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Matters COPE overlooked



Norochcholai coal-fired power plant probe:

By Dr Janaka Ratnasiri

The Chairman of the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) has said at a meeting of COPE, held on Tuesday, (24th) in Parliament, that the entire country is affected by the Norochcholai coal power plant (CPP). This was reported in several print media, including The Island of 26.11.2020. He has further said that the Central Environmental Authority (CEA) must also be involved in assessing its impacts as issues created by the power plant, for example air pollution, has an impact on the entire country, without leaving it in the hands of the Environmental Authority of the Provincial Council of the North Western Province (NWP) alone.



The three CPPs at Norochcholai were burning a little over 2 Mt of coal, annually, during 2016 – 2019, as reported in the CEB Annual Statistical Digests. Assuming that the ash content, in coal, is 16%, which is the maximum permissible limit, the three CPPs generate about 300,000 t of ash, annually. Out of this, about 20% is collected at the bottom as bottom ash and the rest is directed into the stacks. After getting filtered in the stack, the balance is released into the atmosphere as fly ash. Therefore, over the life time of a CPP, they jointly will release over 8 Mt of fly ash.

The Chairman has said that about 6.58 Mt of fly-ash is already stored in the premises. He also said that LKR 26 million was spent annually to spray water on the fly-ash to prevent their dispersion. In response to many complaints received from the public of loss of livelihood among farmers and fishermen, due to deposition of ash on agriculture land and sea, the CEB is planning to construct a wind barrier 1,200 m long and 15 m high to prevent wind blowing away the fly ash into neighbouring areas, at a cost of Rs. 724 million, which was approved by the Cabinet on 19.01.2018. There have been complaints from the CEB staff, at the plant site itself, of increased respiratory ailments among them due to high levels of air pollution within the premises. A public-interest organization has, in fact, filed a law suit against the CEB, demanding measures to be taken to reduce pollution by the CPP.

Coal ash is said to contain many toxic heavy metals, such as mercury, arsenic, chromium, cobalt, zinc as well as radio-active material, according to overseas literature. With nearly a decade of existence, the CEB has not made any effort to get the coal and ash analyzed to find out the actual amounts of these toxic metals present in them and how they depend on the source of coal. Adequate analytical facilities are available in the country for this purpose. What is lacking is a drive.



In view of the heavy mercury pollution caused by an industry which had released mercury compounds into the Bay of Minamata in Japan many years ago, and the subsequent adverse impacts it caused on the health of people who consumed fish caught from the Bay, the Minamata Convention on Mercury was adopted in October 2013 and entered into force on the 16th August 2017, with a view to phase out Mercury emissions world-wide. It is interesting to note that it had taken over 10 years for the UN to take this preventive measure since first detection of neurological diseases among the affected people. Sri Lanka is a Party to this Convention and is therefore obliged to comply with it. The Parties agreed to collect data on the prevalence of Mercury in their countries and its impacts, to begin with.

In response, a local study was undertaken within the fishing community in Puttalam. The study revealed the presence of high levels of Mercury in women’s hair, attributed to regular consumption of fish containing high concentrations of Mercury (Sri Lanka J. Aquat. Sci. 23(2) (2018): 179-186) released by the CPP. Among the harmful effects that can be passed from the mother to the foetus include neurological impairment, IQ loss, and damage to the kidneys and cardiovascular system. At high levels of mercury exposure this can lead to brain damage, mental retardation, blindness, seizures and the inability to speak.

Another global study undertaken for the same purpose, found that in Puttalam, the Mercury content in the hair of women living near the lagoon was significantly elevated, with a mean of 2.74ppm ± 2.8ppm. Of great concern is that 50% of the women had a level that exceeded 2 ppm Hg and 13% exceeded 4 ppm Hg. “Of all women who participated in the sampling, 77% had a body burden of mercury exceeding the 1ppm reference level”. ( Regrettably, the COPE members appeared to be unaware of this problem, even though it was given publicity in local media recently.



The COPE has, however, shown concern about the accumulation of high volume of ash at the CPP. CEB officials have responded by saying that efforts are being made to use coal ash in the manufacture of bricks and the matter had ended there. What the CEB officials did not tell the COPE was that bricks are already being manufactured and used in construction work. For example, the headquarters building of the Sri Lanka Association for the Advancement of Science (SLAAS) was constructed recently using these bricks. See

The question is how safe is coal fly ash for the manufacture of bricks used in the construction of dwellings. The reason is because fly ash contains high amounts of radioactive nuclides which can get distributed country-wide if bricks are made out of coal ash. In a study undertaken by the Nuclear Science Department of the Colombo University, coal and ash sampled from the Norochcholai plant were found to contain radionuclides of Uranium, Thorium and Potassium, according to a paper presented at the Annual Session of SLAAS in 2013. The radio-activity of these substances is given in the Table, according to which coal from South Africa was found to contain Uranium and Thorium levels significantly above the global averages.

It is desirable if the CEB, therefore, undertakes two studies before they start manufacturing these bricks on a large scale. One is to determine the concentrations of radio-active nuclides present in coal and coal ash, with samples originating from different countries. The second is to carry out a survey on the ambient radio activity in buildings constructed with bricks manufactured from fly ash. The CEB could outsource these studies to institutions generally undertaking such assignments. It is important that the findings of these studies are made public.



The COPE Chairman has said at the COPE meeting that air pollution from the Norochcholai CPP has an impact on the entire country. In a CPP, various gaseous emissions, such as Sulphur Dioxide (SO2), Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2), Particulate Matter (PM) and Carbon Dioxide (CO2) are generated during combustion of coal. These are first sent through filters to capture the excessive amounts of SO2 and PM and the balance released into air. The captured particulate matter is stored as fly ash. This filtering equipment fitted in the stacks include a Flue Gas Desulphurization (FGD) unit to reduce SO2 emissions and Electrostatic Precipitators (ESP) or Fabric Filters to reduce PM emissions. However, they can reduce only a certain fraction of emissions and their efficiency declines with time, particularly under coastal environments. It is also reported that these pieces of equipment sometimes breakdown resulting in the entire pollutants generated getting released into air.

The emissions released into the atmosphere get dispersed within the airshed covering the North Western and North Central Provinces, the extent and quantity depending on the wind pattern which varies hourly, daily and seasonally. During the SE monsoon period, prevailing winds blow interior and the possibility

of emissions reaching the Western and Eastern Provinces cannot be ruled out. These emissions, after getting transported over a certain distance depending on the wind regime, get deposited back on the ground adding to their concentration at ground level generally referred to as the Ambient Air Quality (AAQ).



The CEA has published Regulations in the Gazette announcing stack emission standards (SES) for power plants and also on AAQ standards. In respect of stack emissions, the regulations say that “any person who fails to comply with the above regulations, shall be liable to an offence under the National Environmental Act, No. 47 of 1980”.

The Regulations on SES were published in the Gazette Notification dated 05.06.2019 specifying maximum permissible levels of SO2, NO2, PM and smoke. These values are given in the SES in units of mg/Nm3 (Normal cubic metres). Their conversion in to other useful forms such as parts per million (ppm) or mg/GJ or mg/kWh needs certain assumptions to be made on the fuel quality and plant efficiency. The CEB claims that they monitor the stack emissions on all pollutants regularly using remotely operated sensors but this information is not made public.

The Regulations on AAQ Standards were published in the Gazette Notification, dated 15.08.2008, specifying maximum permissible concentrations of several pollutants including Carbon Monoxide (CO), Ozone (O3), SO2, NO2, PM2.5 and PM10 present in ambient air. The last two refer to particulates with diameter 2.5 micro metres and 10 micro metres, respectively. The measurements are to be averaged over periods of 1 hour, 8 hours and 24 hours and carried out according to methods specified in the Regulations.

According to the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) of the original CPP project, at least two permanent AAQ monitoring stations need to be installed in Puttalam area, and data displayed in public places. The writer believes this has not been done. The CEB has assigned a contract to the Industrial Technology Institute (ITI) in 2018 to monitor AAQ around Puttalam using ITI’s new mobile facility. ITI had done the AAQ measurements covering all seasons (Personal communication), but the data is not available in public domain, despite the condition laid down in the EIA. The COPE Chairman should have inquired as to whether the CPP complies with these two sets of standards, SES and AAQ and if not, the reasons.



The COPE Chairman also has directed the CEA to get involved in overseeing the operation of the Norochcholai CPP without leaving it in the hands of the Environment Authority of NWPC. This Authority has wide powers according to its statute, according to which all prescribed projects that are being undertaken in the NWP by any Government or private institution or an individual will be required to obtain approval under this Statute for such prescribed projects. It is noteworthy that out of all Provincial Councils, only the NW Provincial Council has established its own Environmental Authority.

In the event the Minister assigns a different project approving agency, such agency will have to grant approval for a project only with the concurrence of the Provincial Authority. Hence, it is a question whether NWP Environment Authority (EA) will listen to CEA, because it is not bound to do it according to its statute. The CEB Chairman has said at the COPE meeting that the EIA study for the new CPP would be done jointly by CEA and EA of NWP. Actually, there is no need to spend millions of Rupees on EIA studies when it is obvious that a CPP causes heavy pollution while clean alternative options are available.

What generally happens in an EIA is that various measures are pledged to minimize impacts on which the EIA is approved, but there is no guarantee the pledges are kept once the project is implemented. Sometimes, projects are given approval subject to certain conditions, but these conditions are not published, which tantamount to giving an open approval. What is important is to select projects that do not intrinsically generate pollution.

One would expect such a powerful body like EA of NCP to maintain a website giving information on projects being considered by the Authority, projects that have been granted approval. Also, in the case of Norochcholai CPP, the environment data being collected by the CPP should also need to be posted in the website for the information of the public. But the Writer found no such site when searched in the Google. The data are not even posted in the CEB website which posts all other data such as generation and sales data promptly in its website.



The Cabinet, on 22.01.2020, granted approval for the construction of two 300 MW CPPs as an extension to the existing CPP at Norochcholai, together with construction of two 300 MW combined cycle gas turbine (CCGT) power plants operating with natural gas, one jointly by CEB and India/Japan, and the other with funding from the Asian Development Bank (ADB). The CEB Chairman, however, confirmed only the construction of two CPPs at the COPE meeting and not the construction of two 300 MW gas power plants already approved by the Cabinet. He said that according to the long-term plan of the Norochcholai CPP, a 300 MW (coal) plant was to be added to the complex by 2023 and a further 300 MW (coal) plant by 2026. According to the CEB Draft Plan for 2020-39, two more 300 MW CPPs are to be built within this decade.

Though the Cabinet had granted approval for building CPPs in January, later the Cabinet granted approval again for including the first CPP as a project to be carried out urgently as a post-COVID activity. This means that the CPP could be selected and purchased without going through the normal procurement procedure, despite the fact that the cost of a 300 MW CPP could exceed LKR 80 billion. Naturally, everyone is eyeing to take control of this purchase because of the many benefits amounting to millions if not billions of Rupees that would get transacted. Building a CPP has no relation to COVID for it to be included as a post-COVID activity. It is only an unethical way of circumventing the tender procedure. It is surprising why the learned COPE members did not see through this unethical practice and question the CEB Chairman.

Gas power plants (GPP) are also included in the CEB’s latest long-term plan for 2020-39, meaning they are acceptable as low-cost options to be added to the grid. In addition to the two-gas fired 300 MW GPPs approved by the Cabinet at the January meeting, the Cabinet has earlier granted approval for building a 300 MW GPP on BOOT basis at Kerawalapitiya by Lakdhanavi for which proposals were called in 2016 November and the award finalized now.

According to media reports, however, the Attorney General’s Department is trying to hold it back citing some shortcomings in the tender documents issued 4 years ago, but the Minister of Power wants to pursue it despite AG’s objections. Had this tender evaluated within a year as indicated in the tender documents without CEB dragging it for 4 years, the country would have had the benefit of a 300 MW of clean energy supply by now. The COPE should have inquired about this long delay from the CEB.



A CPP is more complex than a CCGT plant and requires several days of waiting for a plant to be energized after an unannounced shut down, whereas a CCGT Plant could be energized within a matter of a few hours. The CEB still depends on Chinese technicians to maintain and operate the Norochcholai CPP even after a decade of its operation. A CPP can function only as a base-load plant whereas a CCGT Plant can function both as a base-load and a peak-load plant. This is another matter that COPE members overlooked.

A CCGT Plant is more compatible for operation with renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power plants with fluctuating outputs than a CPP which cannot respond to such fluctuating supplies. Unlike a CPP, a GPP does not generate even a gram of ash, any SO2 and no particulates. Even the NO2 generated and warm water released from a GPP are much less that that from a CPP.

It is surprising therefore that none of the leaned members of COPE questioned the CEB Chairman, why CEB wants to pursue building more coal power plants when they cause so much pollution as described earlier and pose problems in operation and maintenance in preference to a natural gas power plant which does not cause any such pollution and easier to operate. Currently, there are three CCGT Plants being operated and maintained by Sri Lankans for decades. Obviously, the COPE members appeared to have not done their homework before coming to the meeting.

The other important aspect of a GPP is that CO2 emitted by a GPP is only about half that of CO2 emitted by a similar capacity CPP. Hence, shifting from coal power to gas power is an acceptable means of mitigating carbon emissions as quired under the Paris Agreement. In a paper the Writer submitted to the 2019 National Energy Symposium, he showed that by shifting from CEB’s coal power-based Base Case Plan for 2015-34 to a no-coal case given in the 2018-37 Plan, the amount of CO2 emitted during 2021 – 2030 period could be reduced by 25%, which is more than the reductions targeted from all sectors.

Further, shifting from coal power to gas power altogether will help in achieving the President’s target of meeting 70% of energy consumed in generating electricity from renewable sources by 2030, as announced at a meeting he had on 14.09.2020 with the Power Minister, Renewable Energy State Minister and officials of the two Ministries and institutions coming under them. This is because the fossil fuel share will get reduced significantly with GPPs compared to that with CPPs.



Though the COPE had a meeting specially for looking into the affairs of the Norochcholai CPP, members appeared to have probed into matters seen on the surface instead of looking deep into its affairs. In particular, COPE has overlooked the following aspects of the Norochcholai CPP.


1. Whether the stack emissions from the plant conform to the National Emission Standards for Power Plants, violation of which is a punishable offence, and why the data are not made public.

2. Whether the AAQ measurements made by the CPP conform to the National AAQ Standards, and why the data collected are not made public.

3. Whether the CEB is aware of loss of livelihood for many in Norochcholai caused by deposition of ash on agriculture land and sea, and whether any compensation was paid for them.

4. Whether the CEB is aware of high levels of Mercury found in hair of women living around Puttalam Lagoon and why no action has been taken in this regard.

5. Whether the CEB has got the coal and ash from the CPP analyzed for their toxic heavy metals and radio-nuclides present in them, and if not why.

6. Whether the CEB is aware of the presence of radio-nuclides in coal ash and hence their unsuitability to manufacture bricks for use in house construction.

7. Whether the CEB is aware of the fact that it is difficult to achieve the President’s targets for RE share in power generation (70%) by 2030 by building more coal power plants.

8. Whether the CEB is aware of the fact that by shifting from coal to gas for power generation, the country can easily meet its obligations towards the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

9. What justification is there for planning to build more coal power plants causing heavy pollution when non-polluting power plants burning alternative clean fuels are available.

10. What justification is there for CEB to take four years to evaluate and make an award of a tender for building a 300 MW GPP operating with gas on BOOT basis.

11. What justification is there for the CEB to include building a coal power plant as a project to be executed urgently as a post-COVID activity which is nothing but an unethical measure to circumvent tendering.

The writer expects the COPE will probe into above matters at its next meeting with the CEB.

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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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