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Are we to buy our solar energy with dollars?

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By Eng. Parakrama Jayasinghe

Email : parajayasinghe@gmail.com

A Presidential Press release, dated 13th June 2021; clearly defines the policy on our Energy Sector. The direction indicated is congruent with the presidential policy declaration “Vision for Prosperity and Splendour”. This is not a moment to vacillate and get embroiled in personal or political agendas. The situation in the country is much too precarious with the Covid-19 raging and the spectre of the impact of Climate Change haunting us. The foreign reserves are falling, impacting the rupee and the cost of living. The agitation and indiscipline on the streets, in the midst of a Pandemic are signs of the social and economic instability creeping in. Sri Lanka can overcome the crisis but it needs sound leadership to mobilise and motivate the people to utilise its own resources in a prudent and fair manner.

A country, endowed with talented and educated human resources, abundant sun, wind, fertile soil and water. All these are valuable assets when it comes to opting to renewable energy. Renewable energy will not bring millions to individual businessmen but will give them sound incomes. However, a very large number of people will be become prosumers, that is those actively contributing to producing energy and at the same time using the generated energy themselves. The excess will be sold to the national grid as already practiced by the Solar Roof Top systems.

In this way, the country will save a large amount of foreign exchange, the environment will benefit as no fossil will be used and the consumers will benefit as they will be also producers and earning money as a result. There will also be a change in the economic scenario as power generation will be decentralised. The character of the Ceylon Electricity Board will be totally changed, from being a loss-making “Colossus” to becoming a sophisticated research and development unit servicing the entire country with training and back0-up facilities. Singapore has very successfully graduated to this system.

The President, in a recent progress review meeting, left no room for the interpretation of his Policy Target of reaching 70% of Renewable Energy for Electricity Generation by 2030 (unfortunately diluted down from the original 80% RE) that his vision is for Renewable Energy and there should be no attempts to misinterpret this by calls for so called “Clean Energy”. There is no such clean energy outside the realm of renewable energy and no fossil fuel can be given that distinction.

This national target has to be formalized now by a Cabinet decision and gazetted; otherwise, the President’s policy could very well be surreptitiously overturned.

Pursuing this goal, the contributions of various forms of indigenous sources of renewable energy have to be harnessed. Of these, Solar Energy holds pride of place with the progress made in recent years, particularly by Roof Top Solar PV systems , aided by the most visionary provision of the Surya Bala Sangraamaya which has to date reached a level of over 350 MW installed and many more in stages of implementation. The most challenging target set by the President however, would call for development of other larger installations both ground mounted and floating in the coming years.

The Ministry, as well as the CEB, have been working on several such projects with a 100 MW Solar Park in Siyambaladuwa for which the required land has already been earmarked and a proposed 150 MW Solar park in Pooneryn to follow shortly.

It is under these circumstances that I am compelled to raise alarm bells as noted in the title of this Paper. Are we to buy our Solar Energy in Dollars?

 

My article A Fresh Look at Solar Energy -Devoid of preconceptions and bias for and against.(https://island.lk/devoid-of-preconceptions-and-bias-for-and-against/) highlighted the many aspects of this most valuable resource, that mother nature has endowed on us in Sri Lanka and the need for most careful plans and programmes to gain the best advantage to Sri Lanka ,

The objective should be broader than the mere addition of energy to the grid. This would contribute to the national economy much more than what is given by the amount of electricity generated, by way of highlevel employment, development of local entrepreneurs and possibility of upstream and downstream integration not to mention the savings in foreign exchange.

With the current moves to implement the 100 MW Solar Park in Siyambaladuwa, it is most important that the other relevant issues are given due consideration.

 

Looking at the larger picture

The President’s goal of 80 RE as expressed in the “0Vision for Prosperity and Splendour” is based on a number of far reaching concepts. The reduction of Sri Lanka’s dependence on imported fossil fuels and thereby ensuring the future energy security, is the most apparent and noteworthy goal. But along with it should come the additional spin off benefits which would accrue, whether specifically stated or not. Only by ensuring these spin-off benefits, while reaching the primary goal, that the “Splendour” of the vision would be achieved.

I am repeating here these important principles which should not be lost sight of at this critical juncture, and the opportunity be lost forever. These principles to ensure that Sri Lanka truly achieves future energy security and the additional advantages are

 

* The energy industry must at least now strive to become a National Industry. The competency of our entrepreneurs and technologists this is already well proven.

*The entrepreneurship in the energy sector should be viewed as a major potential contributor to the growth of the GDP, not a mere service in ensuring the energy supply for other sectors in the economy to grow.

*The development of Renewable Energy resources and services is a significant avenue of developing employment opportunities.

*The reduction of the drain on foreign exchange by eliminating the continued use of imported fossil fuels.

*In case of bioenergy the added advantage of multiple spin off benefits to the rural economy, with the added advantage of being a source of firm power, with no drain of foreign exchange

 

The challenge now is to ensure that the adherence to these principles is held as sacrosanct in the efforts to develop the larger solar and wind projects in the pipe line.

 

The Pitfalls to be avoided.

I am addressing these remarks on the Siyambaladuwa 100 MW solar project in particular, but similar consideration must be given for any other such solar and wind projects too.

The desire for the CEB to have large power plants in one location is acceptable from their point of view. However, both Wind and Solar Projects have the advantage that any size of project conceived however large, consists of a large number of solar panels currently reaching over 500 watts per panel and a discrete number of wind generators, which too have now reached capacities of 5 MW each. Therefore, the packaging of the number of individual units for a particular project is made purely on economic considerations.

What is important to realize is that such considerations must take into account, the principles outlined above to gain the greatest advantage to the country, which unfortunately seems to be glossed over by the planners, for various reasons. A holistic view in a national perspective would highlight the immense direct financial value and other economic and social benefits and energy security on one hand and the potential dangers in overlooking these on the other hand.

Let us look at the Siyanbaladuwa project as the example before any unwise decisions are made.

 

The project capacity – 100 MW installed

Targeted Grid Substation – Moneragala

Land Acquisition – Already made

 

Sri Lankan entrepreneurs and engineers have already proven their capacity of developing projects up to 10 MW. Therefore the logical policy should be to plan this project to be awarded to ten local entrepreneurs, to handle packages of 10 MW, properly structured and managed by the CEB, by National Competitive Bidding, so that the tariff would be in Sri Lanka rupee terms considering that we don’t have to pay for our sunshine. And there would be no drain on foreign exchange except for the initial one-time expenditure on import of the necessary equipment and a limited amount for any minimal spares imports only. The local entrepreneurs and the lending institutions and even the smaller investors in the stock exchange have shown their eagerness to contribute to this form of national venture. So, there is no validity in any argument on the availability of funds or the technical capabilities.

The alternative would be to invite foreign participation, usually couched in arguments of lack of adequate expertise, which as shown above are not tenable in the present situation, and the lure of so called ” Foreign Direct Investment ” and inward flow of Dollars at this critical juncture. But the question must be asked is, in how many such projects approved by the BOI, how much funds were sourced from the local banks limiting the credit available for the local entrepreneurs. The most blatant example is the Korean Investor in the Thulhiriya Textile Mill, who vanished leaving a multibillion loan unsettled for a local bank.

In the present situation the conditions are even worse. Let us assume that the investor would bring in the total capital required. Which may be assumed as US $ 100 Million for the 100 MW by one or more foreign investors. It is clear that they would have the advantage of the currently depleted cost of funds in the global market, which is not available for the local competitors in an open international tender. However, it is certain that the foreign investor in exchange would demand a Dollar Linked Tariff. Using an estimated final tariff of US $ 0.07/kWh, the following interesting numbers emerge.

(See image 1)

 

So against a dubious inflow of $ 100 Million we would be sending out 260 % , all of which other than the initial capital could have been retained in Sri Lanka. Moreover, with the ever depreciating rupee, this amount of dollar would be costing us much more in rupee terms. Let us be generous to assume that the a mere 3% depreciation of the rupee annually. Therefore this drain would amount to a colossal Rupees 75.8 Billions over the 20 year project life including cost of spares. .

Against this, for an initial foreign exchange cost of US $ 80,000,000 for a group of local companies the entire expenditure over the project period would be Initial capital on US$ . 80,000,000 plus the Import component of spares during project period @ 1.5 % of capital per year. If this is also adjusted @ 3% Depreciation per year the total foreign exchange drain is Rs 23.06 Billion only, against the Rs 75.8 Billion mentioned above.

These differences are illustrated in the chart below. (See images 1 and two)

 

This is the basis for my question in the title of this article. We will by spending in Dollars for the use of our own sunshine, which we could harness ourselves for a similar or lower cost in rupees and also ensure the much desired energy security and reduction of drain on foreign exchange.

The folly of a similar nature was permitted during the Mahaweli Project downstream development. The project packaging was done in a manner to exclude the local contractors and the awards were made to foreign companies. However, the actual work was done by local contractors on sub contracts very competently. But their experience still remains unaccepted for prequalification of the larger scale of projects. Many decades after, such monumental follies need not be repeated. We must not make the mistake of falling, during daytime, into the pit that we fell into at night, as the local saying goes.



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Covid-19 vaccination: Is it the proverbial ‘Silver Bullet’?

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Dr B. J. C. Perera

MBBS(Cey), DCH(Cey), DCH(Eng), MD(Paed), MRCP(UK), FRCP(Edin), FRCP(Lon), FRCPCH(UK), FSLCPaed, FCCP, Hony FRCPCH(UK), Hony. FCGP(SL)

Specialist Consultant Paediatrician and Honorary Senior Fellow, Postgraduate Institute of Medicine, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka.

In this emerald isle, people take to any form of vaccination, like the legendary ducks take to water. Offer them a vaccine against anything and they will take it; at least most of them would do so. The vaccine antagonists and anti-vaxxers are extremely few and far between, so as to be almost a virtual non-entity. With a very high literacy rate, and a population that is prepared to take heed to the hilt, the axiom that dictates ‘prevention is better than cure’, it is the absolute dream of the experts in the public health scenario that there is unmitigated abiding interest on the part of our populace to get vaccinated against COVID-19. It has been said that vaccines do not save lives but vaccination most definitely does. Vaccines have to be given to people for them to produce the optimal effects. A receptive population to such a notion is indeed, a much-fancied reverie of all health service providers.

In such a background, it is most laudable that Sri Lanka is going pell-mell, even in an impetuous rush, to vaccinate her population against COVID-19, at what could best be described as at break-neck speed. Even given the spectacle of an insufficiency of adequate stocks of the coronavirus vaccines to freely vaccinate the population, the authorities are making the very best of the situation. We must, of course clearly appreciate the steps taken by the Government and the Ministry of Health in this initiative. The tri-forces, the Army in particular, have to be congratulated, in playing the lead role in organising a scheme of things to administer the vaccines in an orderly fashion. TAKE A BOW; ALL OF YOU, you are indeed giving the very best of yourselves in this endeavour.

Well, the goal is to somehow secure a high enough herd-immunity to defeat the virus; most definitely a commendable final goal. The currently prevalent mantra is to vaccinate, vaccinate, and vaccinate even more. Yet for all that there is much misinformation and an infodemic doing the rounds, especially on social media, about widespread speculations on loss of sexual prowess, impotence, subfertility and infertility, as undesirable effects of the COVID-19 vaccines. THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO SCIENTIFIC BASIS FOR ANY OF THESE IMPLICATIONS. NONE OF THE CURRENTLY AVAILABLE COVID-19 VACCINES DO ANY OF THIS. It is just stupid covidiocy on the part of a few anti-vaxxers. It has induced a lot of young people to refuse the vaccine. This is a crime against humanity to spread such falsehoods. It is absolutely crucial to realise that the current vaccination drive is just a very important one of quite a few things we can do to try and keep the coronavirus at bay.

We have seen the fantastic results of immunisations against ‘child-killer diseases’ in paediatric healthcare. This author, as a young junior doctor, was witness to the ravages of the much-feared childhood diseases that killed or maimed scores of young children even in the second half of the last century. Those diseases such as tetanus, diphtheria, whooping cough, polio, measles, Japanese encephalitis; just to mention a few that took scores of young lives of yore, are a thing of the past now. Adequate vaccination has completely wiped them out. The last case of childhood polio in Sri Lanka was seen just around a quarter of a century ago. The young junior doctors of today and the current lot of medical students have not seen any of these dreaded diseases.

In the child healthcare scenario, vaccination has become the panacea for all ills in the above-mentioned diseases. In the same vein, it is quite reasonable to expect the coronavirus vaccines to provide a similar end-result. However, is it really so? It is a most lamentable fact that it is perhaps not quite so.

There is a well-recognised fundamental difference between all the vaccines that are used to prevent the much-feared childhood diseases of the past and the currently available vaccines against the coronavirus that is causing the current pandemic. The vaccines against all those childhood diseases COMPLETELY PREVENT children getting the disease!!!, period. Well, if the recipients are protected against getting the infection, it is the end of the story; a definitive conclusion of the matter in hand.

However, right up to just a few days ago, none of the currently available vaccines against COVID-19, were thought to be able to COMPLETELY PREVENT anyone getting the disease to any appreciable degree. How they work is by reducing the severity of the disease and by preventing the deaths. So…, the basic end-result characteristics of all the currently available COVID-19 vaccines were thought to be quite different to the standard vaccines against all other infective diseases. One could still get the disease in spite of being vaccinated against COVID-19 and would still be able to spread the illness to others.

Yet for all this, there seems to be a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel. In a most recent scientific publication in the New England Journal of Medicine, released as recently as 22nd September 2021, an interim analysis of a large study conducted in 99 centres of the USA has shown significant protection against CONTRACTING THE DISEASE as well as AGAINST MORE SEVERE DISEASE AND DEATH by the mRNA-1273 (Moderna/Spikevax) vaccine, administered as two doses 28 days apart. Vaccine efficacy in preventing Covid-19 illness was 93.2%, the effectiveness in preventing severe disease was 98.2% and the efficacy in preventing asymptomatic infection, starting 14 days after the second injection, was 63.0%. Vaccine efficacy was consistent across ethnic and racial groups, age groups, and participants with coexisting conditions. No safety concerns were identified.

Be that as it may, added to all our problems, now there is the daunting spectacle of the various types of variants and mutants, ranging from Alpha through delta, even to Epsilon and most recently to a particularly nasty strain called ‘Mu’, of the coronavirus which could cause problems even in the fully vaccinated. We still do not understand completely the potential impact of these more virulent strains in vaccinated people.

However, a case in point in relationship to these facts is the presently dominant situation in Israel. That country, one of the fastest in vaccination and most-vaccinated nations in the world, in spite of almost the entire population being vaccinated, is having some problems at the present time. By mid-March 2021, Israelis were partying as lockdowns ended and by April, masks had more or less vanished, turning the tiny country into a tantalising glimpse of a post-pandemic future. However, the crafty blight of a coronavirus seems to have come back with a vengeance. From a few dozen daily cases in early June 2021, even zero on June 9, new daily COVID infections twice hovered near 6,000 very recently, the highest daily rate in six months. Having won early access to supplies of the BioNTech/Pfizer jab in exchange for sharing nationwide data on how mass vaccination drives affect the pandemic, Israel is a closely watched indicator of a country where well-inoculated developed economies are heading.

As new infections soared, so did the long tail of hospitalisations in Israel. Even though the unvaccinated were five to six times as likely to end up seriously ill, the vaccine’s protection was waning fastest for the oldest; the most vulnerable, who got their first jabs as early as December 2020. At this rate, health officials predicted at least 5,000 people would need hospital beds by early September, half of them with serious medical needs, twice as many as Israel is equipped to handle. The current Prime Minister of Israel was honest with Israelis when he announced a new measure just a couple of weeks ago, whereby the government was trying to cushion the blow. On August 1, it had started offering people, over 60, a third shot of the Pfizer vaccine, embarking on its own public health experiment as it tumbled into an unpredictable fourth wave. So far, 775,000 people have taken their third shot and doctors say they can see antibody counts rising measurably within days of the third jab.

For Israelis, the booster shots are a reminder that they are still on the frontier of Covid-19 vaccinations. They celebrated when they were the first to get jabbed, cheering Pfizer as lockdowns ended in March 2021. Now, they are the first to experience the limits of the vaccine and the first to accept a long-whispered inevitability: the need to give regular booster shots to stay protected.

All these facts tend to bring into sharp focus, again and AGAIN, the undoubted importance of time-tested manoeuvres of avoiding crowds, maintaining a social distance of at least one to two metres, wearing suitable and effective masks; even double-masking, and repeated washing of hands, as our own personal weapons against this dastardly blight. Vaccination against COVID-19 will probably not be the panacea for all ills in combating this pandemic, although it would be a very powerful tool in the hands of the authorities in their quest towards victory over this disease. It will certainly not be the ultimate ‘SILVER BULLET’ against the disease.

If there is a lesson to be learnt from Israel today, it is this: corona, in fact, is not over; perhaps not for quite a while. This summer was just an intermission. Next may come winter., sadly perhaps, a winter of discontent. We do hope to high heaven that it may not be so for this beautiful and much-treasured Motherland of ours.

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Proposed Parakrama Samudraya walking path devalues ancient heritage

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By Eng. Thushara Dissanayake

The construction work of the proposed walking path on the Parakrama Samudra tank bund was suspended after the protest of a group of Buddhist monks. Whether it is appropriate for monks to intervene in this matter is a different issue and the objection is admirable because many remained silent over this issue of national significance.

Since then many views, both pros and cons, on the proposed walking path, have been expressed by various parties. Experts in the engineering field express views on the safety of the dam after the proposed construction, which meddles with its existing riprap, the structural arrangement that prevents bund erosion by wind-generated water waves. Some others, including local administrative level officers and politicians see this as essential development for the area. However, technical issues can be resolved at any cost, and I am more concerned about the facts whether this track is a genuine necessity and the possible subsequent damage it can inflict on the historical value of the tank and the image of the great King Pararamabahu.

The objective of a walking path is to help people maintain their health, not only by engaging in physical activities like walking and jogging but also by allowing them to be with nature. While walking and jogging, can improve physical health, a serene, natural environment can improve mental health. If we take an area like Polonnaruwa, which is not as urbanized as many of the major cities in the country, there are ample places that offer the above-mentioned benefits. Further, neither visitors of the area nor residents will use it as a walking track, and an observation platform would be sufficient, if people need to stay safe from traffic that moves along the bund. Therefore, this type of project would no doubt be a white elephant that ruins millions of public money.

There was a time when the leader of the country went about erecting clock towers at every junction. Soon after they were built many of them showed the wrong time due to inferior construction work, resulting from corruption, putting the public in difficulty. Unlike those days, today there is no need for clock towers as everybody has the exact time since everyone has a mobile phone, more accurate than a wristwatch. We have to come to terms with the reality that what we value today would become obsolete tomorrow in the fast-changing world. Who is to say that these walking paths would not become obsolete in the future given the fact that lives of people are becoming complex and busy, and people may turn to indoor gymnasiums and exercise machines?

Moreover, a closer look at some of the already constructed walking paths would reveal that the selection of locations for such facilities was ill-informed, without proper evaluation as they remain under-utilised. One such example is the track that has been constructed in Badulla urban park which is popularly known as the Wawul Park. This park is located on the edge of three main playgrounds of the city; Vincent Dias ground, cricket ground and football ground. The track is blanketed in thousands of droppings of bats that inhabit the trees of the park, the odour of it so foul that it is very difficult to reach the track. Every day hundreds of people walk in the aforementioned playgrounds while the walking path remains abandoned.

Coming back to the topic, after the walking path is constructed, as per the usual practice of the country, a huge plaque will be erected on the bund mentioning the names of politicians who suggested, advised, supervised, participated and declared open the track. There will probably come a day in future when our children, who visit the Parakrama Samudraya, would say that the tank was constructed by this and that politician. Alas! The statue of the Great King Parakramabahu, who had a great vision to manage the water resources of the country, will be disregarded.

Way forward

Before making any structural changes to heritage sites, opinion should be sought from experts and other stakeholders as well. According to personal experience, when I last visited the place a few years ago, people who visited the tank needed no walking path, but being travellers from remote areas, there was a crying need for other basic facilities. They required shelter, water, facilities to have their meals, dispose of waste safely, and a proper waste collection system, among other things.

In addition, a mini auditorium can be constructed at a suitable place in the vicinity, that has audio-visual facilities to educate children about the history of the tank. A model of the reservoir can be used to explain its components and operation. Then our children will not take this amazing Parakrama Samudraya, that they are endowed with today, for granted but learn to appreciate the great vision and dedication of their ancestors in making this marvel a reality.

Let me conclude with a poem I posted on my FB page sometime ago, with its translation.

There is a huge plaque at the end of the tank bund. It reads that the politician is akin to King Parakramabahu. The river downstream overtops with the sweat of the people who built the tank. Still, the people who built the tank are of no value)

(The writer is a Chartered Engineer. This article is based on his personal views and does not reflect those of the organisations where he holds positions)

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Antics of State Minister and Pohottu Mayor; mum on chemical fertiliser mistake; The Ganga – a link

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Reams have been written in all local newspapers; much comment has traversed social media and persons have been bold to call for justice on two absolutely unrestrained and yes, evil, SLPP VIPs who have recently been dancing the devil as the saying goes. These evil doers seem to be pathologically unable to control themselves and behave as human beings: heads outsised with hubris and apparently bodies often pickled with liquor.

Very succinct comments have been made on Lohan Ratwatte, one being: “a leopard never changes his spots” referring to the many crimes supposed to have been committed by him, and the other that he is a gem of a man who may make a jewellery heist soon enough. He has the audacity to say he did nothing wrong in barging into two prisons; in one to show off to pals the gallows and in the other, to brandish a gun and place it against the heads of two shivering Tamil prisoners. All done within the week when world attention was focused on Sri Lankan human rights violations directed by the UNHRC

Cass’ comment is that Lohan Rat was committing hara-kiri (minus even a trace of the Japanese spirit of self sacrifice) and taking the entire country on a suicidal mission through his inability to hold his drinks and destructive hubris and murderous inclination. Cass particularly favoured Don Mano’s summation in his comment on the unlawful prison intrusions in the Sunday Times of September 19. “Any semblance of a shabby cover-up to enable Lohan Ratwatte to retain his position as State Minister of Gems and Jewellery will not only endanger the economy by depriving the nation’s dollar bare coffers of a GSP benefit of nearly 2.7 billion dollars, but will risk putting 21 million Lankans from the frying pan into the fire and test their tolerance to the core.”

The visit to the Welikada prison by the State Minister of Prison Reform and … was said to be with some men and one woman. Identities were kept under wraps and confusion raised by making the dame a beauty queen or cosmetician. But who she was, was soon known along the vine of gossip. One report said the person in charge of the prison or its section with the gallows, cautioned Lohan Rat and tried to dissuade his advance with friends in tow since the lady companion was in shorts and them walking through where prisoners were, would cause a commotion. But no, the State Minister advanced to show off the gallows with his short-shorts wearing woman companion and imbibing mates.

Cass is actually more censorious of this woman than even of the State Minister himself. Is she a Sri Lankan, so vagrant in her woman-ness? Doesn’t she have even an iota of the traditional lajja baya that decent women exhibit, even to minor level nowadays? Is associating with a State Minister and his drinking pals such a prized social event? Shame on her! She, if people’s assumption of identity is correct, has boasted political clout and been elevated by it too. Such our young girls! Do hope they are very few in number, though this seems to be a baseless hope as social events unroll.

Pistol packing – correction please – toy pistol packing Eraj Fernando is aiding the ex State Minister of Prison Reform to deface, debase and deteriorate Sri Lanka in the eyes of the world. He is interested in land and not in gallows or scantily clad gals. With thugs in tow he trespassed a property in Bamba and assaulted two security guards. Repetition of an incident he was embroiled in – a land dispute in Nugegoda a couple of weeks ago. He was taken in by the police and before you could say Raj, he was granted bail. What quick work of police and courts.

As the editor of The Island opined in the lead article of September 20: “The Rajapaksas have created quite a few monsters who enjoy unbridled freedom to violate the law of the land.” A convicted murderer known for his thug ways was presidentially pardoned a short while ago.

The good thing is that people talk, write, lampoon, and draw attention to these heinous crimes and do not seem scared for their necks and families. White vans have not started their rounds. And very importantly the memories of Ordinaries are not as fickle as they were. Wait and see is their immediate response.

New fad – jogging lanes on wewa bunds!

Some monks and men gathered recently on the partly torn up bund of Parakrama Samudraya and had the foolish audacity to say the bund needed a jogging lane. Tosh and balderdash! Then news revealed that other wewas too were being ‘attacked and desecrated’ to construct jogging lanes. In such remote rural areas which even tourists do not visit? Is there illicit money-making in this activity? Otherwise, no explanation is available for this sudden interest in farmers’ and toilers’ physical well being. They get enough exercise just engaging in their agriculture, so for whom are these jogging lanes?

Sharply contrasting persons

As apposite to the former two, are superb Sri Lankans up front and active and giving of their expertise, albeit unobtrusively. Consider the medical men and women and their service to contain the pandemic; farmers who protest to ensure harvests are not damaged too severely by false prophets who won the day for the banning of chemical fertilisers, pesticides and weedicides. The latest blow and justification of what so very many agriculturists, agrochemists, have been saying all along – organic is good but to be introduced very slowly; without importing compost from overseas, is the Chinese import containing evil microorganisms. Experts have categorically stated that chemical fertilisers are sorely needed for all agriculture; more so paddy and tea; and if used prudently cause no illness to humans or injurious side effects.

The four experts who comprised the panel at the MTV I Face the Nation discussion monitored by Shameer Rasooldeen on Monday September 20, agreed totally on these two facts and went on to say that it must be admitted a hasty decision was taken to stop import of chemical fertilizers. We listened to the considered wise opinions backed by true expertise of vibrantly attractive and articulate Dr Warshi Dandeniya – soil scientist, of Prof Saman Seneweera from the University of Melbourne, Prof Buddhi Marambe – crop scientist, and Dr Roshan Rajadurai – media person of the Planters Association. Listening to them, Cass swelled with pride and told herself see what sincerely-interested-in-the-country’s welfare eminent scientists we have in this land of rowdy politicians and uneducated MPs. They labeled the sudden banning of chemical fertilisers and insecticides and pesticides as “very dangerous and causing irreversible harm. It is not too late to reverse the decision, even if admitting fault is not possible.”

Garlic

Oh dear! The stench! Never ending series of scams; executed or approved by politicians and all for illicit gains. Even the tragedy of the pandemic and suffering of much of the population does not seem to have curbed selfish lust for money.

Focus on the Mahaweli Ganga

Interesting and deserving of thanks. Chanaka Wickramasuriya wrote two excellent articles in the Sunday Islands of September 12 and 19 on the Mahaweli Ganga, imparting invaluable facts of the present river and its history, as for example which king built which wewa or anicut. He ended his second article by hoping the waters of the great river will feed the north of the island too: “Maybe then this island will be finally uplifted. Not just from north to south, but across class and caste, language and philosophy, and political partisanship. Hopefully driven by a newfound sanity among its denizens, yet symbolically attested to by the waters of the Mahaweli.”

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