Letters to the Editor

 10th October 1999

The Sunday Times on the Web



Coal power without coal

We have been having strong lobbyists for coal-power plants from about early 1980s. There were equally strong opponents to the setting up of these plants, mainly for environmental reasons. I also had reason to place my objections in 1984, since the proposed power plant to be set up at Trincomalee would send acid rain to ruin our tea. The other simple reason was that since we do not have even an ounce of coal, our country, after setting up such a plant will be beholden to the coal supplier.

I am neither a scientist nor an engineer. But knowing the geography of our country very well, it is in Trincomalee that such a plant could be set up with the least environmental damage, if the smoke outfall could be controlled, as the tea plantations are more than 50 miles away. But, however pressing the need for electricity may be, the global spectrum clearly shows that coal burning is now outmoded.

Sir Arthur C. Clarke made a forecast that fossil fuels which pollute the environment would soon be phased out as new energy sources are ready to be tested. The same interview carried a report that the last Indian coal mine would be closed in a few years. So our country may have to look sharp before embarking on ventures costing several billions of rupees which may eventually have to be abandoned.

We ventured to establish the largest fertiliser factory in Asia at Sapugaskande and Asia's largest textile factory in Thulhiriya. The fertiliser plant was closed without any benefit to the country and the textile mill has convulsions now and again.

Dr. Tilak Siyambalapitiya from Negombo states in an article that USA and Japan are building more and more coal power plants. They have the coal to feed them but that's not a plausible reason for us to build such plants without any coal.

A Norwegian uses 25,000 units of electricity per year and all of it is from hydroelectric power plants, says Dr. Siyambalapitiya. This does not mean that the average Sri Lankan needs as much electricity because we live in the tropics, compared to the Norwegian who needs to overcome the tundra weather. This takes my mind back to 1972 when the hydroelectricity specialists were telling the then government that Sri Lanka had an excess of hydroelectricity power potential and that excess power could be sold to South India. We now know that we have almost used up these resources except for any potential in the river basins of the Kalu Ganga, Gin Ganga and Nilwala. Already the government has given the green light for the construction of a 300mw power plant at Kukule Ganga for which there is no protest from environmentalists.

But real danger lies in the construction and operation of a power plant, as suggested, in upper Kotmale. Geologists have clearly reported the same in the environmental impact assessment.

If wind power and solar energy are being developed in Japan and Europe, why cannot we suspend the large expenses on culture, say for two years and divert those funds for this purpose?

Recently, I read the feasibility report on the Narakkal or Noraichcholai plant. Earlier fears are now confirmed that this report is more partial to have the project okayed than that should have been fair by the people and the government. Most importantly this plant is sited on the path of the Westerly Trade Winds which will blow over Puttalam, parts of the Wilpattu National Park. Mahaweli System H paddy lands and on to Anuradhapura with the sacred Bo-tree. It is possible these may carry acid rain that would cause havoc. Why did this report by-pass or overlook this? If one were to look at the CEB map, this lapse is clearly evident.

My concern is for people who earn their livelihood from the sea. Marine life including oyster grounds from Wattala to Mannar, can be destroyed by this operation because of ocean currents.

D.S. Armstrong

A question of health or compassion

With reference to, "The act of killing and the act of eating (The Sunday Times, September 12), may I say, with due respect to the Ven. Gangodawile Soma that the Thero is lost in his reflections in trying to justify meat eating by Buddhists. He has in fact, failed to prove his point that by eating meat one does not share in the act of killing. His example is a case where an unexpected visitor to a house is offered meat which is expressly not prepared for him. Do we have to cite such a rare occurrence as an example ?

What if one buys and eats meat regularly? Doesn't he contribute to the act of killing?

For instance frogs and reptiles are killed for food in some countries. Why aren't they killed in our country? It is because there is no market for them. Is it not Buddhists who constitute the major part of the market which is catered to, by the killing of animals?

It is said that some 50,000 animals are slaughtered every month in Sri Lanka. Isn't it possible to spare the lives of a greater number of these animals, if Buddhist monks set an example by being vegetarian and explain to the Buddhists that the lives of these animals are at the mercy of the Buddhists?

After all, a Buddhist need not depend solely on various interpretations ( whether distorted or not ) of the 'Jeevaka Sutta'. One has to look into this in the light of 'loving kindness' as preached by the Buddha. The Buddha laid great emphasis on compassion for all beings whether small or large, seen or unseen, far or near and so on. 'Life is dear to all. Comparing oneself with others, one should neither kill nor cause to kill' (Dhammapada) . We as Buddhists must think twice before we eat the flesh of animals because it certainly causes the killing of animals.

The other example given by Ven. Soma is not a common occurrence too. It is true that the bhikkus who look for alms (pindapatha) are offered food not expressly prepared for them. But a bhikku on 'pindapatha' is a rare sight today.

With all respect to the Thero, I must ask whether, when he says it is a good principle to be a vegetarian, he looks at it from the angle of health or compassion?


Tourist Board the real culprit

On September 19, a wild elephant in the Bundala National Park killed a German woman doctor. This is not only a loss of valuable life, but also bad for the tourist industry. After an inquiry, the police have charged the guide, the driver and the helper of the vehicle, in which the tourists travelled, with criminal negligence.

But the real culprits, I believe, are the travel agency and the Tourist Board. Travel agencies bring in tourists at cheap rates to fill up their hotels. The thinking is that the more tourists served, the greater the turnover. A room, not sold for whatever price, is a room lost. In this case it is obvious that the travel agency handling this group had dumped them in a cheap hotel and left the guides to do the rest. It is cheaper for them to do that than send a competent guide from Colombo and make the visitors aware of the risks and dangers involved while travelling in Sri Lanka. These tourists did not know that wild elephants could charge, if approached and that running for cover doesn't help. Most guides, who are usually drop- outs from schools, cannot explain clearly to tourists about the dangers in a wild life reserve.

The Tourist Board has spawned various categories of guides at the dictates of politicians who want to provide these people with jobs. But travel agencies usually ignore their quality and suitability. Some travel agencies have appointed special managers to monitor tourist vehicles and herd them into shops. All this is disgraceful.

Let the accident at Bundala be a lesson to Sri Lanka.

H.B. Meegahatenna

Right of reply

Racing charges on wrong track

The letter, "Racing along with no respect for rules" (The Sunday Times, September 26,) is a complete distortion of facts. To begin with, this race meet was organized by the Anuradhapura Motor Sports Club in association with the Up-Country Motor Sports Club and the Sri Lanka Racing Riders' Association. Any automobile sports event has to be held under an organising permit issued by the Sri Lanka Association of Motor Sports (SLAMS), which is the controlling body for automobile sports in this country.

There were two drivers who changed vehicles on race day, having practised on the previous day in different vehicles, both these vehicles having had mechanical problems on practice day. They applied to the Stewards of the Meeting to run these different cars, and they approved their requests. Under the general competition rules of SLAMS, under Part VIII - Officials and their duties it is stated: Powers of the Stewards of the Meeting Authorise a change of driver or vehicle.

The Stewards of the Meeting approved this change under the powers vested in them by these rules. The organisers of the meeting do not have any say about such matters when the Stewards of the Meeting make any decision regarding the running of the meeting. The Clerk of Course supported these changes in view of the fact that both these substitute cars were much less powerful and slower than the cars actually entered by them and the rules allowed these changes if the Stewards of the Meeting so decided. Neither were these two drivers in pole position on meet day.

The writer R. Perera has stated that a roll cage is a mandatory safety requirement for a "race car" whatever he means by that. Once again he must go through the general competition rules of SLAMS and the supplementary regulations for the meeting. These state that only for open cars is a roll cage a mandatory requirement.

Not a single complaint or protest was received by the Clerk of Course or the Stewards of the Meeting at this event with regard to anything. The right of protest is available to anyone under the rules of SLAMS, so why did no one make a formal protest? This may be a figment of the writer's imagination.

The writer states that the Interim Committee was appointed based on the complaints made by the Up-Country Motor Sports Club, but I wish to state that not only the UMSC but also a host of racing drivers had made complaints against the former (dissolved) SLAMS to the Ministry of Sports.

Mr. Perera states that the Interim Board comprises mainly Up-Country Motor Sports Club members which I deny. There are four of the seven who are not even members of the aforementioned club, while the other three, are members of the UMSC and most of the other motor sports clubs.

The Interim Board of SLAMS, unlike the dissolved one has acted in an exemplary manner and most of the motor sports clubs have rallied round it as we are fair to clubs, competitors and officials alike.

Priya Munasinghe -
Secretary, Interim Board,
Sri Lanka Association of Motor Sports

Recreating our rich and colourful history

Ancient Sinhalese history has been reconstructed along with the grade 9 syllabus. Those in charge should check out the mistakes.

The combination of social studies and history in one book should not have been done. The result is that history lessons have been decreased to just four. What is also shocking is that, the authors have created new history for Sri Lanka. Thanks to them, future generations will not have a clue about our heritage. They will not know from where they have come and who their ancestors are.

Brave kings and queens, the rich history of one people and sacred temples have been reconstructed. Is this right? Why are the authorities in charge silent? Speak up, before it is too late.

Manisha Amarasinghe and Ama Vanniarachchy

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