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The Chimerican Divorce:

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Is Sri Lanka truly ‘Non-Aligned’

by Kusum Wijetilleke
(kusumw@gmail.com)
and
Rienzie Wijetilleke
(rienzietwij@gmail.com)

Sino-Sri Lankan relations date back long before the much-acclaimed rubber rice pact of 1952. The Chinese Monk Faxian documented his visit to the island around the fourth century. King Alakeshvara, ruler of the Kingdom of Kotte, battled a Ming Dynasty fleet in the 1400s. His defeat and capture led to the ascension of King Parakramabahu VI, a known proponent for trade with the ancient Chinese empire. Chinese history has recorded that King Parakramabahu VI was nominated by the Yongle Emperor based on the advice of the Sinhalese present at the Ming Court and installed as King with the backing of Admiral Zheng He and his fleet.

The modern relationship gathered pace after Sri Lanka’s early recognition of the Peoples Republic of China, in 1957. Sri Lanka is also reliant on the United States, the world’s pre-eminent super power and recent comments made by the visiting Secretary of State, Mr. Mike Pompeo, reveal the very public divorce and necessitates a delicate balancing act on the part of Sri Lanka.

China’s economic success has been largely facilitated by the United States and other liberal democracies through multinational corporations operating within a free trade environment. “Chimerica”, a term introduced by Economist Moritz Schularick and Historian Niall Ferguson in 2006, is a term that describes the symbiotic economic relationship between the United States and China. This period of historic economic expansion, amid the booms and busts, is also broadly considered to be the height of the neo-liberal economic project. Chimerica allowed many long established American multinationals to continue their growth stories in the Far East, leading to a mass exodus of American manufacturing to China. In return, the world’s pre-eminent consumerist mecca swallowed up cheaper goods imported from the East. This seemed like a win-win situation; China would lift literally hundreds of millions out of poverty while the US satiated its hunger for cheap products and kept its hyper-consumerist economy trudging along. Yet by the time the 2008 financial crisis struck, China seemed the clear winner. American multinationals were creating extreme levels of wealth but with very little ‘trickle down’ to ordinary US citizens. Wages of the American middle class stagnated, and entire regions of the US, once proud cities built by the manufacturing industry, began collapsing.

 

Sri Lanka on the String of Pearls

In the meantime, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) with its centralised structure of economic planning, had begun its next phase of development. The Belt and Road Initiative, had already taken root in Sri Lanka, well before its official launch by Chairman Xi Jinping in 2013. Starting in the 1970s, China had provided grants for infrastructure development to Sri Lanka, the most famous being the BMICH. However since the early 2000s, Chinese investments in Sri Lanka took the form of interest bearing loans and FDI. The Norocholai Power Station in 2006, the Hambantota Port Project in 2007, the Matala Airport and the Colombo Port City investment in 2010 are just some examples.

Sri Lanka was clearly of strategic importance to China and while the global economy ticked along there was little concern, the CCP had become a reliable development partner. The Chimerican project on the other hand, was running into trouble. Schularick and Ferguson note that even in the lead up to 2008, China had been building up its currency reserves and using these to buy more and more US securities. Essentially, China was saving while the US was over-spending. American over-spending was only possible due to cheap debt and cheap debt was always likely to lead to those troublesome economic “bubbles”.

In 2008, demand in the US plummeted and China had to fortify its own economy through an economic stimulus plan around the same time that the US treasury launched the American Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). The Chinese Central Bank, PBOC, lifted restrictions on commercial bank lending and the State Council invested somewhere in the region of 4 trillion Yuan, equivalent to USD 600 Bn, in infrastructure and welfare services between 2008 and 2010. A decade or so later and China has had to revisit a stimulus package by way of tax cuts and improving liquidity. China’s double digit GDP growth was always unlikely to last, the inevitable slow-down was managed by the CCP until the unforeseeable external headwinds of the Trump trade war and the pandemic. It is worth noting that the CCP did not publish an economic growth target for 2019, an unprecedented policy that continued through 2020. Despite a rebound in industrial output in the second half of 2020, official unemployment figures remain at around 6% while economists argue that the actual unemployment rate might be double this. Thus China, for all its incredible growth and financial might, is not infallible and must manage its risks and rewards like any other nation. Sri Lanka should take note, an endless Chinese appetite for Sri Lankan infrastructure lending is by no means guaranteed.

 

Cold War 2.0: The End of an Affair

The inevitable eastward shift of manufacturing, accelerated by neo-liberal trade policies and the automation and technological revolution, altered the lives of millions of working Americans. Many in these towns and cities took note when candidate Trump oversimplified the complex case of US international trade with a view of trade tariffs not shared by many economists. President Trump was always likely to accelerate the eventual divorce or evolution of the Chimerican relationship. The US Treasury department, having taken the historic step of labeling China a currency manipulator in August 2019, changed course a mere 5 months later as part of its Phase One trade deal. The US, UK and a few other European countries have taken steps to ban technology from Chinese telco giant Huawei in their 5G roll-out. These are all facets of the emerging Cold War 2.0. During the original Cold War, two major powers engaged in proxy wars, an arms race and the space race, in a battle for technological superiority. Cold War 2.0 might seem to be all about trade imbalances and intellectual property theft, yet the technological race is critical. China and the US are vying for superiority in various tech fields including semiconductors, quantum computing, 5G, artificial intelligence and data science.

The symbiotic economic relationship is at risk. What remains to be seen is whether Chimerica complete their divorce or arrive at an amicable compromise; an evolution of the relationship. The latter seems less contentious and will moderate short-term shocks to the global economy. However, the current signs seem to suggest the former, and Sri Lanka may find itself in the midst of a rather messy divorce.

Twin Alignment and Anti-Americanism

Secretary Pompeo’s visit and comments, certainly caused a stir. Sri Lanka has always had a strong center-left/ leftist political tradition and anti-Americanism comes with the territory.

The JVP began the festivities on the front page of a daily by stating the obvious: “Sri Lanka doesn’t need Foreign Interventions” (suffice to say, we actually do, we are inviting it in some quarters). The LSSP cautioned the government not to “fall into a trap”, Prof. Tissa Vitharana warning that signing agreements like the SOFA will lead to thousands of US forces utilizing the whole of Sri Lanka as a base. He stated, rather confusingly, that “even staying neutral is tacit approval” and urged the Sri Lankan Government to “take a non-aligned stance and support China”. Note the contradictions.

As much as Sri Lanka would prefer to be “non-aligned”, it remains very much aligned with the East Asian super power through borrowings, agreements and investments whilst performing an intricate balancing act with its number one export destination: the United States. The truth is that Sri Lanka is far from non-aligned, in fact one could argue that Sri Lanka has a ‘twin alignment’ with the two major economic and military powers in the world.

The United States is our top single-nation export destination by a considerable distance, and has also provided some $2.5 Bn in aid over the past several decades through various programmes and institutions. It also funds and thus holds considerable sway in many multilateral institutions such as the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and the IMF. Beyond its economic cooperation, the US also assisted Sri Lanka in some key aspects during the war on terrorism. Naval floating armories were tracked and destroyed using US intelligence, US naval blockades reduced the illegal arms trade in the Indian Ocean and supported the belated proscription of the LTTE in the post 9/11 world.

On the flipside, the US has also sponsored multiple resolutions against Sri Lanka in the United Nations Human Rights Council and even banned the current Army Commander. US backed INGOs and NGOs have long been perceived as assisting or being sympathetic towards the LTTE. Hand-wringing and fist shaking seem to have become the traditional Sri Lankan welcome for American officials visiting the country.

However, Sri Lankans should understand that regardless of the emotional reactions to western imperialism, the country’s economy cannot survive without its trading relationship with the United States.

A Belt around the Neck?

While the US has longstanding military and defense relationships with Sri Lanka, the escalation of hostilities with the LTTE led to restrictions in US military aid to Sri Lanka in 2007. China filled the gap providing direct military aid and equipment. China has since provided a range of modern armaments to the Sri Lankan military whilst also voting against the many US sponsored resolutions at the UNHRC. In return, Sri Lanka has steadfastly supported China at many diplomatic junctures including being one of 50 signatories defending its treatment of Uyghurs and Muslim Minorities in Xinjiang and most recently supporting China’s controversial National Security Law in Hong Kong.

Critics of Sri Lanka’s Sino-relations cite Chinese debt diplomacy and exhibit 1 is the Hambantota Port Debt/ Equity swap. Sri Lanka would appear to be a prime candidate for a potential Chinese debt trap, however the numbers on the surface do not support this claim. Analysts have shown that total debt to China is slightly above 10% of total debt and 60% of Chinese debt can be categorized as ‘concessionary’, though what constitutes ‘concessionary’ might be debated. Various commentators have stated that describing the deal as a debt/ equity swap is misleading. While Sri Lanka received just over USD 1 Bn from China for a 70% stake on a 99 year lease, the agreement did not involve the cancellation of loans from China. The Administration of the time used a small portion of this inflow to settle some short term debt unrelated to the construction of the Port and the remainder was used to bolster foreign exchange reserves.

It is inaccurate to claim that a Chinese debt trap is engulfing Sri Lanka, however non-concessionary debt as a percentage of total debt has been steadily increasing. The more you borrow, the higher your risk profile, the less concessionary future debt becomes. This is simply a natural law of debt and Chinese or not, Sri Lanka is falling into a debt trap. Balance of Payment deficits, budget deficits, investments in major projects without adequate planning, leading to under-performing assets and political manipulations of government revenue generation leads to a weakening of the nation’s credit worthiness. Government officials and ministers as well as members of the business community turn their noses up at conditional borrowings from institutions such as the IMF and view these conditions as suspicious. It is worth considering that these conditions may be better for the country’s long term financial stability.

As is often the case, this requires a trade off against short-term spending which complicates the political sphere. The facts are straight forward, successive Sri Lankan administrations have taken the easy route by simply borrowing to cover budget deficits and to shore up foreign exchange reserves without taking the painful steps required to bring some measure of financial discipline to government spending.

Another aspect of Chinese debt diplomacy that merits discussion are the projects themselves. In 2019, Pakistan cancelled a USD 2 Bn Chinese coal plant project as well as reducing their exposure to loans from Chinese entities. Myanmar scaled down a deep water port project from USD 7.3 Bn to USD 1.3 Bn having decided that debt levels were too high. A proposed Sino-Omani Industrial City that was proposed to cost USD 10 Bn has stalled completely. The Khorgos Gateway in Kazakhstan, 49% owned by China and meant to be the central ‘jewel’ of the modern silk road is basically an under-performing dry port surrounded by an empty 500 hectare field that was slated to become a special economic zone. Some of these projects should sound oddly familiar to anyone with knowledge of the Hambantota port project.

Lending for infrastructure projects require detailed viability studies to ensure the project is not only necessary but able to generate adequate revenue to operate whilst repaying loans. It seems that for many of these projects funded by Chinese banks, viability and revenue generation were not primary concerns for the lending institutions, another suspicious aspect of the BRI.

As a concept, the BRI raises many questions around the motives of the Chinese Communist Party. Sri Lanka had seemingly limited alternatives but to engage China as post war Sri Lanka needed significant investment and dependable partners. The CCP was really the only player and it just so happened that China already had very specific designs on Sri Lanka.

Neo-Imperialism

Politicians and the media, especially those on the center-left, are extremely suspicious about the MCC grant and the security agreements (SOFA and ACSA), accusing the US of using these agreements as tools establish military bases and take control of land assets amongst other nefarious motives. The idea that the US needs a grant of USD 500 Mn to exert influence on Sri Lanka seems farfetched. As noted before the US already has significant influence over Sri Lanka through its trading relationship with exports averaging USD 2.0 Bn annually, a tariff of a few percent would diminish Sri Lanka’s export revenue significantly.

The ACSA and SOFA may have different implications. Sri Lanka first signed a SOFA with the US in 1995 and if certain clauses in the renewal agreement are undesirable, for example those relating to protections and privileges for visiting American troops, these must be negotiated. Everything in Foreign Relations can be bargaining chip. The question to be asked is not whether Sri Lanka should sign the SOFA and ACSA, but what the government should ask for in return. A Foreign ministry official, as per Asia.Nikkei.com, stated that Sri Lanka did not want to seem too closely aligned with any nation and that signing a SOFA would lead to complications. Is Sri Lanka not already too closely aligned with China judging by this benchmark? There are other costs to bear in mind, namely the relationship with Sri Lanka’s immediate neighbor: India. The US has been forging ever closer relations with New Delhi, as part of the ‘American Pivot to Asia’ and India is the perfect foil for the US in the Cold War 2.0.

The over-arching narrative, driven by the exploitative and extractive effects of colonialism, is that the Western establishment spent the better part of the last few centuries exploiting the developing world. Modern day military invasions and interventions across the globe, political interference through international organizations and pressure brought by multinationals prove that the suspicion is warranted. More concerning is that many appear to view massive Chinese investment as purely transactional and any consequent cloud of imperialism as benign.

To believe in a benign form of imperialism is akin to the acceptance of a dictator as benevolent. Even if we ignore the 1989 massacre of Tiananmen Square and the hundreds of deaths, we must still contend with the power wielded by the CCP in Hong Kong, with student protestors now under arrest in the mainland. The Tibetan uprising led to over 85,000 deaths as per the CCP, Tibetans in exile claim the toll was much higher. Territorial disputes in the South China Sea with Indonesia, The Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam and disputes in the East China Sea with Japan still linger. China would also prefer that its support for the Khmer Rouge is forgotten while the media highlights with the plight of the Uighur minority in the Xinjiang region.

It seems rational to turn a suspicious eye towards Chinese investment and deeper entanglement in view of the ever closer alignment. Sri Lankans will notice the increased numbers of Chinese workers in Sri Lanka and their effect on the local job market. There are multiple large scale government contracts being carried out by Chinese companies using Chinese labour and machinery that dilute the benefits to Sri Lanka. Why is there so much overt anti-Americanism when it is China that was able to maneuver itself in to a position from which to negotiate a long term lease of a port, a port that was funded by Chinese bank loans? There is already much speculation that the Colombo Port City will eventually become a Chinese addendum to Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka has been a developing country for several decades since independence. The slow march towards the Sri Lankan promise continues. At this crucial juncture, with our economy in peril in the midst of global challenges and intrigue, can Sri Lanka afford anti-Americanism? Should the west not at least serve as a counterbalance to be used against the Chinese at the negotiating table? Certainly, Sri Lanka will have to continue to negotiate with the CCP, and must quickly become more effective at this negotiation to ensure the best possible bargain is struck, one that neither antagonizes the West nor betrays the East. The twin alignment remains in the balance.



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

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by Chandre Dharmawardana
chandre.dharma@yahoo.ca

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

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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

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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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