Our Power Fiasco
Posted on August 30th, 2021

By Garvin Karunaratne

Minister Gammanpila  is reported to have said that we will have to face a massive export bill to import fuel for the unending cadence of motor vehicles. He is right.

It is also reported that our country is pleading with supplier countries to buy on credit not only fuel, but even lentils. I read of Lentils on credit in a news item yesterday! I had a last laugh as we can produce all the lentils we need in one chena cultivation- in just a few months but we dismantled our agricultural extension service- first by the World Bank dictate in around the early Eighties that our agricultural extension officers should not use cooperatives and such organizations but meet farmers individually- mind you an Agricultural Instructor has around 5000 to 13,000 farmers to cater for, and later by President Premadasa who promoted all trained agricultural overseers to be Grama Niladharis that was in about 1992 and since then we have no trained official at the village level and since 1992 till now our agricultural plans are only on paper.! The sad fact is that our experts and leaders do not yet realize this. The World Bank bribed us with loans to get that done, documented by me in my book: Administering Rural Development in the Third World: The University Press, Dhaka, 1983. President Premadasa acted in ignorance. 

To back track to Power and Fuel for it. The Power problem would not be there today  if only our leaders had read, understood and acted on the ideas in my Paper published way back in 2016. It reads: 

Answer blowing in the Wind 

Published on December 22, 2016, 9:30 pm in The Island

Sri Lanka is the only country where wind turbines are put up in the coastal areas. In Lanzorette in the Canaries, firstly the authorities built two turbines on the coast, but later they realized their mistake and built up dozens of turbines inland, on their hills. They have no mountains as such. In Spain and in the US, where I frequently undertake road travel, I have seen them using the mountain power of the wind to turn their turbines. There are hundreds, even thousands of wind turbines located on mountains. 

We are the losers, while countries like Spain have harnessed the mountain wind power and even sell power to France. Sri Lanka lags behind. Last year, I went to Kalpitiya to spend a night to assess the wind power there. It was nothing other than a coastal breeze. I have worked in Hambantota and Matara and know the power of the coastal breeze. It is nothing compared with what I have experience at Ramboda, at Madugoda, at Kadugannawa in my almost weekly visits when I did work in Nuwara Eliya, Kegalla and Kandy. That was on the road side. Thanks to my irrigation inspections- climbing hill and dale, I know that the wind has an enormous power at vantage points. When I stayed for the night at the Ohio Forest Circuit bungalow, I feared that my car would be blown over. Yet we keep building turbines on the coast, and this time it is in Mannar! 

I gather that some foreign experts are being consulted to tap our wind power. These days not only foreign experts but also the IMF carry out clandestine operations to ensure that we will remain stuck in the mire of debt.  The IMF told us to import freely, use foreign exchange freely and gave us loans. This is how we were lured into debt! 

May our leaders find the time to read John Perkin’s book “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man”, where he admits that his role as a foreign expert was to research, fabricate facts and figures to provide foreign aid to Ecuador, for a plan that in some manner would send the aid back to the donor countries, while at the same time leaving the host country indebted. Aid now comes to our countries to make us more indebted so that our economy would never recover. That someone who  is trying to prove that trying to tap wind power is not worth the trouble is of the ‘John Perkins’ type. 

We produce wind power at Rs. 25 per kw while the US gets wind power at five cents a kw. When recently some wind power producer offered us power at fifteen rupees our mandarins were surprised. 

Recently, Power Expert, my friend Tilak Siyambalapitiya has said that we are heading for power cuts in 2017. 

All what I have said in my wind power papers is valid; they are on Lanka Web,  Island.lk and Asian Tribune for anyone interested to read. 

We need only a few hundred wind turbines sited at Ohio, Ramboda, Madugoda, at Ritigala, at Batalagala in Kegalla District. At Kirigalpotta in Ratnapura and Hayes in Matara. We should set up a “Land Development Department” once again and appoint an official of the calibre of J. V. Fonseka, a civil servant and the task can be accomplished within one year. That was the manner D. S. and Dudley worked once. Later, I was a chief lieutenant under JV Fonseka  in the Agrarian Services Department and we did build large stores in double quick time. One engineer and Land Development Officer M. P. Jayasinghe was the mastermind of the operation. We used to test the strength of concrete structures ourselves by tapping concrete with a hammer. One contractor had to redo all the foundations. It was a blow that made him die. That happened in Anuradhapura. 

A few hundred wind turbines are the answer and I am sure there will be able officers in the Administrative and Engineering Services who can accomplish that task. It will be a Program that offers employment to thousands. 

By now my Papers on wind turbines have been compiled into a book:  

Wind Power for our energy requirements,  published by Godages in 2019. I personally sent copies to all- to our President, his Secretary, to our Prime Minister and to Minister Dullas. Sadly the books are all in the dustbin now. However I plough along.  

At least I hope one of them will now have a read of it.  

It will be a task done employing thousands of our people, with little or no foreign exchange because the turbine motor can easily be done by our local Pump Specialist Company- Jinasena.. 

The US did it, Spain and Germany did it and turned the wind that howls and blows into Power. We too can do it if only we want to do it.   

Garvin Karunaratne Ph.D. 
Former G.A.Matara 

30 August 2021

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