By Eng. Parakrama Jayasinghe
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
Arms race accelerating to new heights in Asia
The arms race is being accelerated to unprecedented heights in the Asian region through the introduction by some major powers of what is being described as the hypersonic missile. China was the latest nuclear-capable state to test fire this missile which could be equipped with nuclear warheads and is, therefore, invested with a mass destruction potential. However, India is making it clear that it would not be outdone by China in this competition for superior weapons technology by developing a hypersonic missile of its own.
A recent news report said, among other things, of the Chinese experiment that, “China recently tested a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile which circled the globe before missing its target, demonstrating an advanced space capability that caught US intelligence by surprise.” It is the missile’s advanced space capability that is among its most notable characteristics. In this respect it is a clear upgrade over the inter-continental ballistic missile that has a very much lower strike range.
As specialists have pointed out, the ICBM has a parabolic movement and hits its target at an ascertainable distance on the same geographical plane from the launch site but it does not possess the capability of travelling around the globe. The hypersonic missile, in contrast, has this globe-encircling capability and ought to be more worrying in respect of its destructive capability. However, it is the weapon that has come to be prized by the major powers. Besides the US, China and Russia, some other states that are said to be in the running for developing hypersonic weapons technology are; Australia, France, Germany and Japan, besides India. That is, almost the entirety of the world’s regions is caught up in the race for developing hypersonic missiles, with, of course, grave implications for the security of the human race.
Considering that China and India are in an unrelenting arms race and also taking cognizance of the possibility of other regional powers, such as Pakistan, not standing idly by as this competition continuously hots-up, it could be said that South Asia’s development prospects in particular stand the risk of being progressively blighted. Needless to say, South Asia’s poverty would be greatly aggravated when defense budgets of the region’s key states acquire greater precedence over their social welfare budgets. Besides, issues such as climate change would come to be overlooked by these states, resulting in the region’s development prospects being further undermined.
Ideally, SAARC needs to take a collective policy position over climate change issues that would be surfacing at the upcoming Climate Change Conference in Glasgow but with the region’s foremost powers hardly talking to each other and arms taking precedence over ‘Bread ‘, climate change questions are unlikely to acquire the importance due to them at Glasgow and other prime climate-linked international parleys. As a result, social welfare in South Asia would be steadily imperiled in the days ahead.
Focusing on the numerous dangers faced by the SAARC region as a result of climate change questions coming to be overlooked by the relevant governments, the ADB warned some time back: “…the collective economy of six countries – Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka – could shrink by up to 1.8 per cent every year by 2050 and 8.8 per cent by 2100, on average.”
However, it is not only the poor of South Asia who would be badly affected by the current global arms race. It would be correct to say that in degree to the proportion to which the arms race speeds-up worldwide, to the same extent would the poor everywhere be further impoverished and rendered vulnerable. This is on account of welfare budgets the world over suffering shrinkage in the wake of stepped-up arms spending. But the segment to suffer most acutely will be the poor of South Asia.
The continuing tensions between China and India on their disputed border areas would only aggravate the arms race between the Asian giants in the days to come. There are veritable eye-ball-to-eye-ball stand-offs between the armies of the two countries in the areas in contention. These tensions are currently focusing on the border India’s Arunachal Pradesh has with China. A few months back China-India tensions centred on the Ladakh region. Talks between the countries to sort out these disputes are ongoing but increasing insecurities would only stress the importance of armaments over development.
As this is being written, US President Joe Biden is heading for talks with the G20 grouping, which comprises the world’s most powerful countries. Biden would subsequently head for the climate change parley in Glasgow. Hopefully, the big powers would focus strongly on the current accelerating arms race and its consequences for the world. Put simply, they would need to discuss the ways and means of containing the arms race before it grows out of control. They would also need to understand, very crucially, that the major powers cannot credibly speak in terms of nuclear arms control and disarmament before they opt to systematically do away with the lethal, mass destruction arms which they already possess.
India and Pakistan possess a nuclear capability but they are not signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). From the viewpoint of these regional powers, this refusal to formally endorse the NPT is understandable because although some of the foremost powers of the Western hemisphere have signed the NPT, they are yet to say a clear “Yes” to nuclear disarmament. As long as the foremost global powers, such as the US, China and Russia, hold on to their nuclear weapons they cannot expect the prime powers of the South, such as India and Pakistan, to desist from developing a nuclear weapons capability.
Accordingly, the foremost powers could no longer gloss over arm control issues and pursue the relevant talks mechanically without connecting them to questions, such as, development, climate change and increasing worldwide insecurity. There is a logical link between insecurity, arms spending, underdevelopment and climate questions. The securing of sophisticated nuclear weapons is seen as a means to their security by powerful states, but they only create insecurities in their neighbours and the wider international community, who are in turn prompted to arm themselves with the same weapons. Thus is the arms race accelerated at the cost of human development and the environment. Slowing down the arms race is, therefore, imperative.
Ending the Dispossession of Northern Fishers by Indian Trawlers
Prof. Oscar Amarasinghe and Dr. Ahilan Kadirgamar
(Chancellor of the Ocean University and Senior Lecturer, Jaffna University, they are also, President and Executive Committee member respectively, of the Sri Lanka Forum for Small Scale Fisheries – SLFSSF)
From the beginning of the early 1980s, trawlers, from Tamil Nadu, have been crossing the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) and illegally fishing in the Palk Bay waters of northern Sri Lanka, damaging the ecosystem by bottom trawling, smuggling fisheries resources, belonging to the northern Sri Lankan fishers, damaging their fishing equipment, and undermining their livelihoods. Diverse types of interventions, by the two governments, dialogues between the fishers of the two countries, involvement of civil society actors, and others, have done little to prevent human suffering, economic losses and the volatile political situation disturbing the relations between two friendly countries that have emerged from this 40-year long story of resource piracy. The northern Sri Lankan fishers, who suffered 30 years of civil war have had enough and there is an urgent need to end this crisis.
Extracting and devastating resources
Both Sri Lankan and Indian fishers used to share the Palk Bay waters (historic waters) in the past, which they did in harmony. However, post-war developments saw radical changes in the structure and organisation in fisheries, the expansion of the market and the establishment of borders separating the Palk Bay region, all of which had tremendous influence on fisheries, especially on the type of technology employed (craft-gear combinations), target species, fishing pressure and area of operation. In this process of change, a tremendous increase in Indian trawlers was observed, which finally resulted in a serious decline of fisheries resources on the Indian side of the Palk Bay and crossing of the IMBL by the Indian trawl fleet to fish in Sri Lankan waters.
In northern Sri Lanka, over 37,000 fishers operate more than 11,650 boats, the majority of which are 18 feet FRP boats propelled by outboard engines of 8 to 25hp. Including post-harvest sector employment and dependents, about 200,000 people in the Northern Province are dependent on the sector. They don’t stand a chance against the 2500 odd 30-60 feet trawlers from Tamil Nadu propelled by 70-190hp outboard engines. Indian trawl boats are crossing the International Maritime Boundary Line (which was established in 1974 and 1976) to fish on the Sri Lankan side of the Palk Bay. These boats are poaching in Sri Lankan waters in large numbers as well as extracting and devastating the resources belonging to Sri Lankan fishers. Although the process of poaching commenced in a situation where Sri Lankan fishers in the North had limited fishing opportunities due to the civil war. Today the issue has become one of the most important economic and political issues in the country, because with the end of the war in 2009, the Sri Lankan fishers in the North has commenced fishing.
The Palk Bay Pirates
Trawlers come at night, three days a week, smuggle colossal amounts of fisheries resources, and damage Sri Lankan fishers’ nets, causing enormous financial losses. To avoid the trawlers, Sri Lankan fishers often stay at home instead of going out to sea, thus loosing valuable fishing time. They are forced to adopt less-profitable, near shore operations and/or resort to destructive fishing practices (trawling, wing nets, purse seining, dynamiting, etc.). The social institutions of the fishing communities, particularly fisheries co-operatives present in every village, have been weakened due to the long decline of fishing incomes, where a fraction of such incomes are normally contributed to run the co-operatives. Thus, participatory management and coastal support for fishing communities have been undermined. The long disruption of fisheries after the war has made it difficult for fishing communities to plan for the next season, and many are slowly moving out of the fishing sector to other forms of day wage labour.
In the early years, arrests of Indian trawlers for poaching were made for security reasons, because the Sri Lanka Navy, which was fighting a war, was less interested in fisheries issues. But since the cessation of the war, the Navy arrested the intruders for illegal entry into Sri Lankan territory. The arrests were made under the Foreign Fishing Boat Regulations Act No. 59 of 1979, Immigration Act of Sri Lanka and the Prevention of Terrorism Act. The impact of the arrests in preventing Indian trawl intrusion was neutralised by the arrests of Sri Lankan multiday fishers for poaching in Indian Territory, and detained in Indian prisons. Often, through the intervention of the embassies of the two countries, the Indian trawler fishers arrested and detained in Sri Lankan prisons were released in exchange for Sri Lankan fishers detained in India.
In trying to deal with this escalating crisis, the two governments drew up an MOU in 2005, which made provision for the establishment of a Joint Working Group (JWG), which among other things, would deal with issues of poaching and arrests. Although several rounds of discussions were held since 2008, no significant developments were reported, other than agreeing that fishers in both countries should be able to pursue fishing activity in a safe, secure and sustainable manner. However, some progress was achieved in the front of fisher-fisher dialogues. Several such dialogues have taken place in the past, initially organised by ARIF (Alliance for the Release of Innocent Fishermen) and later with the active involvement of the two governments. The most important of such dialogues took place in August 2010, where the Indians agreed to stop mechanised trawl fishing in Sri Lankan waters within a period of one year, during which time, only 70 days of trawling were to be allowed. Unfortunately, the governments failed to back up these decisions, and the promises were not kept. Further dialogues took place under state patronage in March 2011 and January 2014, which did not produce any fruitful results.
In April 2015, President Maithripala Sirisena convened a meeting with the various arms of the state and the northern fisher leaders on the request of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA). This high level meeting and continued engagement gave the fisher folk the confidence that their plight was a matter of serious concern to the Government, and initiated bipartisan engagement on the issue, leading to significant progress. The Parliamentary debate in October 2015 on the ecological and socio-economic damage by Indian trawlers, growing awareness through media coverage and the greater involvement of actors in Colombo, raised the fisheries conflict to the level of a national issue, rather than a problem confined to the North. Fisher leaders also took their issue to court and actively sought legal recourse towards prolonged confiscation of trawlers, and a ban of trawling in Sri Lanka. An Amendment to the Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Act banning bottom trawling in Sri Lanka was passed by Parliament in July 2017.
On another front, the Indian Government, in 2015, made unambiguous statements that Tamil Nadu trawlers should stop cross-border fishing. Furthermore, the increased media attention on the devastation caused to Northern Fishers exposed Tamil Nadu’s hypocrisy. The Tamil Nadu Government called for INR 1,520 crore (USD 225 million) package to convert the trawler fleet to deep sea vessels under the ‘Blue Revolution Scheme’., of which INR 450 crore (USD 66 million) was approved by the Government in Delhi, and the rest was to come from bank loans. By September 2019, close to 590 trawlers have applied for this facility. Although concerns were raised about whether such a conversion to deep sea fishing and buy back is realistic and sustainable, the engagement from Tamil Nadu pointed to an acknowledgement of the unsustainability of trawling and poaching.
An important development was the setting up of a Joint Working Group in November 2016 during ministerial talks held between India and Sri Lanka (revitalising what was formed in 2005), which would meet every three months and a meeting between the Ministers for Fisheries every six months.
The Terms of Reference for the Joint Working Group (JWG) included: i. expediting the transition towards ending the practice of bottom trawling at the earliest, ii. working out the modalities for the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for handing over of apprehended fishermen, and iii. ascertaining possibilities for cooperation on patrolling. Both Governments agreed on setting up a hotline between the two Coast Guards. Agreement was also reached on the request by the Fishermen Associations that there should be no violence and no loss of life in the handling of fishermen by the Navies and Coast Guards of the two countries. They agreed to encourage the Fishermen Associations of the two countries to meet every six months to take further their dialogue. Yet, many of the decisions taken at the bilateral Ministerial talks were not followed through towards a permanent solution.
As a result of campaigns of small scale fishers from the North, the work of researchers and activists and engagement with the governments of the two countries, and more importantly, the enforcement of the Foreign Fishing Boat Regulations (amendment) Act, a significant reduction in the incidence of Indian trawlers illegally fishing in Sri Lankan waters was noticed by 2018. Yet, the Northern fishers did not even have a breathing space for a new beginning, because the country was hit by the Covid Pandemic in early 2020. Very little action was paid against the poachers and there has been a resurgence of the incidence of Indian trawlers poaching in Sri Lankan waters, drastically affecting fishing livelihoods, which were already being threatened by the pandemic. The aggravated current situation, continues to dispossess the small scale fishers of the North; they were devastated by the war until 2009, crippled by the Indian trawlers in the decade after the war and impoverished by market disruptions with the Covid-19 pandemic since March 2020.
The decision to arrest and retain trawlers that are crossing over the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) by the Sri Lanka Navy, particularly since 2013, places significant pressure on the Tamil Nadu establishment. Yet, the lower levels of arrests over the last two years (71 vessels were arrested in 2017 while only nine were arrested in 2020) is in part due to fears of the Covid-19 virus spreading through arrests. Evidently, expanding deterrence is of paramount importance in dealing with the present crises, which needs strict enforcement of the Foreign Fishing Boats Regulations (Amendment) Act, No. 01 of 2018 to arrest foreign vessels in Sri Lankan EEZ which has provisions for imposing heavy fines on trawl owners ranging from Rs. 4 – 15 million. The Trawl Ban Act. No. 11 of 2017 should also be implemented. Given that Indo-Sri Lankan relations are currently of great importance, where the priorities for both governments are in furthering trade, investment and defence ties between the two countries, deterrence is to be employed carefully. There is the need for a broader strategy that asserts pressure at different levels to ensure that Tamil Nadu addresses the issue of poaching by their trawlers; particularly given that fisheries is a devolved subject in India. Pushing for joint patrolling operations by the Indian and Sri Lankan Navy could be strategic. The Indian side needs to be convinced to install vessel monitoring devices on their trawlers to track their location. However, these efforts will prove futile unless the incidence of Sri Lankan multiday boats violating Indian maritime boundaries is brought under control.
Raising the issue both by the Sri Lankan Government towards the Indian Government and the TNA and Tamil political actors towards Tamil Nadu would be strategic, given the political realities. Strong emphasis should be made on the devastating impact of resource smuggling on the livelihoods of Northern fishing populations of Sri Lanka. Strategies to work with the newly elected Government in Tamil Nadu in relation to the fishing conflict will be necessary. Engagement by the Tamil fishing community and community leaders from the North will prove important for challenging a change of stance by Tamil Nadu Government and its leaders.
Thousands of nets worth millions of Rupees have been lost in the past decade, with no single fisherman ever being compensated and with no insurance being available. Fishers now deserve financial reparations for their lost assets and for lost fishing days. Financial reparations can also be asked from the Tamil Nadu fishers, the Tamil Nadu government or the Indian government. If such demands, however, are not met in the short term, the Sri Lankan government itself may need to find the required funds. A campaign for reparations for northern Sri Lankan fishers will help consolidate the demand for a permanent solution to the fishing conflict.
The larger aim of interventions in the Palk Bay should be to establish a sustainable, comprehensive, and socially just fisheries. Current data on the state of fish stocks in this region are highly deficient. Similarly, very little scientific knowledge on the damage caused to the environment by trawling is currently available. There is an urgent need for NARA to intensify research in the Palk Bay. This can provide the foundation for developing a rational and legitimate framework for fisheries governance. Such research will also continue to weigh on the need for a permanent solution that ends bottom trawling in the Palk Bay.
While the fisher-to-fisher negotiations conducted in Chennai in 2010 were initially widely acknowledged as promising, the follow-up was poor. Similarly, the Ministerial level talks in November 2016 were significant and even led to considerable changes, however, again follow up was poor. There is a need to build on the tremendous gains of those talks, regardless of the change of Government.
At the current moment there should be a clear plan recognising the realities in Sri Lanka and India, including the political changes in Tamil Nadu and the Covid-19 pandemic to work through a process of consensus building, but with firm resolve to end bottom trawling. There should be no setback on issues agreed at the Ministerial level talks in November 2016, and calls for licensing cross border fishing should be rejected outright.
The measures suggested above will be important steps towards resolving the Palk Bay fisheries conflict. Such measures along with the recent national attention on fisheries can also lay the foundation to ensure sustainable governance and management of the natural resource base and the people who depend on it. The establishment of effective interactive platforms (e.g., strengthening fisher community organizations, co-management platforms) and clearly laid down rights and responsibilities of participating actors, along with consultation, collaboration and coordination of all concerned actors can lead to effective and sustainable policies. Indeed, sustaining small scale fisheries in addition to solving the Palk Bay fishing conflict will encompass dialogue among relevant actors, capacity development, law enforcement and empowerment of coastal communities.
Sri Lanka at EXPO 2020
….a huge disappointment
Rajitha Seneviratne’s description of the country’s pavilion, at EXPO 2020, in Dubai, has been endorsed by quite a few Sri Lankans who had the opportunity of checking out the Pavilion, themselves.
Briefly, this is what Rajitha had to say (The Island of October 12th):
“When I saw the pavilions of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and even Afghanistan (this country has no official exhibit but a private collector’s items), the SL pavilion is a huge disappointment, indeed. An EXPO is held to show the world where we are heading, more leaning on futuristic hope…not on showcasing only what we have/had….EXPO happens once in five years (Olympics is held every four years) and it’s a once in a decade opportunity. Where is the “WOW” factor in our pavilion? It is NOT about money but I got to know we have spent USD150 million – by any means quite a sum – and created a “pavilion” good enough to be a regular ‘stall’, at a local show, at the BMICH, in Colombo.”
And corroborating his statement are the following:
* Kumudu Abeyawardane:
I’m not someone who ever runs SL down. As messed up as we maybe, it is still the country that is home and I am one of those who chose not to leave, even when the opportunity existed.
“I was at EXPO 2020, in Dubai. I didn’t visit everything, but I visited almost all of Africa, and Asia, and, of course, Sri Lanka. What I saw was sad…as you entered there was a counter from the Ceylon Tea Board, with two very friendly girls who talked to everyone, who stopped to have a cup of tea, and did a brilliant explanation of Ceylon tea. Hats off to them! But, the experience ended there.
“The rest of the staff, except for one other lady, who was welcoming everyone, was sitting in corners, ignoring everyone….The SL brochure was only in Arabic. Someone forgot that this is an International exhibition.
“There were a few masks…a few photos that did nothing to bring out the magnificent beaches, or the heritage, or the wildlife we possess. Nothing about the development, or anything about the opportunities for investment!
SL was a sad contrast to even countries like Bhutan, or Congo, who were so eager to explain about their heritage.
“The US, and many other pavilions, were manned by student ambassadors – young and energetic, eager to talk, and happy to talk to people. Proud of where they come from.
“Let’s hope the authorities concerned will see this. EXPO 2020 is on till March 2022. We have five months to change things because we need both Tourism and Investments.”
* Akram Abbas:
“Totally agree with Rajitha Seneviratne’s article. We are living in Dubai and it was so disappointing to see the standard of our pavilion. The Afghanistan Pavilion is better than ours.”
“I visited. Can’t explain how disappointed I am.”
In the meanwhile, it’s reported that the Saudi Arabia Pavilion, at EXPO 2020 Dubai, received 23,000 visitors in one day, bringing the total number of visits to over 200,000…at the time this article was written. Probably, it would have doubled by now!
The Saudi pavilion provides visitors with diversified content, based on four main pillars: nature, heritage, bio-community, and the economic opportunities that the country offers to the world.
And, what is our Pavilion, at EXPO 2020, offering the world!
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