“The Three Fuels miracle” the only solution to the energy crisis in Sri Lanka and to keep Sri Lanka alight, even if the whole world that depends of fossil fuel, goes dark after 2050. Part 11 With revised Proposals
Posted on January 28th, 2022

Dr Sudath Gunasekara 27.1.2022.

(මඟ හොඳට තිබේනම් යන්ට දෑසත් පෙනේනම් කිම බැදිවල යන්නේ මන්මුලාවු එකකු සේ සින්හලයකුගේ කියමනක්)

Sri Lanka is geographically located almost right at the center of the globe (bet 5-10 degrees N of equator and 80-82 degrees E) and at the middle of the tropics. It is also blessed with the vast expanse of the Indian Ocean, the third biggest body of water in the world covering 1/5th of the total ocean area of the world right round it extending 7000 miles from N-S and 4900 miles from W-E, East Africa to West Australia. It is being traversed by seasonal Monsoons that sweep the vast Indian Ocean that bring unlimited rain to this Island. It is also favorably, located within the trajectory of The Inter Tropical Converging Zone in relation that brings both surface and upper atmospheric effects such as the burst of the monsoon and seasonal monsoon rain to the Island. Furthermore, its insularity and its small size (65,610 km2) and its peculiar and unique physical topography characterized by a central hill country at the center of the Island, rising abruptly from the surrounding lowlands and going up to 8281 ft msl at Pidutalagala This peculiar topography providing for cascading rivers right round the hill country with an annual mean rainfall of 2000 mm has made Sri Lanka the richest country in water resources in the world.  Regular seasonal winds that bring alternatively, SW and NE monsoon rain for 11 months in the year with convectional rain in April, 12 hours daily sunshine right throughout the year all over the country resulting evergreen tropical rain forests has made it the blessed evergreen resplendent Isle on earth from the dawn of history.

With such a high volume of perennial river water cascading down the hills, abundant 12hour uninterrupted sunshine throughout the year all over the Island and howling and blowing winds across the country at our disposal and at no cost, I wonder why we go after and fully depend on imported fossil fuel, coal, natural gaze and dangerous atomic energy spending trillions of dollars making the nation poorer every day, as the only way to provide energy to this small Island nation. I ponder as to what are the reasons for this unfortunate situation?  Is it because of the lack of brain or commitment to nation building on the part of politicians, policy makers and scientists in the relevant fields?

The following data announced over the TV on today (22.1.2022) tells the present pathetic situation in relation to power production and development in this country.

1 Oil, Coal and gaze 73 %

2 Hydro                      25%

3 renewable              2%

In my view this should have been just the rivers way about after 73 years of so-called Independence and 71 years after the inauguration of Hydro power by Wimalasurendra in 1950. Doesn’t this show how the country had been developed by our politicians, policy planners and scientists in the relevant fields. No wonder today, we, a country that had the second highest per-capita income at Independence, have to go right round the world with the begging ball on our heads.

Also, in the same way, is it not the poverty of vision and mission, creativity, imagination, lack of patriotism and lack of commitment for nation building OR the fat kickbacks and other unlimited benefits for politicians, policy makers and scientists in the relevant fields and their conventional and blind adherence to the so-called, modern technologies of the West and above all their lethargy, that has given rise to this unfortunate situation? The nation needs men like Wimalasurendara the Father of Hydroelectricity in this country He started his struggle in 1923 After his proposals were rejected and was obstructed, he resigned his job and contested elections and having entered the State Council in 1931 he continued to fight and finally completed Luxapana in 1950, the first hydroelectricity project in Sri Lanka. My question is why can’t the present-day engineers can’t think and act like Wimalasurerendara.  Instead, knowing that coal is going to be depleted by2050 the engineers of the electricity Board still fight for Sampur coal Project as if they are unaware of the fate of Norechchole and the environmental disaster it will bring about using coal, the most polluting source of power generation. Why do they do so? Where is the Government, policy planners and engineers who are supposed to be working for the welfare of the people?

The Three Fuels miracle”

Hydro power combined with Solar and wind power; I think therefore should be the best solution to our energy crisis. This combination is also the ideal remedy that can guarantee sustainable power supply at the lowest cost without any pollution as well as CO2 emission that cause atmospheric pollution, is almost nil with these sources. All these three power sources are renewed by nature at no cost and they don’t depend on imported oil or coal. So, we don’t need any foreign exchange either to import any fossil fuel. Even locally we don’t need to pay for the local power sources water, sun shine and wind as they are provided free by nature. This wealth is indigenous and all three will guarantee un-interrupted supplies throughout the year for ever. They will never be exhausted and will last as long as the sun and the world will last.  The most important features of these fuels sources is they are available at no cost, freely given by mother nature and also pollution free, sans any additional costs like shipping, insurance taxes and breakdown in transport either etc.

We need only the energy to turn the machines turbines, that generate electricity (in addition reservoirs, tunnels to store and conduct water in the case of hydro-electricity), and in solar power to activate the Solar panels to convert it to electricity. and wind towers to turn the fans to generate energy convert them in to electricity and light. Initially in the short run, we may have to import the basic technology like turbines, solar panels. But with the human talent we have within the country we should be able to manufacture all these items in no time. That will give rise to a number of promising industries that will provide additional employment for millions of people as well. Considering the unlimited availability of these Raw materials”, for power generation at low cost we may be able to even export excess power generated to India and neighboring countries like Bangladesh, that will bring foreign exchange as well, to jack up our foreign reserves.

All these three power sources also are pollution free and we will have a clean and Green environment free from environmental hazards leading to respiratory and other lung related health problems as well. It will also save foreign exchange in unprecedented amounts. At the same time if we can convert all vehicles to the electric model, and encourage local productions with tax relief, a new chain of industries and employment in these fields will boost up.  Meanwhile wasting on import of fossil fuel also will be saved.  

In this backdrop hydro power, Solar and Wind power combined, is the best solution to the present energy crisis in this country. In the long run this energy producing model might even become a world model that will revolutionize the power industry. Followed by the ‘Hydro-Solar-Wind model” even ocean waves right round the country could also be made use of to produce energy. That will give a further boost to the economy. The three   most common sources of energy are Oil, Coal and Atomic power all monopolized by the industrialized countries. They exploit the so-called Third World underdeveloped countries like ours, not only by selling these items at exorbitant prices abut also by tying them up with other means like their machinery, technical advice, shipping, insurance and banking etc, and keep the victim countries ever trapped in their hegemonic exploiting noose, thereby increasing our dependency on exploitive industrialized powers. This is the trap we are caught up with at present. So long as we depend on oil. Coal and natural gaze, their machinery and technical advice we have no solace and no escape from this dependency trap.

The only way we can escape from this fatal noose is to shift our energy generation to these Three local miracle Fuels”, that is water, wind and Solar heat all three of which are abundantly available throughout the year and free. That will also help us to save all foreign exchange spent on oil, coal and natural gaze and the dependency on the industrial countries, thereby reducing their interference in domestic politics and economies as well.

The Energy production should be developed under Four sectors to make the industry competitive

a) State b) Cooperative and c) Private ) Scale-wise Three categories

Scale wise

1 Mini Hydro and Dendro energy all private sector operated

2 Medium Hydro managed by Cooperative Projects  

4 Large Scale Hydro/solar/Wind under the State.

The national Grid should be Installed, managed and maintained by the State.

Establishment of this multi sector system is expected to develop the industry on an a competitive basis at a reasonably lo cast. It is also expected to guarantee un-interrupted power supply in the country in case supply from one sector gets interrupted due to some reason like brake down or trade union action etc. There should also be a state mechanism to coordinate the operations of these three sectors giving a sense of togetherness in their role in nation building.

Regular supply of water

In order to get the maximum benefit out of the hydro-projects we need to ensure regular water supplies of water to these projects as a national service even during the dry spells. Of cause to ensure an uninterrupted supply of water for hydro projects we need to maintain the respective reservoirs at the maximum or at least the optimum levels even during dry spells. In order to achieve this target one need to first protect the catchment areas and the watersheds. Second, Protect the reservoirs and desilt them regularly and maintain these large water bodies to enable their full capacities to be filled with water and not with silt. The Mini projects and Medium Projects should be provided with financial and technical assistance by the State. While maintaining them is important we also have to protect the catchment areas of these reservoirs. More than anything else, here comes the importance of watershed management. Another technique of ensuring the water levels of these reservoirs is to construct upstream barrages in suitable places. The waterbodies created by these barrages will perform a dual function. That is controlling water before it reaches the main reservoirs and there by avoid the opening of spill gates with the first rainfall that makes the precious water run down to the sea without making use of it. They will also minimize silt flowing down the rivers and fill the main reservoirs and also act as reserve tanks to augment main reservoirs catering the Hydro plants during dry spells.  like what Kuluwev do in the dry Zone.

This innovation will guarantee uninterrupted regular supplies to the main reservoirs. These barrages also can provide opportunities for inland fishing. In fact, the fundamental function of reservoirs in the ancient Sri Lanka was to store rain water that is running down to the sea during the rainy seasons to be used when there is no rain.  But of cause today the main function of a reservoir built in the Wet Zone is to provide water to turn the turbines to produce electricity.

This concept and Mini Hydro plants was first used in modern times by British planters to turn their machinery in tea factories in the hill country and produce electricity for their factories and bungalows.  It is a sad story to say that today our engineers allow 65 % of the total annual rainfall to go down to the sea without being used for the benefit of man. If King Parakramabahu who ruled this Kingdom in the 12th century AD at Polonnaruwa, an ancient King of this country who said that Not a drop of water that falls from the heavens should be allowed to go to the sea without being used for the benefit man” comes to know of this situation, he will rise from  his grave and  come back and drag all the present day Rulers, State officials and especially the irrigation and Electrical Engineers  who have failed to arrest this 65% going down to the sea without being used for the benefit of man and lock them up permanently there.

Water our most precious wealth

A recent study on Sri Lanka has listed this country at the top among the six countries that shares one half of the 0,3% drinkable water this planet has and moreover Sri Lanka has been recognized as the only country that will have drinkable water even if there is going to be a shortage of drinking in the whole world one day, as the result of environmental damages the countries world over are doing. This news has put it on the top of the world and made water its biggest asset and the most valuable commodity Sri Lanka has. The same study has described this country as the last country on earth that will have drinking water in the world, even if all the rest run dry.

 The threat on our water resources

But all these sweet talks will disappear in a dream If we don’t protect the geographical heartland (what I have named as GEOGRAPHICAL HADABIMA of this Island) the Central Hill Country, the priceless heritage, nature has given to this nation is not protected from the environmental devastation and destruction going on this nation’s ‘HEART” from 1830s onwards. Even after the British vandals who destroyed 600 000 acres of virgin forest that were there from the dawn of history and destroyed the physical instability by uprooting and burning the trees and digging and turning the soil and by various constructions done by the British planters. They also destroyed the entire river system, by reducing their annual flow by 50% as Samuel Baker has pointed out and playing havoc by floods in the downstream areas. These streams watered and enriched the whole Island protecting the entire life system in the country both flora and fauna and finally preserved the entire life system and the civilization on this Island from the dawn of history.

The same process of destruction continued even after 1948 and continued up to 1972 the year when these estates were nationalized. Since there was no proper management, these watersheds were further neglected resulting heavy land erosion and degradation almost beyond recovery. It was this forest cover on the central watersheds that protected the land, water the bio diversity and the animal world, underground water table and the entire river system that had been protected for millions of years by our ancestors until 1815.as a Protected and strictly reserved National Forest declared by Royal decree. While further neglecting continued by the State the resident Indian labour were also mobilized by their trade Union leaders took the law unto their hand claiming for land and human rights, which they never agitated for when they were made to suffer like slaves under the British Planters.

All the so-called national political parties gave in to their demands by bribing trade union leaders to remain in power. Every time the Governments change these estate Tamils leaders joined the party in power to get their demands, The successive Governments gave in to all their demands without caring a damn for the native people, land, the environment or the physical stability of the Heartland or the interests of the native Sinhala people especially those Kandyan Peasants who lost everything they had including their mother land and even their life in battles fought against the colonial enemies in defense of the country. Today they have got reduced to a mere set of paupers sunk in abject poverty[S1]  having lost their Motherland, once happen to be a paradise of their own. The motherland should be put in the hands of the natives who built up the civilization and not foreigners.

The survival of the entire life system and the civilization, in this Island as I have consistently pointed out from 1991 as the Head of the Sri Lanka Hadabima Authority Project, created by me the same year to cover 1/3 of the land area of the country was aimed at protection this HADABIMA of the nation. That too has been now destroyed by appointing political stooges who are clueless of the broad national objectives of this Project.

 In the days of the Sinhala Kings who found and fostered the civilization of this country they had protected all land above 3500 ft MSL (except Kotmale , Welimanda and Madaram Nuwara) up to 1815. That was how they got water to cultivate even three seasons of paddy cultivation in this country. But since 1815, the entire primeval and virgin forest cover has been removed by the white invaders for plantation agriculture and millions of South Indian cheap slave labour were brought and   settled on these estates to maximize their profits.

Adding insult to injury the native politicians who took over the country from British in 1948 also followed suit buy continuing the same destructions the white men did to make profits. Native Sinhala politicians today do it to consolidate their power. They woo the estate Tamil votes alternatively without any love for the country or the future of their own lot Sinhalese, without any regard to the great environmental, ecological or hydrological damages done on the neglected marginal tea estates by the alien Indian labour force doing day and night.  Although politician talk big of 1948 Independence the criminal destruction of the watersheds continues by south Indian Tamil community as they don’t love this country and their heads and hearts are all in South India. An excellent example of this criminal political party gamble against the natives by selfish politicians who have no feeling for the future of the country or the Sinhala nation is given below.

Only few days ago Sajit Premadasa Leader of the Opposition promised these estate Tamils at Nuwara Eliya Deepawali festival that his government (a day dream only that will never come to power within his life time) will make these Indian Tami labourers, the true owners of small holder tea lands. This is how our politicians look at the Heart Land” of the country that keep up the beat of the nation in this Islands civilization. The problem with all our politicians is that none of them know the critical importance of the Central Highlands in guaranteeing the survival of the entire life system and the civilization of this Island nation. They also don’t know that we had a great civilization in the pristine past that was in par with ancient Greek and Roman civilizations.

 I have written volumes on its importance.

I have been writing volumes on the need to protect these watersheds since 1991 in vain. From 1991, I have addressed many letters to the President of the Country offering my free services to rescue the nations HEART land without a salary, but it is a tragedy I have not got even a reply up to date. None, of these politicians is concerned about the future of the country or the Sinhala nation. They are only worried about political power and amazing wealth surrounded by equally selfish Kevattayas who never make use of the service of those who know the subject. They only know those who collects votes and kickbacks and pay hosanna day and night (Vandibhattakayo). None of these politicians realize that the ‘Death” of the heartland is the death of the country and the Sinhala nation. Them are interested only in collecting their votes and perks.

So, if we allow this destruction of the watersheds to continue without arresting it, as early as possible, the day that will make the curtain fall on the Sinhale land and the glory of the Sinhala nation and the day the whole Island will turn in to a cold sterile desert, sans any life on it is not that far. Tamils have a place in South India to get back. But where are we going to go.

One might wonder as to why I dealt in such length about the subject of protecting the Central hill country above 1000 feet in this essay, dealing with the energy crisis. I deliberately did so for the following reasons.

First, Hydroelectricity is the chief component of this proposal and the Central Hill Country is the dynamo that gives life to the engine that keeps the civilization on this Island moving.

Second as the watersheds on the central Hill Country are the only source of the nation’s water resources not only as the nucleus that provides the source for all the country’s rivers but also its role as a rainmaker and as a stimulator for convection due to its unusual and abrupt rise from the lowlands to confront the two monsoons when they cross the Island and activate the rising hot air mases when monsoons are silent in April to generate convectional rain in mid monsoons (April) It also forms a giant underground reservoir for the nations underground water deposits that replenish the rivers in dry weather like the Central Bank in a nation’s economy.

Third, the critical importance of the protection of the central watersheds in the process of providing water needed for the generation of hydroelectricity

Fourth no one can ever dream of hydro power generation, besides to provide  water for survival in Sri Lanka, without protecting the physical stability of the central watersheds 

Finally, Just as the man dies the day the heart fails similarly hydro power and water for life in Sri Lanka will also come to an end once the physical stability of the Central watersheds (Heartland) is gone.

These are the reasons that compelled me to give a comprehensive account on this subject.

Wind  Power  .

There is one single name in Sri Lanka one cannot easily forget when we talk about wind power in this country. That is my good friend and senior colleague who had been once GA Matara and held many responsible posts in SLAS and worked as an  international Consultant on Development in many countries like Bangladesh and an extensive traveler all over the world  now living in retirement who wrote a versatile piece in 2019 on Wind Power for Sri Lanka. Anyone interested in what he has to say can contact him on Garvin- Karunaratne@hotmail.com.

 I don’t think I have to add anything to what Garvin has said on this subject except to add three new places with my knowledge on the movement of monsoon winds. With distinctive two NE and SW seasons with spectacular wind gaps all over the hill country particularly in places like Corbet’s gap Meemure and Madugoda (Present Udadumbara as I named it  in 1971 when I was DRO there) and Uduwaaheena off Kaluntenna opening the Dumbara valley to the Bintenna plains on the Knuckles and Ramboda  and Kadugannawa in the central hills with howling and blowing winds turned in to energy  where all ‘Raw materials” will be local with no import. As Garvin points out you have only to install wind turbine in place where the wind blows and howls and not along the sea shore like in Mannar or Hambantota where it only breezes in the evenings.

 Solar power

Everyone knows that the sun is shining over the Islands heavens throughout the year, 12 hours a day. So, the unlimited power available   to generate electricity is there. One has only to make use of this natural wealth at least now. In generating solar power, we need only to install solar panels. The government can select few sites in the Island for large scale generation. Beside that we can also fix solar panels on each and every building/house. Solar power like wind and hydro power are replenishable as long as the sun and moon shall last and more over the global position of the Island will remain unchanged and the physiography of the Island will also remain unchanged due to tectonic changes

Dendro- Power

There was an all island Dendro-power Project in this country some time back under the sponsorship of UNIDO. Under that project the most successful project was carried out in my village Meemure in the Kandy District. The main raw material used was Grilisidia. It is a nitrogen fixing medium size plant grown all over the Island and as such there was no problem of getting raw material either. I remember this Project was combined with a mini-hydro Project Besides providing relatively cheap electricity particularly to remote villages like Meemure where the main line supply was not available it also provided employment to rural women. Almost all the houses in Meemure and Kaikavala, the adjoining village were given electricity by its first phase. But unfortunately, interference by local politicians looking for commissions obstructed its progress and finally it had to beabandoned.. The resident UNIDO Consultant Mr Sarath Chandrasena told me that the Meemure project was selected as the best in the world.  If anybody is interested in more details, he can contact him on 077 9020955. He lives in No 939/3C Vijithapura Battaramulla. The impression I got after listening to him was that these corrupt local politicians have killed a Goose that laid golden eggs, without impunity, as it is usual in Sri Lankan politics. Even the other projects started in other areas met with the same fate. ,I am told. this sector was originally started by my good friend famous late Ray Wijewardhana a wonderful innovator in the field of Agriculture., in his Coconut state in Puttalama District.

Current position of renewable energy development.

There are currently a total of 294 private sector renewable energy developer projects which have been commissioned. These projects have combined capacity of 718.334 megawatts (MW). The total number of projects needs to increase drastically, for the country to truly reap the full benefits of renewable energy,” Thusitha Peiris, Small Hydro Power Developers Association President said.

He said that small hydro power projects have been brought to a halt for years now, and today the need is ever more acute for local entrepreneurs to be allowed to restart investing in this sector in a conducive operating environment. I suggest that the Government encourage  these people  to develop more and more similar Projects

Conclusion

It is also important to note that fossil fuel and coal supplies will also come to an end one day once their deposits get exhausted. Recent studies have revealed that oil deposits will get depleted by 2050 and coal and natural gaze also will be over by 2060. But the beauty with water, solar power wind and Dendro-power is that they will never get exhausted. They will generously serve the world as long as the sun, the sky and the atmospheric circulations are there.

In Germany a few years ago they introduced a guaranteed price for renewable energy for a period of 20 years. The net result is now Germany is leading in renewable energy. They shut down 84 coal plants and most of their nuclear plants. The investment was mostly done by the Private Sector. Why don’t our leaders follow the same model that has worked for the Germans so well? If we do that, we could cut down on the import of coal, crude oil, and diesel, save Forex and solar energy electricity for all our needs such as cooking, vehicles, all powering, needs, etc. In the USA too they give tax incentives for homeowners to install solar panels on the roofs. We need to think out of the box in terms of clean energy instead of using coal plants and diesel generators and end up in economic and environmental disasters.

So, if we give top priority to electricity generated with these power sources in this country, it will not only enable us to save billions of Forex and make us economically stronger and independent but also it will enable us to enjoy the luxury of electricity even when the whole world that depends on fossil fuels sources and expensive and polluting nuclear and Atomic energy goes dark and also sustainable energy continues to work our factories and  all machines that need electric power close down theirs for lack of electricity.


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