Connect with us

Features

Power Blackout Committee Report:Recommendations run counter to President’s policy

Published

on

By Dr. Janaka Ratnasiri

The Minister of Power, four days after assuming duties, had to face an island-wide power blackout which commenced around 12.30 pm on the 17th August and lasted up to 7-8 hours. The following day, he appointed a committee, comprising Ministry officials and power experts, to investigate the matter and submit a report within a week.

 

COMMITTEE APPOINTED
BY THE MINISTER

The Committee comprised two administrative officers, including an Additional Secretary to the Ministry of Power, serving as the Chairman, a Retired Professor of Mechanical Engineering, an Engineer who is a Chairman of a Corporation, two Senior Lecturers in Electrical Engineering, one senior official from the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) and one senior official from the Ministry of Power responsible for Renewable Energy Development. The Director General of the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL) was also nominated but did not serve as there was a separate investigation being undertaken by the PUCSL. With two members from the Ministry, including one in the Chair, and another from CEB, the Committee cannot be considered as independent.

The Committee had met on the 18th and submitted an interim Report, to the Minister, on the 24th, which was also tabled at the Cabinet meeting held on the 26th. The Report was also made available at a press briefing held by the Ministry and the contents herein are taken from this Report. According to the Report, the Committee had visited the Kerawalapitiya Grid Substation (GSS) where the initial fault occurred claimed to be due to a human error, Lakvijaya Power Station (LVPS) at Norochcholai, Protection Branch of the CEB and the System Control Center of the CEB at Pelawatta, and had interviewed the staff on duty at these stations with a view to elicit information on the following.

The key reasons for the nationwide power interruption on the 17th August 2020 at 12:30 pm onwards.

Whether the CEB has taken precautionary actions and measures to prevent recurrence of interruptions that had been encountered in the recent past for which recommendations have been extended by similar committees that could have influenced the present incident.

Recommendations for remedial measures that need to be taken by the CEB to prevent recurrence of the same and similar incident.

Whether the CEB has taken the best professional practicing measures in handling the incident and the conditions that led to it employing proper planning, operational and administrative elements and had any constraint encountered CEB’s intended professional actions.

Whether the CEB had encountered similar incidents in the past and how the situation had been then handled.

Whether the CEB could have handled the situation judiciously to minimize the implication and how this could be avoided in the future.

 

PRELIMINARY FINDINGS OF THE
REPORT

The Committee, in its Interim Report ,has given a set of preliminary findings, among which are the following:

Routine maintenance work on the 220 kV isolators of the Bus Coupler Bay had been carried out on the day of the incident by the Electrical Superintendent-In-Charge at Kerawalapitiya GSS, who apparently has been attending routine maintenance work at the Kerawalapitiya GSS for the past five years. The power in the Bus Bar 01 had been turned OFF for the maintenance, while the power of the Bus Bar 02 was ON. The Earth Switch 01 at Bus Bar 01 side had been OFF while the Earth Switch 02 at Bus Bar 02 side had been ON as shown in Fig. 1.2(a) at the time of incident.

Under normal operations the Earth Switch and the relevant isolator are interlocked, so that the isolator cannot be turned ON while the Earth Switch is turned ON. However, during maintenance, this interlock had been bypassed, so that isolator can be turned ON even with the Earth Switch is turned ON. At the end of the maintenance work of the 220 kV Bus Coupler Bay, while the interlock is bypassed, the Isolator on the Bus Bar 02 side had been turned ON as shown in Fig. 1.2(b), creating a 3 Phase to Ground fault.

The key reason for the nationwide power interruption on the 17th August 2020 is due to the 3 Phase to Ground busbar fault due to incorrect operation of the Bus Bar 2 Isolator of the Bus Coupler Bay by the Electrical Superintendent -in-Charge at the Kerawalapitiya Grid Substation busbar at 12:30 Hrs.

Kerawalapitiya Grid substation tripping was due to not following the correct maintenance procedure by the relevant officials including the Electrical Superintendent. The Committee also observed that there was no written maintenance protocol for this maintenance job in-line with the current best practiced maintenance protocols.

The Committee is of the view that due to the Kerawalapitiya Grid substation tripping, the system frequency has increased beyond the current setting of the rate of frequency tripping relay of the Lak Vijaya Power Station (LVPS). As a result, the generator-transformer circuits breakers of all three units of the LVPS which made LVPS unavailable to the grid, subsequently the system failed in cascade.

CEB’s recent failure to avoid a country-wide blackout and the longer duration taken to restore power to Colombo City in particular, indicates significant lapses in implementation of critical measures outlined in the previous Expert Committee Reports.

 

AUTHOR’S COMMENTS ON THIS
PROCEDURE

The cardinal mistake done by the Electrical Superintendent (ES) during the maintenance work was that he had disabled the interlocking system which prevents switching on the 220 kV line to the GSS while it is earthed, which is a protective mechanism incorporated into the system to prevent blunders by maintenance staff as happened. It is certainly not an “Ath Wereddak” as claimed by a senior official of the CEB. As a result, the ES was able to connect the high voltage line to the substation already earthed which created the havoc.

The question which arises is what was the necessity to disable the interlocking system to carry out the routine maintenance? The Report does not seem to have queried the ES on this. If the ES has done such an irresponsible act, deliberately, in any other organization, he would have been interdicted forthwith or at least sent on compulsory leave. But, the CEB Management thought otherwise, possibly for fear of trade union reaction.

The tripping of the 220 kV line at Kerawalapitiya apparently has caused a sudden increase in the system frequency at LVPS, resulting in the three generating units there to trip. A sudden increase in the frequency means that the speed of the generator rotors has increased suddenly. Isn’t there a mechanical device called a governor in the generator which helps in maintaining the rotor speed at a constant value? Is it a characteristic of a coal power plant to allow its rotor speed to vary suddenly in response to a disruption in the line? Was it that this governor did not function properly when this incident took place?

The CEB management should be faulted for not making available to the maintenance personnel proper maintenance manuals. It was alleged that even for the Norochcholai coal plant, the manufacturer never made available to CEB the operation manuals in English. That may be the reason for having Chinese technicians to attend to O&M functions even today. It seems that during the last 6-7 years since commissioning the plant, CEB personnel have not been able to learn the O&M functions from the

Chinese technicians. Though, the CEB staff at Norochcholai are unable to handle the O&M functions of the coal power plant by themselves, Sri Lankan personnel are managing three combined cycle power plants, two at Kelanitissa and one at Kerawalapitiya. This is one more reason why Sri Lanka should not build any more coal power plants.

 

RECOMMENDATIONS OF
THE REPORT

Among the recommendations made by the Committee are the following among others:

The committee strongly recommends a standard compliant, systematic, foolproof, safe procedures and maintenance protocols to be instated in the CEB during operation and maintenance (O&M). The implementation of these procedures will have to be continuously monitored and supervised by adequately qualified, professionally trained, knowledgeable, experienced and skilled personnel. The committee would like to propose a performance evaluating annual appraisal system which will help to improve the above attributes of the CEB staff.

The committee understands that there is no Operations & Maintenance related risk management mechanism in place. Therefore, it is recommended to establish a risk management mechanism in order to determine the proper mix of preventive measures, mitigation levels, shift or retention of risks and consequent level of robustness of Operations & Maintenance protocols that would indicate the positive impact on the overall system

The committee strongly recommends to implement the 2018-2037 CEB Long Term Generation Expansion Plan, as given in the plan, which clearly specifies the correct blend of technologies for the future requirements of the Sri Lankan power system to improve the system stability and reliability.

The committee recommends to review the existing protection strategy for frequency instability.

 

2018-2037 LONG-TERM GENERATION
EXPANSION PLAN

 

The first two recommendations are in order. One would expect that an organization like the CEB has already following proper standard procedures for O&M. But if they are lacking, priority needs to be given for the training of staff adequately. It has been alleged in the media that all foreign training programmes are given to engineering staff while the middle level technical staff who actually carry out the O&M work are given only local training. Perhaps, there is a case here and if it is true, it should be rectified.

Since the Committee has made a strong recommendation that the CEB’s 2018-2037 Long-Term Generation Plan be implemented, it is necessary to examine what this plan is. The CEB prepares biennially a long-term generation expansion (LTGE) plan outlining the least cost options of generation plants that need to be added to the system annually for the next 20 years to meet the forecasted demand. The latest plan is in respect of the period 2020 – 2039 but it is still in the draft form yet to be approved by the PUCSL as required by Sri Lanka Electricity Act No. 31 of 2013.

The CEB 2018-2037 LTGE Plan released in June 2018 provided for adding 2,700 MW of coal power capacity between 2023 and 2035 and 1,500 MW of natural gas capacity between 2019 and 2036, along with several gas turbines and diesel power plants as well as a large number of small renewable energy plants comprising mini-hydro, solar, wind and biomass systems, under Base Case scenario. However, the PUCSL did not approve this plan but recommended an alternative plan incorporating natural gas power plants in place of coal power plants included in the CEB Plan.

The CEB refused to accept this recommendation, particularly with objections raised by its Engineers’ Union (EU), and the dispute between the PUCSL and the CEB kept dragging for over a year, and the matter was finally referred to the President who gave a directive to the PUCSL to approve the CEB Plan, fearing disruption to the power supply in the country after the CEB EU threatened to resort to industrial action if their demand for coal power plants is not acceded to. This is something not expected from a body of professionals and unheard in other countries.

Also, the LTGE Plan is highly flawed. It is supposed to determine which power technology will be the cheapest in 20 years hence based on current prices. With the cost of generation depending on plant capital cost and fuel prices both of which could vary widely within a span of 20 years, it is futile to make forecasts now as to which technology is the cheapest in 20 years hence and to adopt it. Although the CEB 2018-2037 Plan has recommended building 2,700 MW of coal power plants on grounds that coal power is the cheapest option, a report by World Bank Group study on Sri Lanka Energy Infrastructure Sector Assessment Programme (InfraSAP) released in February 2019, says in p. 18 that “coal ceases to be the least cost source of power generation, as cost of power from LNG and NCRE could potentially be lower than US cents 9 / kWh” which is the estimated coal power price.

It is therefore obvious that the 2018-2037 Plan is not a plan approved after considering engineering and economic aspects properly but approved on political grounds. Hence, the Committee’s strong recommendation to implement such a flawed plan is an attempt to take the power sector development in the country along a wrong path. It is not surprising that the Committee has made such a biased recommendation when two senior officials from the Ministry and one from the CEB are in the Committee. In any case, building more coal power plants is not a solution to a possible blackout in the future. This is the second attempt when the Ministry tried to get building of coal power plants inserted into a policy document on the sly. The first attempt was when the Cabinet took a decision on post-Covid activities to be undertaken urgently in view of the “emergency” situation in the country, building a 300 MW coal power plant at Norochcholai was inserted as one activity in the Cabinet decision.

It is also mentioned that the implementation of the CEB 2018-2037 Plan with more coal power plants is recommended to improve the system stability and reliability in the future. The Committee has not justified that the system stability and reliability would be better with coal power plants than with natural gas power plants for the Committee to make such a statement. However, it was shown in this instant that it was the instability of rotor speed of the coal power plants resulting in raising the frequency suddenly that caused the three coal power plants to trip. Hence having more coal power plants will not be of any help to maintain the stability of the system. On the contrary, it will make it worse.

Further, it is noted that with a coal power plant once shut down, it is necessary to wait several days until it cools down before it can be re-started. On the other hand, with a natural gas operated combined cycle power plant, there is no such delay and the plant can be energized within a few hours.

 

RECOMMENDATION VIOLATING THE
PRESIDENT’S POLICY

 

In the President’s policy document, “Vistas of prosperity and splendour”, he says “We also anticipate that hydro and renewable energy together would account for 80% of the overall energy mix by 2030”. The State Minister for Renewable Energy said during his assumption of duties that the Ministry’s target is to use renewable energy resources to generate at least 80% of the total generation of electricity by 2030. The Power Minister has also made a statement to that effect in the Parliament. However, it is not possible to achieve this target if the CEB 2028-2037 Plan is implemented.

The LTGE Plan has worked out the average generation from each plant type annually and the values obtained for 2030 are given in Table 1, extracted from the data given in Annexes 7.4 of 2018-2037 LTGE Plan. It is to be noted that it is not possible to forecast exact values for generation from each category in the future because it depends on many extraneous factors, such as rainfall, cloud cover, wind regime, fuel prices and demand which are not known accurately in advance. Annex 7.4 gives average values after considering several scenarios.

It is seen that according to the CEB’s LTGE Plan for 2018-37, generation from renewable sources could reach only 36% by 2030, which is far below the 80% target given in President’s VPS Policy Document, assuming what is intended by “total energy” appearing in this document is total electricity generation.

Therefore, the Committee’s strong recommendation that the CEB’s 2018-2037 Plan be implemented is a gross violation of the President’s Policy. It is surprising that a learned Committee including several officials in the Ministry, are not aware of the President’s policy. The Power Minster should call for explanations from the Committee Members why they overlooked the President’s Policy when they made their recommendation.

Features

Traffic in Colombo and suburbs: Is it unsolvable?

Published

on

By Praying Mantis

People curse this phenomenon called traffic congestion in Colombo and the suburbs. However, it has to be unequivocally conceded that the populace has to get about on their daily chores and obligations. The result is traffic, with or without congestion, and we have to come to terms with the fact that it will be there, whether we like it or not. Many deem traffic congestion to be a spectacle that is an eyesore. But it can be solved and the current apparently impenetrable problem can be mitigated to a large extent. What is required is a little bit of intelligence, some meticulous planning, and strict implementation of the rule of law, irrespective of all other mundane considerations.

One important aspect of trying to sort out the problem is judicious timing and usage of traffic lights. These can be set to a computer-assisted or time-controlled operational mode. It needs careful study of the movement of traffic across these junctions where traffic lights are already installed. Steps also need to be taken to install these lights in areas where they are really required but are not installed as yet. All traffic lights should have digital clocks so that the drivers behind the wheels can get ready to move decisively once the colours change to green. All vehicles should move promptly when the traffic lights change from amber to green. At present there is a considerable delay in their starting off from the blocks. In the Western countries, you will be charged for unduly delaying your take off from the stationary position. At the same time, speed limits should be very strictly enforced. Road hogs, who block traffic on the outside fast lanes, should also be prosecuted.

We are quite sure that our excellent engineers, especially those in the Moratuwa University, can set up a system or some devices that would allow the green to come on at consecutive colour lights, suitably timed to enable the traffic to move steadily and reasonably fast right across all traffic lights on a main highway. We are quite sure that this would not be such a problem for our excellent engineers. We do not need to get down foreign experts for this.

A directive from the political hierarchy should go out immediately to the police that they SHOULD NOT switch off traffic lights under any circumstance. This will solve a lot of problems. ALL TRAFFIC LIGHT INTERSECTIONS should have yellow criss-crossed ‘no waiting’ areas. Those who wait on these lines, blocking the smooth flow of traffic, should be instantly fined or charged. The traffic policemen could intervene appropriately, even with the traffic lights functioning, to prevent grid blocks and unnecessary lawless blockages. The police are so trigger happy to switch on constantly blinking amber lights at the drop of a hat and take over directing traffic. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The policemen love to take ‘absolute power’ over the motorists into their own hands by switching off the traffic lights, and make a complete mess of it all by themselves. The computerised traffic lights would do a much better job than the brains of stupid traffic policemen with IQs about 10 below plant life. They seem to have one-track minds and most of the time they think that in the mornings, only the traffic going towards the centre of Colombo should be allowed and, in the evening, only the traffic going away from Colombo need to be given preference. The police patrol (four- and two-wheelers) should be used to apprehend road traffic rule violators. At present they are parked on our roads, sometimes blocking traffic, all by themselves, with all the officers engaged in chats, in person, or through mobile phones. Our traffic police should take examples from the Highway Patrol Vehicles of the Western countries, particularly the California Highway Patrol fleet. Catch the offenders and punish them, irrespective of their political connections. Our traffic policemen are “PAVEMENT POLICEMEN.” They should catch and deal with all the traffic rule violators, notwithstanding any of their powerful connections. These include motor bicycles that weave in and out of traffic, those on two-wheelers who go on the pavements, those that overtake on the left, three-wheelers and buses which are a law unto themselves, lane jumpers of all types who could not care less for the other road users, the speedsters that weave in and out of lines of traffic, those who wilfully cross centre double and single lines just to get a micro-second advantage in time, just to mention only a few.

All two-wheeler motor bicycles, three-wheeler tuk-tuks, and buses of all types, should be strictly reined in. The maniacs that ride and drive these contraptions need to be disciplined remorselessly. They cause more traffic jams and accidents than all other vehicles put together. When confronted for their mistakes by other road users they even turn aggressive or make lewd gestures, especially to female drivers of other vehicles. The currently prevalent lane allocation operative during the rush hours in Colombo is doing a little bit to ease the problem. Yet for all that, at all other times it becomes an even deadlier free-for-all, totally ignoring lane-discipline. It is also laughable that a certain controlling big-wig of the Private Bus Mafia has threatened to strike if the three-wheelers and two-wheelers are not taken out of the inside lane. The government should call his bluff and see how they will all come back with their tails between the two rear legs when their income drops down to zero. It has been said that the private buses are generally allowed the freedom of the ass by the police because most of such buses are owned by either policemen or politicians. We have of course not checked the veracity of this contention.

All container carriers, large lorries and other bulky vehicles, except passenger transport buses, should be allowed to get onto the roads only from 9.00 pm to 6.00 am. They should be banned from all our roads from 6.00 in the morning to 9.00 at night. They cause more traffic jams than all other vehicles on our roads.

The DIGs, SSPs, SPs, ASPs, CIs and IPs of traffic police should come out of their air-conditioned cocoons, called offices, and get on to the roads to supervise the way traffic is controlled by the lesser ranked policemen. At present these worthies generally come out only when the so-called top politicians move around in Colombo. Then they crawl back into their own holes, so to speak. Some years ago, a Senior DIG of Traffic with the initials of RML, used to get on to the roads to see how things were. He did a fantastic job and was responsible for creating some of the one-way streets in Colombo. Definitely an officer to be emulated.

NO PREFERENCE WHATSOEVER SHOULD BE GIVEN AT ANY COST TO VVIPs, VIPs AND OTHER ASSORTED POLITICAL ELEMENTS ON OUR ROADS. The violation of all traffic rules by large platoons of support vehicles just to enable one political nincompoop to travel a distance of a couple of kilometres at break-neck speed is a real crime and a crying shame. This is a particular menace down Parliament Road. After all, they are supposed to be servants of the people. If they need to get somewhere in time, they should start off early enough. In other countries, even Kings, Queens, Presidents, Prime Ministers and Ministers, do not enjoy preferential treatment on their roads. Their vehicles obey their own rules and laws.

The flashing red and blue lights on the windscreens of vehicles should be completely banned. The donkeys behind the steering wheels of vehicles with these rapidly flashing lights seem to think that they have carte blanche to do as they wish. They will have those blinking lights on and come at you even on the wrong side of the road. The ONLY vehicles allowed to use these flashing red and blue lights should be ambulances and police patrol vehicles. Incidentally, ALL police officers should be instructed to intervene and provide right of way and a clean fast run to all ambulances with lights flashing and sirens blaring. The really valid reason for this is the fact that it may mean life or death for a patient. As is done in the United Kingdom, that should be the only overriding concession made to vehicles on our roads.

You might say that all this is wishful thinking!!! The powers that be have turned a Nelsonian blind eye to this problem so far. They have certainly acted as if they could not care less. The politicians would not want to give up their exalted positions on our roads. Why should they worry? Their steamrolling juggernauts would get them there in time. Even if they get a bit late, the stupid organisers will wait for them to start the proceedings. The unimportant masses can spend all their time on our roads for all they care.

We hope these suggestions catch the attention of the powers that be in government, the police, people in positions of forward planning and traffic control. More than anything, we hope that the Executive President of our country would read this and act on at least some of these suggestions. He is perhaps the only one who can control this menace on our roads. If he so decides, like many other things he has done so far, this problem could be solved virtually overnight. It can only be done by reading the riot act to the police which would then percolate down to all the miscreants on our roads.

Continue Reading

Features

How to transform conflict into co-existence

Published

on

Humans and elephants killing one another

Eng. Mahinda Panapitiya

M Sc, (Department of Irrigation Engineering) Utah State University, Utah, USA – 1982 , B Sc (Civil Engineering), University of Peradeniya, Sri lanka – 1974

Introduction

I thought of writing the following note after reading a recent news item about the interest of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to solve the human-elephant conflict. By the way I am an Irrigation engineer who has worked for Mahaweli Projects since the 1970s while developing the dry zone forests areas for irrigated agriculture. The main purpose of this note is to put forth a proposal to solve this conflict, from a different perspective based on my field experience.

Background

Sri Lanka has been truly blessed with the presence of the largest mammal on earth; it has contributed tremendously to our culture, economy, environment, leisure industry and natural beauty. Elephants are quite closer to humans than to other mammals. According to the article (referred to in the end note) for most of the mammals, brain mass is already developed at more than 90% when they are born. But elephants and humans are different, because brain mass development at birth is 35% for elephants and 28% for humansi. Therefore, unlike other animals they can’t survive during their infant age without the support of their parents. For an example if a human baby grew up in a jungle among the animals from child stage, he or she could not learn the normal human behaviour. This holds true for elephants.

Elephants are also intelligent like humans and have the ability to make rational choices and judgements. They don’t attack people without a good reason. When people increase their aggression towards them, they also increase their aggression. They also remember well, and therefore they can be increasingly aggressive and violent with the passage of time. As a result the ‘human-elephant conflict’ would transform to a never ending battle until elephants are driven to extinction in this country.

 

Human-Elephant conflict based on

my living experience

As an engineer who closely watched behavioural patterns of elephants while working on the Mahaweli Project since the 1970s, (before the forests were cleared for “development”), I still remember how they were freely roaming in harmony with the farming communities dependent on village irrigation tanks. For an example, elephants used to drink from a domestic tank built behind our Mahaweli quarters to meet our daily water needs before we chased them away to lay the modern canal network. Villagers also never considered elephants as threat to their lives unlike leopards because there were no elephant attacks. Grass growing in the village tank beds in valleys and secondary growths in chenas in the highland areas after their harvesting periods were their favourite food items. Even for birds, an area was allocated under village tanks known as kurulu panguwa. In addition, the villagers had also built forest tanks (kulu wewa) exclusively for wildlife and also to replenish ground water aquifer with rains. However, according to modern commercial-oriented western-based farming methods, we have destroyed thousands of those storage tanks and pitted ourselves against nature. We have been fighting a losing battle. An article published in the Economic Review magazine in 2010 explained in detail how this happened under irrigation projects developed during the last 2 centuryii.

 

Confrontation Vs Negotiation

Since the introduction of the so-called modern development strategies increase food production, we have been chasing out elephants and putting up electrified fences to ward them off. However, according to my first-hand experience, we could transform this conflict and co-exist with elephants if we handle the eco system for food production in an environment friendly manner. According to the recent observations on brain development behaviour of elephants, if we adopt what is dubbed the negotiation mode, I am sure, elephants will treat humans not as enemies to attack but as another species they have to coexist with. Instead of electrified fencing, live fence using plants such as lemon, palmyra and bamboo could be introduced.

Also, in some countries, bee keepingiv is also used to prevent elephants from roaming in residential areas.

 

New Proposal

Against this background, it is possible to test out the ancient development model at least at pilot scale in a selected area which has not yet been “developed” under the Mahaweli Master Plan. In the proposed approach, there are no artificial fences separating eco systems according to conventional EIAs recommended by various international funding sources. This is a very low cost method which could be implemented with local private sector involved in Organic Agriculture and Eco Tourism. The best pilot area I can recommend to test that negotiation approach is the Right Bank area of Maduru Oya. I also recommend that the Project be managed by a multidisciplinary team comprising wildlife and agriculture experts, irrigation engineers and archaeologists.

 

Confrontation verses Negotiation

Conclusion

According to my past experience no innovative ideas could be implemented on ground without political involvement. The main purpose of this note is to interest the political authority in this project. I hope my effort is a success. It should be implemented immediately because the Mahaweli Authority has already planned to follow the conventional confrontation approach for developing the Right Bank area of Maduru Oya.

 

————

http://www.sundaytimes.lk/200906/business-times/human-elephant-clash-over-land-415060.html

http://dl.nsf.ac.lk/bitstream/handle/1/14114/ER-36-%281-2%29_16.pdf?sequence=2&isAllowed=y

Human Elephant Conflict (HEC) in Sri Lanka

Beehive fences can help mitigate human-elephant conflict

Continue Reading

Features

Lane discipline then and now

Published

on

By Eng. Anton Nanayakkara

Chartered Civil Engineer

At a time a valiant top heavy effort ( police plus army ++) is being made to enforce lane discipline , it is relevant to recall how a similar attempt was made by a small group of professionals, with foreign driving experience, to introduce the concept of lane discipline as practised in the countries like Singapore, the UK, the US, etc.. It was during 2000 and 2003 that two exhibitions were organised at the OPA for the first time, under the theme, ‘Introduction to the Basics of Lane Discipline’.

It took the form of a seminar- cum- exhibition with a 16’x 8″ physical model to explain all details of correct lane markings, their meanings, etc., to help a person drive any type of vehicle in a disciplined manner without any external assistance or excessive police presence.

At the first exhibition (2000), the Chief Guest was the Minister of Health and the Guest of Honour the Resident Representative WHO, at that time one Dr Peter Hybsier. Dr Hybsier said it was ‘exactly the way to set about solving the existing traffic problem’. In the second case, too, the same model was used with improvements, such as operating traffic lights using led bulbs. The Chief Guests were the Minister of Health and the Minister of Transport. Yet another special feature of the second exhibition was the inclusion of a pilot project on Parliament Road from the parliament roundabout to the Devi Balika roundabout with minimum police presence and no traffic fines so as to secure motorists’ fullest cooperation; only advice and warnings were given.

The most important feature of the pilot project was the prior training of all categories of road users. Specially prepared leaflets were to be distributed to all drivers two weeks ahead of the implementation of the pilot project. For this purpose five different categories of drivers were identified and the leaflets contained material applicable to each type of vehicle he/she will be driving at the time. (See below)

At the second exhibition immediate orders were given by the Minister of Transport to the only RDA engineer present at that time to take action to implement the pilot project without delay. So as usual everything ended there! The following pictures give some idea of the model.

 

 

While all the efforts being made under the present conditions are to be appreciated, it must be said that the use of public roads for training instead of a scaled down model dilutes all the good efforts, not to mention the need for a massive manpower input (police and army). It is difficult to believe that all drivers from one end of the road to the other end of the road and drivers in different lanes get the same message. It is also not fair to delegate any lane to one particular type of vehicle. All vehicle owners pay ‘road taxes’ that are used to build and maintain roads. So, the roads belong to all road users.

In Singapore, many more vehicles move much faster and much safer than in Sri Lanka. Where driver training is imparted is called the Singapore Safe Driving Centre, which is run by the private sector in Singapore and Honda Company of Japan.

The method proposed in the years 2000 and 2003 here applied to all roads, at all times, irrespective of weather conditions. Fines were the last resort. It is a pity that the present effort is being made 13 years after year 2003, and during that period thousands of lives have been lost on our roads not to mention many thousands of new vehicles getting smashed up, causing millions of damage to public and private property.

Continue Reading

Trending