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Battaramulla then and some unforgettable characters



(Excerpted from the memoirs of Rtd. Senior DIG Police Edward Gunawardena)

Ganahena is perhaps the highest area; and St. Mathew’s Anglican Church built in 1850 is located here. Sri Sudassanaramaya the oldest temple in the village is also located on a high location close to Ganahena. These were the only places of worship. There were no Mosques or Kovils. However on the site on which St. Mathew’s Church stands there had existed a Hindu place of worship called the Gane Kovil. I have myself seen large granite columns strewn about in the churchyard. These are no more to be seen. A remarkable feature was the unity in which the Christians and Buddhists lived. In fact no family was wholly Buddhist or wholly Christian. My grandfather once told me that when a Revd. Welikala was the Parish Priest of St. Mathew’s Church, his brother had been the Chief Incumbent of the Sri Sudassanarama temple!

The sub-village place names mentioned above served a very useful purpose particularly because the systematic numbering of houses had not commenced. Persons and places were identified with reference to these places. eg. ‘Ganahena Kanda Uda’, ‘Udumulla lindalanga’, ‘Deniye Simon’, ‘Minuwanvila Carolis’ or Averiwatta Romlas’.

Ownership of land was mainly in small-holdings. But certainly not small by today’s standards. It was not unusual for a family to own an acre or more. Most of these plots were planted with coconut, arecanut and ground crops such as manioc, batala, pepper and even coffee. It is indeed a matter for regret that with the demand for land in Battaramulla in the 80s and 90s and the prices rocketing many of the less affluent decided to sell their lands and move further away from Colombo to places such as Pore, Habarakada and Aturugiriya. The massive influx of the affluent, urban middle class who have built palatial homes has certainly transformed the tranquil, traditional, unspoilt village that I have lived from birth to a crude mix of Cinnamon Gardens and Maligawatta of Colombo. Indeed the face of the village which I have known so intimately from the forties of the last century has changed beyond recognition. Only the name ‘Battaramulla’ remains. The story of Battaramulla over the past five decades is the story of a ‘vanished village’.

Large extents of land were rare; and the few that existed were owned by non-villagers. The present Jayanthipura which originated as a housing project during the premiership of Sir John Kotelawela was a coconut land belonging to the de Livera family. The large extent of land that forms the residential complex of Subuthipura was a rubber plantation belonging to a lawyer by the name of Ebert from Kalutara. The area bordering Lily Avenue off the Robert Gunawardena Mawatha was a rubber land belonging to a Vanlangenberg. During the rubber boom of the late forties and early fifties my father was the lessee of this land. As children we were able to closely observe how the latex was collected and sheet rubber turned out. My parental house and the house in which I live today are on a land that once belonged to the Lady Obeysekera Trust which had been purchased by my father and his two younger brothers in 1931. A substantial part of this eight-acre land is to-date retained by the family.

The land on which the Battaramulla Maha Vidyalaya stands today belonged to the Dassanayake family of Mirigama. Until the time of its acquisition by the Education Department my father was its leaseholder. This was the land on which the four Gunawardena brothers started playing football. Soon other children as well as adults were to join, ultimately leading to the birth of the Wingers’ Football Club. More about football later.


Roads and other utilities

The two main roads that traversed the village were the Colombo – Kaduwela Road, and the Pannipitiya Road commencing from the Battaramulla bazaar. The former was better known as the Colombo – Godagama Road. The village stood between the sixth and seventh mileposts on this road. These were the only macadamized roads. The present Parliament roundabout and the road to Parliament and beyond to Pelawatta and to Koswatta did not exist. The present Parliament was built in the eighties. The by-roads of note the Averiwatta Road, the Udumulla Road. and the Korambe Road. were all Village Council (VC) roads and they were all single lane gravel paths.

My father’s residence where I lived with my grandfather, grandmother, my father and my brothers was on the large extent of land that my father had purchased abutting the Korambe Road. From the Ganahena turn off up to the village boundary, was the present Parliament Rd. The others who lived on this road were the Jansens and the Vanlangenbergs on the eastern side and the Wijewickremas, Jamis baas and Obiyas baas on the Western side. James and Obiyas were much sought after village carpenters. The Wijewickrema property which was adjoining our land was occupied later by Roy Perera and his wife who were from Badulla. They were a very amiable couple who were very fond of children. Hema de Silva a nephew of Roy was a regular visitor who became friendly with us and would even take us regularly to see Hindi films. He had just returned after graduating from the London School of Economics and joined the newly created Central Bank of Ceylon.

This road was generally deserted except for the few people from the village of Korambe who travelled to work on foot or to take bus from the Battaramulla bazaar. Most casual labourers came from Korambe. I remember Lewis Aiya, Burampi and Thomis Appu as extremely honest and hardworking. The last mentioned drove our buggy cart. In the nights these people returning home carried chulu lights (hulu athu) and sang loud to scare away serpents from the road. Snakebites were common on these unlit by-roads; and the snake bite specialist (Sarpa vedamahattaya) who lived in Korambe was a much wanted man. He was the brother of the best known Vedamahattaya of Battaramulla, Simon Vedamahattaya.

It was from the Averiwatta (Rajamalwatta) Road that we approached the paddy fields and threshing floors that belonged to my grandfather. Ambalangodella was a substantial extent of paddy land together with a well tended fodder grass land. Cartloads of harvested fodder grass were delivered daily to Elephant House that used bullock carts for the transport of aerated waters.

As children my brothers and I enjoyed working in these paddy fields during the school holidays. Harvesting time was particularly pleasant I still remember even the Kamath language eg. Batha, maduwan, ambaruwa etc. My brother Irwin showed a special liking for the paddy fields and did not shy away from the mud. Fittingly in later life he joined the Agriculture Department and eventually rose to be the Director General of Agriculture.

The Udumulla road which was quite narrow, led through footpaths to the northern fringes of the village, the scanty settlement of Hakurugoda and an extensive patch of thick shrub jungle called Bogahahena. Hakurugoda was characterized by three or four small families of the Jaggery caste. These people integrated well with the rest of the villagers. Being traditionally cooks by profession the men were much sought after at village weddings and other social functions. The women carrying baskets on their heads were a welcome sight. They went house to house with breakfast preparations of string hoppers, pittu and hoppers together with delicious vegetable curries and sambols. During the New Year time everybody looked forward to their Kevum, Kokis, Aasmi, Helapa etc.

Two landmarks that I distinctly remember on the Udumulla road were the public bathing well and an elevated garden of mangosteen trees with a fashionable house. The occupant of these premises was an elderly English gentleman by the name of Meaden. He had been a former civil servant in the colonial administration.

Another important footpath that I often used as a short cut, connected the Pannipitiya road from near the present Indrajothi Vidyalaya with the Sri Sudassanarama Temple. On this narrow by-way was located a coconut land where the Hamers lived. Opposite this land was a home for destitute dogs which was very caringly and efficiently run by an energetic English lady by the name of Mrs. Bartlam. I remember visiting this place that was well known as the ‘Balu Madama’ with a parcel of buns for the dogs. There were several others too from the village who had brought food for the dogs.

In the late forties there was no electricity in the village. Some shops and a few affluent households used Petromax lamps. Most people used kerosene lamps with chimneys. Bottle lamps were widely used. Hurricane lanterns were used for outdoor activities while cyclists used carbide lamps. We as children were not allowed by our father to study by kerosene light. He saw to it that the four brothers used candies. Even today whenever lights fail I make do with a candle.

There was no refrigerator or any other electrical appliance in our home. It was common to preserve fish or pork in salt. Delicious preparations were made of salted fish or salted pork. T

The butter, bacon and sausages that my father brought were salted and did not need refrigeration. It is no exaggeration to say that the bacon or sausages sold today are insipid compared to what we ate then. Whenever my father brought ice cream, the container was packed in dry ice. Although rare, whenever an Elephant House van had to pass the village, apart from two or three crates of aerated waters a few chunks of ice were delivered to our home. Making our own ice cream with milk, eggs and mango juice in a manually operated churner was great fun.

There was no water service or drainage. All households had wells and well kept pit latrines. Water for household use was kept in earthenware pots. Boiled drinking water was also stored in earthen decanters. It was a practice for most households by the road to have a large pot of water covered with a coconut shell for the use of thirsty wayfarers.



In the forties and the fifties there were only three schools in the village. The Christian Missionary School situated in the premises of St. Mathew’s Church which to-date remains a popular institution for juniors is perhaps the oldest. Even a century ago this school had been well known for discipline. My grandfather used to relate many stories about the headmaster of the time by the name of Hendrick Gurunanse. Children feared him so much that the mischievous ones wore gunny sacks under their sarongs. He had been a firm believer in the dictum “Spare the rod and spoil the Child”. His son H.D.L. Perera better known as Lennet Ralahamy was the Headman of Battaramulla until the Grama Sevaka system replaced the headman system.

The Indrajothi Vidyalaya on the Pannipitiya road had about four class rooms and three or four teachers. Today this is a popular school catering mainly to the expanding population on the Pannipitiya road to Pelawatta and beyond. This school and the Christian Missionary School which are government schools today, being on limited space have no land for any further expansion. At Mampewatta on the land of Henry Boteju a prominent local politician was situated a small school that was known as the YMBA School. The land adjoining my father’s property which was held by the latter on lease was acquired by the Education Department to accommodate the YMBA School. Fortunately for Battaramulla and the entire locality this school developed rapidly to become the present Sri Subhuthi Madya Maha Vidyalaya catering even to children from Colombo. The role played by the late M.D.H. Jayawardena when he represented the Kaduwela electorate and was a senior minister in the Dudley Senanayake government of 1965 in the development of this school will never be forgotten by the people of Battaramulla.

The English language was not taught in any of these schools. As a result before the Maha Vidyalaya took shape children wanting to learn English attended the Kotte Bangalawa School which subsequently became the Kotte Christian College.

My grandfather had come to know Rev. Dowbiggin, the head of the Christian Mission in Kotte. In fact the latter had succeeded in converting him to Christianity. My father and his two younger brothers had attended this school and been successful in the English School Leaving Certificate Examination (ESLC). Incidentally it was the son of Rev. Dowbiggin, Herbert Dowbiggin, who after his education at Trinity College Kandy and Cambridge became the Inspector-General of Police.


Transport & Retail Facilities

Travel to work or to school or places away from the village, particularly to Borella and Fort was by bus. Buses were few in number and belonged to the Colombo Omnibus Company. It was also called the B.J. Fernando Bus Company. The bus crews were extremely polite and even knew the regular travelers personally.

Travelling in the open bodied buses was fun. The Battaramulla terminus for the Borella buses was at the present turn off to the Battaramulla cemetery. As school children we were particularly fond of the bus that was driven by Yahonis Aiya. He was a very kind driver who was caring and helpful to the children. ‘Checker’ Patrick Aiya who usually travelled in this bus was also a friendly and amiable sort. Not long ago, in the mid eighties I often met Yahonis on my walks. He was old but strong enough to ride a bicycle. He never failed to get off the bicycle; and I made it a point to have a brief chat with him. He took great pride in the fact that the DIG Metropolitan traveled in his bus as a child. His funeral in the village of Korambe was well attended.

Fish and vegetable vendors who were mainly womenfolk also brought their goods from the Pettah market in these passenger buses. Baskets of fish and vegetables were accommodated on the hoods of buses and the loading and unloading was done by the conductor. He considered this as a part of his duty. Most passengers returning from Colombo after work also brought their vegetables, fish and meat in bags made of reeds as polythene bags were not even known at that time. Restrictions on this free and easy manner of transport of consumables commenced with the introduction of buses with fully enclosed bodies which were known as ‘Nelson body’ buses at the time.


Use of Bicycles

Cycling was a popular means of transport. Most people used bicycles to travel to their workplaces in Colombo. So did the children particularly boys in their teens to travel to schools such as Christian College Kotte, Wesley, St. Joseph’s and Ananda. The bicycles were all imported brands —Raleigh, Humber and Hercules. They were quite costly. As a result the theft of bicycles was a common occurrence. It was such a nuisance that bicycle theft was considered a ‘grave crime’ by the police. It was necessary for the OIC of the police station to visit the scene of theft and also report such theft to Police Headquarters. Every office, school and even shops had bicycles stands for parking bikes. At almost all the places reserved for the parking of bicycles there were warning boards in red, ‘Beware of Cycle Thieves’.

During the war because motor vehicles were not allowed to drive with their head lights on when the ‘black out’ regulation came into force it was difficult to spot cyclists ahead. As a result all bicycles apart from a rear reflector were compelled to paint the lower section of the rear mudguard white.

Much police time on the roads was spent on taking up offenses of cyclists. Riding without lights was considered a serious offense. Most cyclists used carbide or oil lamps until the dynamo became popular. Carrying a passenger on the bar or doubling and riding abreast were the other offenses that were detected by police. Most culprits were schoolboys. I remember having being detected ‘doubling’ on at least three occasions. However on all these occasions I was to plead with the sergeant or constable and escape being charged. One reason was because I made it a point to address the detecting officer as ‘Sir.’

I was once ‘doubling’ a friend, who in later life became a member of the Ceylon Civil Service (CCS) and was detected at Maradana. The sergeant let us go. But he deflated the tyres and asked us to push the bicycle home!

There was another friend of mine who adopted a unique ruse. Whenever he was detected he gave his name as ‘Abraham Lincoln’. In his carrier basket the three exercise books on top carried this name. He also gave a false address. Often he made it a point to be at the Maligawatta Courts on days that these cases were usually heard to enjoy the fun when the name Abraham Lincoln was called loud by the court Mudaliyar. This exceptional prankster in later life became a President’s Counsel and an Ambassador. That was at least 25 years before the National Identity Card was introduced.


Goods Transport

There were no vans, double cabs, tractors or landmasters in the village. It was rarely that a lorry was seen. Transport of all types of goods was by bullock carts which were in plenty. It was a common sight to see handcarts being pushed along with vegetables, young coconuts (Kurumba) etc.

My grandfather had two bullock carts in addition to a passenger carrying tirikkale which he enjoyed driving. The bullock carts that were kept in our premises were used mainly for the transport of paddy, coconuts and rubber. Occasionally these carts were hired to cover the expenses of the carters and the cost of fodder for the cart bulls.

Even large business establishments such as Elephant House and the Colombo Commercial Company used bullock carts. The former used bullock carts extensively for the transport of aerated waters whilst the latter transported building materials to their work sites in bullock carts.

In the late forties and early fifties Uncle Sam, my fathers younger brother had a licensed tea cider manufactory in Battaramulla. This became a popular alcoholic drink particularly in the estate areas upcountry. It was a common sight to see hundreds of bullock carts lined up to load tea cider crates to be transported to destinations in the Kandy, Ratnapura and Kalutara districts.

It was a highly profitable business, but Uncle Sam gave up this business as his wife, Auntie Florence, was not very happy with the production of an alcoholic beverage. She was the daughter of a leading Baptist minister and Principal of Carey College, Revd. W.M.P. Jayatunga. Subsequently Uncle Sam began the manufacture of mirrors which turned out to be a successful venture. His son, the late Herschel Gunawardena, became a well known astronomer.


Retail Trade

There was only one grocery store of note in the Battaramulla bazaar. This belonged to an Indian by the name of Abraham. Vegetables and fish were mainly sold by women seated on the roadside. There were so many such roadside vendors that the bazaar resembled a fair. Women carrying baskets of vegetables, dry fish etc. also visited homes regularly.

My father purchased provisions for our home monthly from a wholesale grocery in Welikada, W.D. Paulin Appuhamy & Sons. The bulk of the goods that came in a bullock cart from Welikada consisted of poonac and kollu, a seed akin to cowpea, as fodder for our cart bulls and the large herd of cattle that roamed our land. The cows in this herd yielded adequate milk for our home consumption. The breakfast of each of the four brothers, before leaving for school was a large mugfull of hot milk mixed with two eggs and sugar. Even the eggs were from the free run poultry in the garden.

The only shop that sold clothing and other personal goods like shoes, slippers etc. was Rajamoney’s also in the Battaramulla bazaar. However cloth as well as numerous other personal requirements ranging from shoes, sarongs, banians & socks to items such as mirrors, combs and soaps were brought by Chinese and Moor traders to the door step.

The ‘China man’ who pushed his bicycle along with a large bundle of cloth on the luggage carrier and the Moor man wearing a fez with several coloured umbrellas hung on the handlebars were regularly seen on our road. They were both good humoured men who happily tolerated the annoyance caused to them by mischievous children. I still remember how the China man pretended to be angry and threatening when children shouted, “Cheena booku, booku, chinare” and ran away.

The man carrying a bread basket was a welcome visitor to our home. The black barrel shaped basket with a pyramidal cover kept the bread and buns fresh and warm. Apart from bread and buns he brought popcorn sugar coated balls and fresh thala ‘gull’. During the week-ends, when we did not have to rush to school, we looked forward to the visit of the ammes’ who brought breakfast preparations of string hoppers, hoppers, pittu etc. Curries made of kebella leaves and gotukola with maldive fish were delicious indeed.

Electricians and plumbers were unheard of in the village. Of course there was no electricity or water service. Obiyas Bass and Jamis Bass were excellent carpenters. Appuhamy from the village of Korambe was a much sought after mason and Coranelis who was partially deaf was the painter that my father always employed for the colour washing of our walls. The village blacksmith was also a busy man. He was well known in the village as Mattha. Our ‘dhoby’ or laundryman who was addressed as ‘Hene Mama’ was an elderly man from Korambe who visited our home every week. I remember him contacting leprosy and ending up at the Leprosy Hospital, Hendala.

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 Can castor bean,rubber and tea seeds solve Sri Lanka’s diesel deficit?



by Chandre Dharmawardana

According to the “Dilbert Principle“, we rarely recognise our own idiocies, yet we can clearly identify the idiocies of others. Everyone from the Aragalaya man to the “Aemathi Thumaa” has faulted others for the current crisis. And yet, although ordinary citizens can act to resolve the crisis, a culture of confrontation, nurtured by revolutionary ideologies, coupled with unrealistic demands for various “rights” or the resuscitation of ancient myths, has become second nature to Sri Lankans. The government has ground to a halt, and action via citizen groups is essential to deal with the crisis in food and fuel.

In my article in The Island commenting on Mr. Dhammika Perera’s plan to race forex (The Island 13-June-2022), I briefly stated that “Castor is a fast-growing ‘weed’ that is not attacked by pests or livestock. It can be grown among coconut trees or on infertile lands. Its seeds yield a clear oil, directly usable in most diesel engines”. I received many queries on how diesel fuel may be replaced by cheap local oils.

Diesel fuel and electricity are the main energy sources, more important than petrol, that drive the modern world. Wealthy countries produce diesel and maintain reserve stocks as a part of their national security. However, small countries are abjectly dependent on powerful countries that wage war for fossil fuels and control them.

Rudolf Diesel was a 19th century scientist-inventor, influenced by Sadi Carnot’s work in France, that led to the second law of thermodynamics. Diesel was strongly social conscious and moved to help small entrepreneurs, trampled down by wealthy conglomerates who alone controlled the giant steam engines of industry, trains and ships of the late 19th century. In 1892-1895 Diesel patented a compression-ignition engine that ran entirely on vegetable oil, ideally suited for small-farm applications using farm-produced oil. Dashing Diesel’s socialist objectives, his engine became a tool of the Western industrial and military enterprise. By the 1920s, the inexpensive distillate from petroleum crude became the main fuel for Diesel engines, replacing vegetable oil. It is this distillate that is today called “diesel fuel”.

Today, people express surprise that diesel engines may use vegetable oils, since modern engines have been adapted for the distillate from petroleum crude. We describe below how vegetable oils can be used to overcome the fuel crisis, with little or no modification of the engines.

Although coconut oil, peanut oil, etc., can be used, they are very expensive, compared to non-edible waste cooking oil, waste animal fats, castor oil, rubber or tea seed oil, or oils from Madhuka (Sinhalese mee thel) and Neem. Biodiesel is a chemically modified form of vegetable oil, compatible with diesel engines. Our interest is in directly using vegetable oils WITHOUT converting them to standard biodiesel by chemical processing. However, in the following we discus both bio-diesel and use of untransformed vegetable oils.

The 2020 world market prices of natural gas, gasoline, diesel and bio-diesel were US$ 2.18, 2.18, 2.4, and 3.33 per gallon respectively. The current prices change rapidly, but the international price of bio-diesel is irrelevant when the fuel is made locally, without forex. Untransformed vegetable oils, produced in the farm, is an unbeatable option when used for running farm machinery and generating electricity.

Lankan scientists and engineers have argued, even before independence, that unlike many countries, Sri Lanka has unique attributes to achieve self-sufficiency in food and energy, due to its rainfall, reservoirs and biodiversity. In the 1970s some of us had undertaken a study of what was then called “alternative technologies”, and the concepts evolved were presented in a BBC movie. That, too, was a time of food and forex shortages under the Sirimavo government. Today, Sri Lanka is in more dire straits. Hence a return to basic “alternative technologies” achievable within the naturally available resources of the country, is needed, irrespective of the availability of more loans and moans from the IMF.

Direct use of vegetable oils as diesel fuel.

Oil from castor seed (up to 3 tonnes/ha of which nearly 50% is oil) is a good fit to meet Sri Lanka’s urgent needs. It grows easily and rapidly on infertile soil, with few pests or enemies. Similarly, rubber seed (up to 2 tonnes/ha) and tea seed (3-4 tonnes/ha) are mostly left discarded. The main difficulty in using castor or other vegetable oils in modern diesel engine is their high viscosity. Castor oil is some 75 times more viscous than diesel fuel at 400C. Tea-seed oil and rubber-seed oil are better, being only 9-12 times more viscous. We found in our experiments that castor oil, at suitably high temperatures, achieved a viscosity matching diesel.

However, the use of elevated temperatures (above the boiling point of water) raises serious safety and insurance issues, and the method is more suited for stationary diesel engines. Stationary engines can generate electricity and charge batteries that power electric cars and farm equipment. The viscosity of the oils from rubber and tea seed, depending on quality, may be lowered to the viscosity of diesel fuel at easily accessible temperatures. Thus, the hot coolant water (radiator fluid) of the diesel engine could be re-circulated to heat the rubber-seed oil for direct use in a diesel engine. However, more research is needed to implement the hot-fluid system for which only preliminary studies are available.

A simple approach for the direct use of vegetable oils in diesel engines is to dilute the vegetable oil with compatible solvents, like ethyl acetate, that can be produced locally using alcohol and acetic acid, both being products of fermentation of biomass. Considerable work has been done in Brazil and Spain in developing such approaches, using dissolved-vegetable oils.

Indirect use of vegetable oils by converting to biodiesel by trans-esterification.

The commercialized method for using vegetable oils is to convert them to bio-diesel using “esterification”. Here the vegetable oil is treated with a substance, like sodium hydroxide and methyl alcohol (wood alcohol) or ethyl alcohol (spirits of wine), when a layer of glycerol settles to the bottom, and a lighter liquid separates to the top. The top layer is the desired “bio-diesel”. This “trans-esterification” process is highly optimized in industrial production to get optimal yields and reduced costs. However, do-it-yourself conversions of waste cooking oil to bio-diesel is a win-win situation in providing the otherwise unavailable diesel fuel to forex-poor consumers.

A “recipe” for converting castor oil or waste cooking oil (e.g., from cooking oils, like sunflower oil) can be developed using known chemical data for the fatty acids in these oils. We illustrate the method for one litre of waste cooking, giving the rough amounts of ingredients needed, noting that trial and error adjustments are needed for different waste oils.

1. One litre of moisture-free waste cooking oil, filtered to remove frying residues.

2. 3.5-4.0 g sodium hydroxide (not more than 0.1 moles). This is a corrosive substance that should be kept dry.

3. 200 ml (about 4.5 moles) of dry methyl alcohol (wood alcohol) or ethyl alcohol (~ 4.5 moles).

4. Blend (at low speed) the methyl alcohol and the sodium hydroxide until completely dissolution, to be used immediately as it absorbs moisture from the air.

5. Add the filtered cooking oil and blend at low speed for about 1/2 hour. Reaction is facilitated if the blending vessel is kept warm.

6. Let stand until the liquid separates into two layers.

7. The top layer is the bio-diesel, and the bottom layer (glycerol) is drained out.

This is a simple procedure that a cooperative of restaurants or households in a neighbourhood can use to convert their waste cooking oil into diesel fuel. This oil can also be used to fuel an oil-burning cooker or stove instead of using LNG, soot-generating charcoal or wood for cooking.

The biodiesel can be used directly (or mixed with petroleum diesel) as fuel in a standard diesel engine. If the untreated vegetable oil were used (either by using the heated oil, in an engine equipped to heat the input oil held in an auxiliary fuel tank, or by blending with a solvent like ethyl acetate), then (a) the expense for sodium hydroxide and methyl alcohol can be avoided, (b) even the glycerol gets used as a fuel and so the full energy content of the vegetable oil is used in the diesel engine. Otherwise almost half the energy content is lost as waste glycerol. Furthermore, since glycerol is an oxygen-rich chemical, it promotes a cleaner burn in the engine; the exhaust gases contain less soot and less noxious oxides.

Undoubtedly, many owners of high-end diesel cars will hesitate to use artisanal bio-fuels in their cars unless rigorous quality controls are imposed. Private companies, estates, and small entrepreneurs should lead in producing and using bio-diesel or vegetable oils, in diesel engines, without waiting for government action.

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Fishing without gas-guzzling



Towards fuel-efficient fishing for food and nutritional security

by Prof. Oscar Amarasinghe

Chancellor / Ocean University of Sri Lanka
President / Sri Lanka Forum or Small-Scale Fisheries (SLFSSF)

The present economic crisis, and the associated energy crisis, has mightily affected the fisheries sector, reducing the number of boats at sea, dwindling market supply, soaring fish prices, all affecting food and nutritional security of the people in Sri Lanka. Being a highly fuel-dependent sector, there is a pressing need for the sector to find means of economising on fuel and continue to provide the most important animal protein to the people-the Fish. Yet, the tale of woe of fishers is that they have neither the physical nor economic access to fuel. Time has come to reexamine ways and means of improving the fuel use efficiency of fishing vessels to meet the escalating food crisis which has already hit the people with a monstrous force.

Fishing is among the most energy-intensive food production methods globally, and the world’s fishing fleet consumes about 1.2% of the total global fuel consumption, which is equal to 0.67 liters of fuel for each Kg of live fish and shellfish landed. In dealing with the issue of fuel efficiency in fisheries, it is imperative to understand how energy is expended in a fishing vessel and what means are available to minimize energy use without any fall in the efficiency of productive operations and incomes. It may also be necessary to understand how energy use can be influenced by the operator, boat-builder or mechanic, etc. Apart from improving the fuel use efficiency, various parties have been trying out the potential for using alternative sources of energy such as solar energy and wind energy. Yet, information on various issues related to the use of solar energy, use of sail on motorised fishing boats, the diverse benefits and costs associated with such innovations, etc., are quite scanty.

Giving due consideration to the significance and urgency of the above issues, the SLFSSF (Sri Lanka Forum for Small Scale Fisheries) organized an Interactive Platform on “Improving the energy use efficiency in fisheries” on the 17th of June. This platform brought together representatives of the Department of Fisheries, Boat yards, companies producing solar power, marine engineers (consultants), civil society organisations, fishing leaders, academics and researchers of the SLFSSF, etc., who deliberated on their knowledge and experience on various aspects of energy use in fishing crafts and proposed certain recommendations by common consent. The aim of this article is to bring to the attention of the fisheries authoritie, and other relevant parties, the results of these deliberations, which have very important implications for immediate, short term and medium-term measures that could be adopted to improve the fuel use efficiency in fishing vessels.

Immediate measures

It was disclosed that only about a third of the energy generated in a fishing vessel is expended to turn the propeller, while the rest is used to overcome resistance offered by a diversity of factors: 27 percent to overcome wave resistance; 18 percent to overcome skin friction; 17 percent to overcome resistance from the wake and propeller wash against the hull; and three percent to overcome air resistance. This information has already been published by the FAO more than 20 years ago, although they have evaded the attention of fisheries authorities in this country. In overcoming resistance offered by waves, hull fouling, wake and propeller wash, etc. ,a number of strategies were proposed to be adopted, which included, slowing down (reduced speeds), proper hull designs, regular engine and hull maintenance, capacity building of operators, etc.

Speed was one factor which was discussed in detail. Generally, fishers like high speeds and try to reach fishing grounds within the shortest time possible which will allow them to return with the catch early. Thus engines are often run to maximum speeds. It was revealed during deliberations that fuel requirement for increase in speed increases exponentially. To double the speed, one needs more than double the amount of fuel. Thus a reduction of the speed appears to be an effective means of increasing fuel use efficiency. It has been estimated that 10-20 reduction in the speed could result in 35-61 percent savings on fuel. The FAO has published optimum speed recommendations for fishing vessels by the size of the vessel, and they were accepted as applicable to fishing vessels used in the country at present. For example, for boats with a waterline length of 13 meters, the recommended speeds are 8.5 and 7.1, knots, respectively for long thin vessels and short fat vessels. The same for boats with a 15 m water line are 9.1 and 7.7 knots, respectively. Of course, reduced speeds will result in longer fishing trips, short periods of shore leave and/or lesser number of trips annually. The use of fish finding devices, information from NARA to locate fish resources and reach fishing grounds early, etc., are important strategies to surmount loss of fishing time and to reduce the amount of fuel required to travel one nautical mile. Fuel wastage could also be minimized by reducing the number of zero catch days which is quite common in fisheries, often emerging from resource and weather uncertainties. In this regard, too, information on fishing grounds and weather would be of great value. Such information show where and what opportunities exist to improve energy use efficiency.

Another short term measure would be to minimize energy expended to cope with hull fouling. There is accumulation of marine growth on the boat hull, resulting in reduced speed. It was revealed that about 18 – 20 percent of the energy is expended to counteract hull fouling. The most appropriate measure to reduce resistance offered by hull fouling is to clean the hull below the water line during servicing, at regular intervals. It was also noted that by using a good anti-foul paint, which could last three year or longer, would be beneficial, economically, even if the investment cost could be high.

A complain that is often heard is that there is too much of fishing pressure in Sri Lanka’s waters, especially in inshore waters: too many crafts and too many fishers. In such a context, the higher the fishing pressure, the higher would be the fuel consumption and degradation of resources, and the lesser would be the income per fisher. Therefore, there is an urgent need to stop building small crafts such as fiber glass boats with outboard engine. One way to do this is to put an end to the process of registration of such crafts.

Short-term measures

Recognising the fact that search for resource areas is a huge cost, needing the multiday boat crews to carry 12-14,000 liters of diesel on board, improvement of fish finding information, provided by the National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency, by strengthening the relevant process, would be of utmost importance in reducing search costs. Moreover, low-cost fish detection systems available in the world, could be tried out locally to find out their applicability and adoptability. If this is found to be successful, fuel savings from this measure would be colossal.

Quite often, due to the high cost of cleaning boat hulls below water line, boat owners ignore anti-fouling measures. Facilities for treating hull fouling, such as cranes and hoists, could be installed at harbours and they can be offered to fishers at concessionary rates.

Another short term measure could be the training and capacity building of boat crew on fuel efficient fishing and maintenance of engine and hull. The Department of Fisheries could organise awareness building workshops for boat owners and crews, with the participation of other experts, on the subject of energy use efficiency in boats. It was also stated that potential fuel savings gained from running at recommended speeds (reduced speeds) could be worked out and shown to the fishers.

Use of wind energy to charge batteries was also discussed. It was shown that this technology is already in use in some multiday boats, revealing the potential of adopting this technology with suitable modifications. Thus, installation of devices that use wind energy was recommended, which was also shown to be a good safety measure against the risk of engine failure which will make the GPS non-functional.

Medium and long term measures

An array of medium term measures were proposed, which included, solar panels for boats, sail assisted propulsion, engine and hull maintenance and two-day fishing trips for fiber glass boats with outboard motor.

The potential for using solar panels on fishing boats was discussed in detail. Experts, on the production and installation of solar panel systems, showed that the area required to provide a fishing boat with the requisite energy was too large, compared to the surface available for solar panel installation on boats. This was true for both small and large fishing boats in use. Moreover, the decks of multiday boats are tightly packed with extra fuel barrels, fishing gear, various sticks and poles and space is hardly available to accommodate installation of solar panels. However, there might exist some possibility of using a hybrid system (solar + fuel) in boats, but this needs to be researched.

Sail- assisted propulsion could also be a possibility. Of course, the use of sail as auxiliary propulsion, could result in very large fuel savings (up to 80 percent with small vessels on longer journeys) but the applicability of sail to motorized fishing is, however by no means universally popular. Sri Lanka too does not possess much experience in using sail-assisted propulsion in motor boats, although there is some scanty evidence of using such hybrid systems. Undoubtedly, sails fixed on motorised crafts, with inboard or outboard motor, are likely to tamper with fishing operations on the deck, while requiring additional ballast for balancing of the crafts. This warrants further research on this technology. Very specific circumstances are required for this to be a viable technology, for motorised fishing crafts in the country, in terms of weather conditions, the design of the fishing vessel as well as crew attitude and knowledge. Sailing puts additional requirements on the vessel, with respect to stability and deck layout, and sails are usually only a viable technology for use on vessels that have been specifically designed for sailing. Smaller fishing vessels may require the addition of further ballast or an external ballast keel (a weighted horizontal keel under the hull) to improve both stability and sailing performance across or towards the wind. What possibility exists in fixing sails on small FRP boats or offshore crafts is not known.

The deliberations further focused on the possibility of expanding the size and operating distance of the fleet of small fiberglass boats with outboard motors, which account for 40 percent of the fishing fleet or 24,000 crafts, operating up to a maximum distance of 24 nautical miles (up to the edge of the contiguous zone), engaged in one-day fishing trips. Following requests often made by small scale fishers and the need to improve the fuel use efficiency of fishing crafts, the possibility of modifying this craft by introducing a fish hold for icing of the catch and providing moderate accommodation facilities for crew, to allow for a two-day fishing trip was also discussed. The boat yards recognized the existence of this possibility but were of the view that further research on boat designs, and applicability and adoptability of this technology was required with the participation of technical and fisheries experts and fishing communities.

At a previous meeting on a similar subject, fuel inefficiencies arising from having about 5,000 multiday crafts with individual ownership was also noted. It was disclosed that such an organizational structure could change over to a cluster-based fleet, each cluster having its ‘mother ship’ to fish while the remaining boats could transfer the catch to the shore, minimising fuel costs to a great extent.

Expert panels and research

One of the momentous turns at deliberations was the emphasis laid on the need for an assemblage of technical experts, including engineers from boat yards, scientists (academics, researchers, consultants) fisher leaders, etc,. to guide technological change. This was especially important to design small boats with facilities to engage in two-day fishing trips, use of solar panels to assist using hybrid type of energy systems, sail assisted propulsion, use of wind power to charge batteries, etc. It was recognised that, endowed with a large array of educated and qualified experts, technicians, etc., what is required is for the Department of Fisheries to take the initiative in organizing such platforms and use them gainfully towards achieving the above goals.

Paradigm shift towards change

It is a pity that, endowed with a large conglomerate of intelligentsia and an array of experts in a large diversity of technical disciplines, the fisheries authorities still appear to work, confining themselves to their own little shells. Even with hesitation, it needs to be reminded that, by joining hand with others you will know what you know and what you don’t know, which is considered the true knowledge. It is said that, knowledge is power and knowledge shared is power squared. Therefore, it is strongly advised that the Department of Fisheries forms a Technical Expert Team, consisting of experts on marine engineering, boat design (architecture) and construction, solar power producing and system installation, sail assisted propulsion, and also of fishing leaders and boat owners, all of whom could guide them in boat designs and construction, fuel usage, minimizing energy requirements, search for alternative energy sources, etc.

As the theoretical physicist, David Bohm stated, it is the ability to perceive and think differently that will take us a long way rather than the knowledge gained.

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Mental Healing the Yoga way



SNS:More than two years in Covid 19 pandemic the world has had cascading impact not only on the way we live but also on the mental health. These mental health and emotional issues have been among the foremost public health concerns throughout the world because of the pandemic.

World Health Organisation has been cautioning the world about the long term and short-term impact of covid 19 on mental health due to fear of infection or fear of death.Many recent government data have come out about the clinical impact of covid 19 on mental health. While the doctors have been working on the ways to minimise this impact experts are pushing for adopting Yoga’ practices in daily lives to ward off the mental health issues with the prolonged pandemic situation.

Anxiety, fear, depressive symptoms, sense of loneliness, sleep disturbances, anger etc. have been most prevalent situations during the pandemic times. According to The National Centre for Biotechnology Information Journal during COVID 19 relapse rates of all pre-existing mental health problems were seen to have increased. Quarantine has been another stressful situation which increases psychiatric morbidity through many different pathways.

How Yoga helps dealing Mental issues

Recent evidence, according to the NCBIJ, has shown promising results of yoga in various psychiatric disorders. Since Yoga is an inception of mind, body and soul. It has been significantly proven that Yoga can be significantly helpful in mental health disorders. Research shows Yoga has a positive impact on mental health such as improvement in coping and self-compassion and reduction of stress, anxiety, depression, and obsessions.

Research published in the Journal suggested yoga is being increasingly used in psychiatric disorders.According to experts, Yoga directly affects one’s mental health. Some breathing exercises ease stress, anxiety, emotions of loneliness, and sadness, while meditation and yoga therapy improve attention and confidence.

It can help us gain control of our emotions and become more aware of them. Additionally, yoga therapy and physical activity release dopamine and endorphins, two positive brain chemicals. These molecules, in turn, assist us in balancing our moods and combating common mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, mood disorders, and others.

Yoga and regular physical activity are said to improve body awareness, reduce stress, ease muscle tension, strain, and inflammation, improve focus and attention, and calm the nervous system. Yoga also lessens the symptoms of OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder), depression, and anxiety, among many other mental health disorders.Yoga is made up of several different elements, each of which is used in a different way, such as the chanting of “om,” deep breathing, yoga positions, and exercises. For instance, while chanting “om,” certain brain regions known as limbic system grey matter that are connected to an increase in inner turmoil become quiet. Accordingly, the capacity of the brain to cause emotional turbulence tends to decline.

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