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Eminent scientist says SL consumers unlikely to see benefits of going green sans independent regulation

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In the renewables sector

by Ifham Nizam

Sri Lanka’s energy sector needs major revision based on a plan to ensure there are no black or grey areas, and there is stability in the grid to take renewables at scale, says a top Sri Lankan scientist based in the United Kingdom.

“I believe it is entirely possible for Sri Lanka to move towards 50% solar within a decade with the help of policymakers in terms of a credible master plan integrated to the country’s energy needs”, said Professor Ravi Silva, Director, Advanced Technology Institute at the University of Surrey, who has been awarded a CBE for his services to Science, Education and Research.

CBE (Commander of the British Empire) is the highest ranking Order of the British Empire award, followed by OBE and MBE. It ranks just below a knighthood or dame-hood.

The son of Roland Silva, a former Commissioner of Archaeology in Sri Lanka, the eminent scientist stressed the need for consistency in government policy and alignment of all stakeholders to achieve a common objective or goal such as a realistic 70% renewables target, which includes hydro.

For private sector involvement, there needs to be a clear and transparent framework. This will encourage FDI in the renewables sector, particularly with potential changes to the current electricity and regulation acts. Without independent regulation in the sector, it is difficult to envisage the consumers seeing the benefits of going green, the professor said in an email interview with The Sunday Island.

“Maybe an independent PPP for a one-stop-shop for investment in the power sector may open the doors for more private sector involvement with FDI”, he suggested.

Prof. Silva further said that Sri Lanka, as an island, is blessed with a wonderful geology with central hills surrounded by plains extending to the sea. There is also significant rainfall and a well developed hydroelectricity system in the country, with already established dams to store water that can be converted to electricity.

As a country situated close to the equator, Sri Lanka enjoys maximum solar irradiation that potentially provide all energy needs with a combination of solar, wind and pumped hydroelectricity as storage to run base load, he noted.

At prevailing market costs, solar is provided to major facilities at less than two US cents per kWhr by companies such as ‘8 Minutes’. There is no reason to stick to fossil fuels that harm the environment and costs more to the consumer in the longer term, he continued.

Prof. Silva said he delivered a talk to the National Trust in July 2019 on: “Clean, Green and Free: Solar Electricity for 2035”; where it was shown that with the help of minimal disturbance to human settlements, a distributed network of 10 solar farms of around 200MW each, (taking up in total of 100 acres) can power the nation with the help of the existing hydroelectricity network (this was based on the peak energy demand of 2016 of 2453 MW).

The idea is that pumped hydro can be used to ensure the base load is covered, and there is enough solar/renewable capacity to fit the peak power demand during the day via the solar installations, he remarked.

“My talk to the National Heritage Trust in Colombo in July 2019 was based on preserving the “heritage” of free light from the sun to the people of Sri Lanka so they can enjoy their rights much like the vistas of stupas and archaeological sites given to us by our forefathers. I strongly believe we are defined by the unique culture to which we have been born and blessed in Mother Lanka”, he noted.

“As a product of D. S. Senanayake College, I passionately believe in “country before self”, much like many of my brothers at DSS and all citizens”, he emphasized.

On Covid-19, Prof. Silva said, “Sri Lanka can define its destiny and come out of the pandemic stronger and more self-sufficient if we all believe in our nation, and develop our available resources with Sri Lankan ingenuity that exists in all sectors. We must believe and trust in evidence-based decision-making, and place faith in our industry to bring high-value products through science and technology to the markets.

“We must be proud to wear the “Made in Sri Lanka” label on both consumables and technology, and help build a better and more sustainable world for the generations to come”, he added.

Professor Silva was honored with a CBE for his outstanding services to Science, Education and Research over the past three decades with contributions that cut across the world.

CBE is awarded to individuals for playing a prominent role at national level, or a leading role at regional level and also for distinguished and innovative contribution to any area.



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Toxic coconut oil scare trigger public wave of fear over aflatoxins in foodstuffs

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People now wary of buying certain products

By Suresh Perera

In the backdrop of a top official of Sri Lanka’s key standards body coming under heavy flak over her controversial claim that several other consumer commodities also contain toxic substances, public apprehension has shifted to many other products in the market following a wave of fear triggered over cancer-causing free radicals in foodstuffs, industry players said.

The Trade Ministry has already initiated a disciplinary inquiry into the assertion by Dr. Siddhika Senaratne, the Director-General of the Sri Lanka Standards Institution (SLSI), that aflatoxins are also found in certain other food items sold to the public.

Aflatoxins are a family of toxins produced by certain fungi found on agricultural crops.

As the SLSI scientist’s remarks during a television talk show ignited an uproar following the seizure of imported stocks of contaminated coconut oil, industry officials said that customers are now wary of purchasing certain food products as the social media, rightly or wrongly, painted a frightening picture, they said.

A committee will be appointed to examine Dr. Senaratne’s statement to ascertain the validity or otherwise of her claim of the presence of aflatoxins in some food products in the marketplace, authoritative sources said.

Though the Director-General didn’t identify any of the “toxic products” she claimed were being sold to consumers, her statement unleashed a cycle of fear and uncertainty as consumers, influenced largely by social media reports and hearsay, viewed many brands with suspicion, the sources noted.

However, there has been no credible scientific evidence so far to prove that products identified on social media contain carcinogenic properties, they said.

Dr. Senaratne’s contention was that identifying products with toxic substances could lead to the collapse of some local industries. The Consumer Affairs Authority (CAA) has been informed to take up the issue with the relevant manufacturers for remedial action, she said.

It is no secret that many mills use copra with fungus to extract coconut oil. The perishable copra is dried outdoors but there is no proper cleaning of the fungi, which are common under tropical and sub-tropical conditions, before the oil is extracted, industry officials said.

Has it been established whether the shiny wax coating used on apples as an oxygen barrier to preserve freshness, particularly in consignments imported from China, belong to the safe food grade material?, they asked.

In the case of apples imported to Sri Lanka from the USA, the whole process of orchard to point of landing take many weeks. It is true that fruits are stored in cold rooms to preserve quality and slow the aging process by regulating oxygen and carbon dioxide levels. However, the question arises whether there are accredited processes to monitor the agro chemical and other toxic levels in imported apples and other varieties of fruits before permitting the stocks to be released to the local market, they noted.

Hoppers are a staple of Sri Lankan cuisine, but it’s common knowledge that many wayside eateries introduce plaster of paris (a quick-setting gypsum plaster consisting of a fine white powder known as calcium sulfate hemihydrate) to the batter to keep them fresh and crispy, the officials asserted.

“This is because customers insist on freshly baked hoppers and as a result, those that have gone flat cannot be sold”, they said.

Cleanliness of eateries is being monitored to some extent, but are there any quality checks for toxicity on the food served to customers?, they queried.

After the contaminated coconut oil scandal surfaced, people are reluctant to even buy traditional oil-based sweetmeats from the marketplace, they further said.

Unlike earlier years, there is a slump in sweetmeat sales, a supermarket official said. “Customers are wary about toxic coconut oil in the market”.

 

 

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Ceyleon Solutions launch Sparetime App to turn spare time into income

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Ceyleon Solutions, a leading mobile app solution provider, launched Sparetime (www.sparetime.lk), a special mobile app to make easy money using one’s spare time. This app helps to search for people providing domestic, official or personal services or earn an extra income by providing a wide range of services.

Services such as masonry, plumbing, computer related services, wholesale, distribution, medical & healthcare, teaching, legal, beauticians, cleaning, helping, babysitting and car wash can be either searched or provided using this app as it creates an online platform for such service providers and those who seek their services.

There are two apps compatible to android and apple phones, ‘Sparetime Provider’ for those who provide services and ‘Sparetime User’ for those who seek such services.

“This is an ideal option for those who find it difficult to make ends meet with their salaries. Using this app, they can make use of their spare time effectively to earn extra money. This creates a comprehensive service hub. For an example, a vegetable farmer can find both a whole seller and a transport service provider to transport his goods with just a click. Even students can find part time work for their financial needs”, said Chaminda De Silva, creator and owner of the Sparetime app.

“This app works as a platform for social workers to get together and mobilize people for tasks that they wish to perform. This is a very user friendly app. However, operating instructions can be obtained by calling our hotline 0706355450 or 0706355452. An instructor will come to help you if necessary”, he noted.

Regardless of being a service provider or a user, this app will be ideal. It will also pave the way to gradually reduce the unemployment rate in Sri Lanka and will subsequently contribute to the gross domestic product accelerating economic growth of Sri Lanka.

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“Zahran Hashim and his group were not Muslims; they hijacked the name of Islam to commit these crimes’

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Rishad Bathiudeen tells Parliament

The Muslims never called for separatism. The Muslims have been on the side of the nation for over 1,000 years in Sri Lanka as documented in the book of Dr. Lorna Devaraja titled, ‘The Muslims of Sri Lanka – One Thousand Years of Ethnic Harmony’. Even when the Muslims were threatened with eviction or death from the North, they risked their lives and the lives of their loved ones to be on the side of the State, Rishad Bathiudeen, MP, said.

Speaking in English during the fifth day of the debate on the report of the Commission of Inquiry on the Easter Attacks in Parliament on April 7, he said: “Zahran Hashim and his group were not Muslims. They hijacked the name of Islam to commit these crimes. The report in Page 94 confirms that Zahran wanted to build tensions between the Sinhalese and Muslim Communities of Sri Lanka”.

The MP’s speech contained many points and references to matters in the report and events that transpired thereafter.

Some of the points raised by the MP were:

* The State is antagonizing the Muslim community in the manner that Zahran had wanted them to act. The State should not play to the tunes of Zahran. The State should not act in a way that would jeopardize national security. The State has already commenced the process of State sponsored oppression by prohibiting the import of Muslim books and are making plans to ban Niqabs/Burkas and Madrasas.

* The PCoI has exonerated Rishad Bathiudeen from all charges in connection with the Easter attacks. Only two charges remain to be investigated. First one is in relation to the phone call placed by Bathiudeen to then Army Commander General Mahesh Senanayake, concerning Ihsan Moinudeen. Secondly, the sale of scrap metal by the Industrial Development Board to Colossus (Pvt) Ltd. Rishad Bathiudeen visited the Bribery Commission on 8th of April, 2021 to request them to investigate the allegation in the report.

 

* The weight placed on the phone call made by Rishad Bathiudeen to General Mahesh Senanayake, was given far higher significance in the report in comparison to the actions of Dayasiri Jayasekara who released six persons from the Hettipola Police Station who were involved in torching and destroying Muslim owned shops and Muslim places of worship. The Commission Report had recommended investigation into the phone call but had not charged Dayasiri on any matter.

 

* The Government cannot have a law banning the Niqab and Burka without also banning medical masks, helmets, sunglasses, etc.

* Restriction of Islamic books being brought into the country is a violation of the Constitution.

* Bathiudeen quoted Page 331 of the Report:‘Reciprocal radicalization is the cycle of radicalization which promotes each other’s radicalized ideologies’. If the Government can keep politicians like Wimal Weerawansa in check, the de-radicalization program will be half completed. He also said that inciting racism will only provoke and radicalize more Muslims.

 * Killing of Fouzul Ameer Mohamed Salley in Kottramulla before his children in the aftermath of the Easter Attacks, was Genocide under Article 2 of the Genocide Convention, and all persons who were inciting racism could be charged for incitement to genocide. Subsequent charges of oppression too can have a detrimental effect on Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka must be careful as Sri Lanka is now a party to the Rome Statute and can be held accountable by the International Criminal Court.

 

* It was Azath Salley who indicated during a press conference concerning the criminal activities of Zahran Hashim in 2017, but he is alleged to have connections to the Easter Attacks. This is not fair. The Government is politically victimizing Muslims who are speaking up against the oppressive tactics of the Government.

* The One Country One Law Policy does not mean that Muslim Personal Laws alone should be targeted. Most people believe that Customary Laws should be removed. However, that logic would require the Government to abolish Provincial legislation too, as Provincial legislation is also territorially implemented and not countrywide. Several laws will have to be struck down. However, the right way of interpreting the One Country One Law policy would be to maintain all laws that are consistent with the Constitution of Sri Lanka.

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