Aloe vera has long been used as a home remedy for hair growth, thickness, and treating hair loss problems It contains vitamins A, C, and E. All three of these vitamins are known to contribute to cell turnover, supporting healthy cell growth and shiny hair. Plus, vitamin B-12 and folic acid are also included in aloe vera gel. Both of these elements can keep your hair from falling out. Aloe vera plants can be easily grown indoors. A leaf can be plucked, occasionally, and cut open to reveal its gel. This gel needs to be applied on the scalp, basically, to provide nourishment to the roots.

*  How to Use:

Rub this gel on your head properly, leaving no area dry; wash after half an hour or so. Keeping this massage as a part of your weekly routine will eventually make your hair thick and long.


*  Green Tea:

Green tea is often consumed as a home remedy for weight loss. Surprisingly, it has many other benefits, including hair-related benefits.

* How to Use:

Consuming green tea once every day can add to the strength and length of your hair. If your body is extremely comfortable with green tea, then you may even consume it twice every day.


* Onion Juice:

A bi-weekly application of onion juice can relieve you of your tension, regarding hair health. The smell can really torture you, but divert your attention in doing something else for a while, like making a puzzle or washing the dishes. From an early age, onion juice has been used as a home remedy to control hair fall. Research has shown that onion juice has been successful in treating patchy alopecia areata (non-scarring hair loss condition) by promoting hair growth .

* How to Use:

Take half onion and blend it. Apply the mixture on every nook and corner of your scalp and let it sit for some 60 minutes, or so. Shampoo it off when it’s time for the hair-wash.

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Fun-loving, but… sensitive



This week, my chat is with Nilu Vithanage. She is quite active, as a teledrama actress – having done four, already; her first was ‘Pavela Will Come In The Cloud, Mom’ (playing the role of a nurse). Then Came ‘Heavenly Palaces’ (student), ‘Black Town’ (a village character Kenkaiya), and ‘Wings Of Fire,’ currently being shown, with Nilu as a policewoman. You could checkout ‘Wings Of Fire,’ weekdays, on Swarnavahini, at 7.30 pm. Nilu is also active as a stage drama artiste, dancer…and has also been featured in musical videos.

And, this is how our chit-chat went…

1. How would you describe yourself?

Let’s say, I’m a bit on the playful side, and I like to have a lot of fun. But, I do find the time to relax, and, at home, it’s dancing to music! Yeah, I love dancing. Oh, I need to add that I’m a bit sensitive.

2. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I get angry quickly. Fortunately, that anger doesn’t last long – just five to 10 minutes. But I wish I could get rid of anger, totally from my system!

3. If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be?

Nope, can’t think of anything, in particular. Everything is fine with us, and I’m proud of my only brother, and I feel safe when he is around. Or, come to think of it, if I did have another brother, I would feel doubly safe…when going out, in particular!

4. School?

I did my studies at two schools – C.W.W. Kannangara Central College, and Panadura Sumangala Girls’ School for my higher studies. Representing my school, I won first place in a speech competition and dance competition, as well.

5. Happiest moment?

When my husband comes home, or talks to me on the phone. He is stationed in Hatton and those calls and home visits are my happiest moments

6. What is your idea of perfect happiness?

I really find a lot of happiness feeding the fish, in ponds. I love to see them rush to pick up the tidbits I throw into the pond. That’s my kind of happiness – being close to nature.

7. Are you religious?

I would say ‘yes’ to that question. I like to go to the temple, listen to sermons, participate in meditation programmes, and I do not miss out on observing sil, whenever possible. I also find solace in visiting churches.

8. Are you superstitious?

A big ‘no.’ Not bothered about all those superstitious things that generally affect a lot of people.

9. Your ideal guy?

My husband, of course, and that’s the reason I’m married to him! He has been a great support to me, in my acting career, as well in all other activities. He understands me and he loves me. And, I love him, too.

10. Which living person do you most admire?

I would say my Dad. I truly appreciate the mentorship he gave me, from a young age, and the things we received from him

11. Which is your most treasured possession?

My family.

12. If you were marooned on a desert island, who would you like as your companion?

A camel would be ideal as that would make it easier for me to find a way out from a desert island!

13. Your most embarrassing moment?

One day, recently, with the greatest of difficulty, I managed to join a one meter distance queue, to withdraw money from an ATM. And, then I realised I didn’t bring the card along!

14. Done anything daring?

I would say…yes, when I ventured out to get involved in teledramas. It was a kind of a daring decision and I’m glad it’s now working out for me – beautifully.

15. Your ideal vacation?

I would say Thailand, after reading your articles, and talking to you about Amazing Thailand – the shopping, things to see and do, etc. When the scene improves, it will be…Thailand here I come!

16. What kind of music are you into?

The fast, rhythmic stuff because I have a kind of rhythm in my body, and I love to dance…to music.

17. Favourite radio station:

I don’t fancy any particular station. It all depends on the music they play. If it’s my kind of music, then I’m locked-on to that particular station.

18. Favourtie TV station:

Whenever I have some free time, I search the TV channels for a good programme. So it’s the programme that attracts me.

19. What would you like to be born as in your next life?

Maybe a bird so that I would be free to fly anywhere I want to.

20. Any major plans for the future?

I’m currently giving lessons to schoolchildren, in dancing, and I plan to have my own dancing institute in the future.

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Snail-napping sets the stage for CGI road trip



The SpongeBob Movie:Sponge on the Run

By Tharishi hewaviThanagamage

Based on the famous and one of the longest-running American animated series that made its debut on Nickelodeon in 1999, created by marine science educator and animator Stephen Hillenburg, ‘The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run’ is the latest addition to the SpongeBob movie franchise, coming in as the third installment after ‘The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie’ (2004) and ‘The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water’ (2015).

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