14 November, 2018

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The Khapra Beetle & Using That Russian Credit Line!

By Chandre Dharmawardana

Dr. Chandre Dharmawardana

Sri Lanka’s tea industry had been hit hard in recent times from several quarters. The drought brought trouble for tea, and even more trouble for  the paddy farmer. The knee-jerk ban of the herbicide glyphosate falsely claiming it to cause kidney miles away from the tea plantations, in the Rajarata, was another set back. Then the Russians discover a Khapra Beetle in the tea, an insect that feeds on grain and not on tea. It is a native Indian ‘Kallathoni’ that spread to other countries by hitching rides on exported grain.

The Khapra Beetle.

Although the Khapra beetle is widely recognized in India, this is not the case for Sri Lanka. H. J. Banks, writing in 1977  in the Journal of Stored Products Research (volume 13, p183) includes references that suggest that the country was  free of the insect, although reports of detection of the insect exist. However, Western countries have routinely (and unfairly) classified Sri Lanka with India, to Sri Lanka’s detriment. H. J. Banks’ review was in 1977, the year when the free market was launched in Sri Lanka. The relaxation of all controls in the name of the free market has led to many difficulties. To cap it all, a bridge to connect Sri Lanka with India has been proposed by a neo-con government without the slightest concern for the integrity of  Sri Lanka’s biosphere.

The key to Khapra-beetle control is ensuring its absence in grain. It is actually quite easy to keep grain free of the Khpara beetle. Simple and inexpensive irradiation of grain is all that is needed. Such irradiation will also remove all types of weevils and  bugs, and save perhaps 40% of the grain crop in tropical counties from becoming unfit for use. Unfortunately, here again baseless  public fear has been fanned against “radiation”. Just as vaccination or fluoridation is feared and opposed by some, irradiation is rejected in many communities. Instead, Methoprene which is an insect growth regulator is used in North America and must be applied at the larvae stage.

However, although controls in Sri Lanka have been rapidly relaxed since 1977, that it has taken two decades to detect a Khapra beetle in a Sri Lankan export is remarkable. The detection is in tea, and not in an exported grain! It has not been established that the beetle was found in tea itself. There is the likelihood that the beetle joined the Cargo during the voyage and did not even originate in Sri Lanka.

Appeasing the Russians.

The government went to great lengths to appease the Europeans to win a questionable GSP-plus respite for exporting  apparel, processed food products, etc., to Europe. It has been suggested  that the Khapar beetle is an excuse for the Russians to express their displeasure over Sri Lanka’s continued neglect of the Russian market, together with the recent ban on asbestos imports from Russia. Neither this government, nor the previous government had been a regular client of the Russia market except for controversial MiG deals of the previous regime, or the bizarre purchase of an old Russian ship by the present government, going against the recommendations of naval experts. Using a Russian credit line is  essentially a form of barter. The powerful wheeler dealers in governments cannot conveniently collect secret commissions from such barters. They prefer shady hard-currency tenders  passed through Singapore or Dubai.

However, if the President of Sri Lanka is serious, we can truly profit from the Russian credit line by importing much  that Sri Lanka needs, instead of buying armaments, planes and ships which are ultimately an enormous drain on the country. A large percentage of the nitrogen in the bodies of everyone living today comes from synthetic urea, essential to all agricultural sectors. Even the organic farmer secretly adds it to his plot to avoid a deficit! Today Sri Lanka is facing a grave shortage of Urea. Russia is a leader in Urea production, and the Russian credit line can be used for Urea. Another essential item is phosphate mineral fertilizer. This too is produced by Russia, and furthermore, the Russian fertilizer is one of the cleanest mineral fertilizers in the world  as it is virtually free of cadmium and other heavy-metal contaminants. Sri Lanka should regularly buy their mineral fertilizer  for her tea!

The Soviet Union  used to buy wheat from the Americans, and Khrushchev was stunned to see American super markets full of goods. Post Khrushchev Soviet Union, and then Russia, rejected the Marxist agricultural thoeries and embraced modern agriculture and biotechnology. Today Russia is a world  leader in wheat production. Given the shortfall in harvests in Sri Lanka after several years of misguided “Vash-Visha Naethi” agriculture and the drought, Sri Lanka has opted to buy three times the usual quota of wheat flour. It could have easily used some of its Russian credit line to buy wheat, instead of buying it  from the NATO block.

Is Asbestos a health risk in the context of Sri Lanka?

Sri Lanka has even gone ahead and allegedly  lifted the ban on asbestos to appease the Russians! In Sri Lanka asbestos fiber is not used (e.g., for home insulation), as in the West. Exposure to asbestos fibers increases the risk of asbestosis (an inflammatory condition affecting the lungs that can cause shortness of breath, coughing, permanent lung damage) and mesothelioma. Only compacted asbestos composites are used in Sri Lanka, mainly as sheets for roofing, but no asbestos fiber is used. So, while asbestos is a health hazard, it is not immediately clear if it is a health risk in Sri Lanka. There is indeed an extremely low health risk (mainly to those drilling and sawing  the sheets without protective gear). It should be noted that the particulate density in Sri Lankan house holds (even in rural settings) is usually hundreds of times in excess of WHIO standards. In fact according to a 2010 study by Nandasena et al, (BMC Public Health, volume 10, page 300) the situation is much worse. Hence the health advantages of having proper roofing, reduction in ambient particulate levels in houses with asbestos roofing, reduction of vermin infestations and mold density, as compared to “kajan” thatched  or tiled roofing (without ceilings),  far over weighs the risk from asbestos exposure.

Blindly following western standards on asbestos usage in Sri Lanka, without taking account of local conditions, ambient particulate densities, etc is completely misleading. Hence the reversal of the asbestos ban, albeit for the wrong reasons, can be welcomed by environmentalists who seek to create healthy home environments with low particulate levels until  home-climate control and air conditioning become common place in Sri Lanka.   

The recent ban on glyphosate also must be lifted as there has never been any grounds for it in the first place, and secondly because of the re-extension of its use by the European Commission for another five years.

Coal power stations and Russian liquified gas.

The Russians are also world leaders in the production of liquified natural gas. The government is struggling over the coming energy crunch, and two  ministers have once again proposed  two new coal power plants. They surely know how the previous coal plants made many individuals extremely rich, by way of tenders, cancellation of tenders and relaunching of tenders, refitting of plants etc. The net effect is, we have two lame-duck coal power plants located in Sampur (Samapura) and Norochchollai (Horagolla). I have added the more meaningful old Sinhala place names  in parenthesis as they make sense, not only to Sinhala speakers, but also to Tamil speakers, as I found out by asking a few individuals. The politics of coal power plants in these two places is  shrouded in illegalities, just as the names of these places have never been properly gazetted  when the old names were suppressed.

The justification for coal is based on the claim that there is a large cheap supply  and that a modern “clean-coal” technology is available. These are false claims in practice. Even in coal rich Canada we only have nominally commercial experimental operations, e.g., as in the Boundary Dam coal Power Station in  Saskatchewan. Canada is trying, at great cost, to utilize its coal deposits. But Sri Lanka has no coal, and no track record of good pollution management given  its neglect of even  urban garbage directly visible to everyone. The coal-pollution is out of sight, out of mind, and will certainly be mismanaged 

Furthermore, we are already under a cloud of toxic rain (containing cadmium, nitrous and sulphurous toxins and particulate dust) from many poorly run coal power stations along the coast of Tamil Nadu. When coal is said to costs “only” about Rs 18 per unit of electricity today, they have ignored the enormous health costs to the nation. The Indian tragedy is there for us to see. According to a report in the Scientific American in March 2013, as many as 115,000 people die in India each year from coal-fired power-plant pollution, costing India about $4.6 billion, even though coal is the fuel of choice and Indian energy demands are skyrocketing. In addition to more than 100,000 premature deaths, the study links millions of cases of asthma and respiratory ailments to coal exposure. It counts 10,000 children under the age of 5 as fatal victims in 2012, the year prior to the study. But the actual costs are incalculable, since the air quality in Indian cities have  been nose diving, making life in many cities a nightmare.

Since Sri Lanka is a signatory to the climate accord, it cannot turn to coal. This author was one of the first to hail the Rajapaksa government’s increase in energy Tariffs in 2013 (as it made Solar energy more competitive. See the Island). I had strongly urged the government in 2009 to adopt solar, wind and dendro technologies aggressively, and circulated in Colombo a movie on Solar energy. Nuclear energy from thorium is a clean safe energy souce. But Sri Lanka has no experience with nuclear energy and the technology is available in Canada and a few other research centers. They are all possibilities  for long-term strategies. 

If there is a need for a short-term energy strategy, then Sri Lanka may look at liquified gas from Russia, using its little used credit line, and at the same time kick start the stalled but important tea sales to Russia.

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  • 9
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    Monograph of the Batticaloa District of the Eastern Province, Ceylon
    S. O. Canagaratnam – 1921 – ‎
    It is an established fact that the south and south-east of Ceylon was in ancient times the most fertile portion of the rice-producing parts of the world, and that in the southern portion of Batticaloa and in the Hambantota Districts a large export trade in rice was carried on. It is averred by historians that it was to the productive wealth of this portion of the Island that Ceylon owed its proud ancient title of the Granary of the East.

    That anti-Portuguese feeling in Lanka by PK Balachandran

    He blames the Portuguese for destroying the traditional economy and social structure of the Sinhalas.
    By introducing trade, they downgraded agriculture. Before the Portuguese, Sri Lanka sent its engineers to India to construct canals and storage tanks. The ancient Kashmiri chronicle “Rajatarangini” mentions Sri Lankan experts. But all this expertise died out.

    The Portuguese introduced arrack or liquor production for profit. Money began to be made on the ruin and misery of others, especially the poor. They over exploited cinnamon for trade. The concept self-sufficiency, which was the basis of traditional Sinhala village society, was thrown overboard to give place to a regime based on export and import.

    Sri Lanka today is heavily dependent on imports even in respect of daily necessities like food.

    The family system, based on respect for the elders, and the traditional framework of mutual familial obligations, began to break down because the converts were told that the only entity to be worshiped was God, Prof Endagama says.

    • 1
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      We are always told that SriLanka was the grainary of the east. But there are very few records of shipmrnts etc. It is mostly jingojstic posturing of Nationalists.
      In fact, the majority lived at subsistancd level, while the RadalaAristocrats and the temple monks were well fed. But even this was dicy. The mahawamsa mentions many famines, and one famine which was so serious that some 24000 monks perished over a few years. That was what prompted the monks to write down the Buddhist texts on ola leaves instead of just transmitting by recitation.
      Please give references to prove that this was the “grainary” of the east, or read Prof. Siriweeras old article about “food security jn ancient sri lanka” and learn the bitter truth. Just goog-le for it.
      Even Mao’s China exported rice while its people did not have food, as poltics is more important than the people.

      • 1
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        Patriots of Lanka – Book 1 –
        P. N. Cumaranatunga – 2005 – ‎
        The ancient Sinhala kings, particularly king Parakramabahu the Great built thousand of tanks, canals and dams and made the country self-sufficient in food and rice was exported …

        Sri Lanka, a country study – Page 38
        Richard F. Nyrop, ‎American University (Washington, D.C.).‎United States. Dept. of the Army – 1986
        Parakramabahu VI, who earned the epithet Bodhisatvavatara for his patronage of Buddhism, ruled from Kotte, a fort he established near Colombo. He had obtained the throne in 1415 with the help of the Chinese. It was at this time that the coastal areas were cultivated and cinnamon became a major export. The island also became an importer of rice, because the rich lands.

        Development Under Stress: Sri Lankan Economy in Transition – Page 70
        Saman Kelegama – 2006 –
        For example, the goal of achieving self-sufficiency in rice has some sentimental value as historical texts refer to a glorious past in Sri Lanka when King Parakramabahu, the Great, not only achieved self-sufficiency in rice, but also exported it to Burma.

  • 2
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    As more LNG sources are recovered it is supposed to reduce price of LNG. Particularly, in the cold countries the LNG use will decrease as the global warming heat up the environment. Sri lanka can discuss with MyanMar and Qatar too to build electricity plants with LNG use. Probably modify the two coal plants they already, if they, built. Sri lanka can ask help to built a Power plant which uses LNG. What ever happens, ever where it show s how stupid the politicians who have taken over everyrthing thinking they are the experts in every field. M<Y3 shows he is lost. Rnil is no different. You say, KAdjan huts lead to mold and vermin. that is a fib. How did sri lankan survive in kadjan thached houses for millinnia ?.Some say, it is a introduction by Indians. Smart Sri lankans can trouble shoot with respect to the source. they need to check what else was transported in that ship and transhipment locations. this is why we need a shipping corporation of our own. The american connection can not be ruled out.

    • 4
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      Chandre the Professor has gone partly nutty again. He has managed to drag bridges to India and “original” Sinhala names of Tamil villages into a discussion on tea. I wonder if he is the long-absent Vibhushana who used to infest this forum.
      His advocacy of wind and solar power shows that he is no Professor of electrical engineering.
      However, his suggestion that there is no proof of asbestos or glyphosate causing harm to Sri Lankans is reasonable.

      • 2
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        Can you give or quote any primary sources to show that these were “tamil” villages. ? As for evidence that they are Sinhala villages, read the dispatches of English govdrnment agents like C.S. Lewis, Denham and others. There is also a study by geography Prof. Gerald Pieris. There are also literary souces,especially for Saamapura.

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          Dear Bodhi,
          They are definitely Tamil villages now. Populations change over time, and if you want to insist on using “original” names, why not look at the 17th century Dutch maps of coastal Sri Lanka,(the originals, not Professori’s artfully altered ones) ? Most coastal towns from “Calture” , “Paneture” ,”Ginture” and even “Mature” are distinctly Tamil. Is it possible in your opinion that the South was Tamil and the North Sinhala at the time?
          For even more interesting info, have a look at the Dutch Tombos for coastal areas, which are now available online. Please note the large numbers of Tamil and Muslim land-owners in places like Kalutara . You might want to investigate where all their descendants are now.

          • 1
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            Let us stick to Norochchollai, and just tell me which old map has it as Norochchollai, instead of talking about ” mature, kalture” etc., and claiming that they hsve a “distinctly tamil” character!!
            We dont need subjective judgments, but hard evidence.

            • 1
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              Dear Bodhi,
              “Subjective evidence” works both ways, whether you like it or not.
              You could also look a bit further north, along the coast of Kerala. There is a “Paneture” there too.. Subjective enough for you?
              I am not promoting any so-called Tamil cause, just pointing out the truth, on BOTH sides.

              • 1
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                As a Tamil you may want to use a Tamil placename. I can and should use the sinhala place name especially when we have evidence for the old placename. I feel sad that the sinhalese have been not only tolerant, but too lax, and allowed the old names to become forgotten. Prof. Dharmawardana has done a singular service in putting together a lot of material about placenames in his website dh-web.org/placenames/
                In it he too says that a place can have several names in the several languages.
                I have to check what he has on Norochchollai in his placenames wrbsite.
                You said that a Dutch map gives the name Norochchollai. Please specify which map it is, to settle the matter.

                • 1
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                  Bodhi,
                  I did NOT claim that any Dutch map indicates “Norochcholai”. It would in any case not have existed at the time. Also, I am not a Tamil.
                  As to Jaffnahistory.com, it contains maps which are unreadable. But when one refers to the original Dutch maps, it is clear that Dharme has deliberately altered the names to sound more Sinhalese. He probably did not expect that some people can actually read cursive Dutch!
                  It is these maps in the Netherlands archives that also show Tamil place names along the South-West coast.
                  If it is necessary to indulge in such chicanery to promote a particular cause, then it does not say much for that cause, does it?

        • 2
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          Until around the 12th or 13th century the island was dived into three regions Rohuna, Maya, and Pihitee. Rohuna was the south, Maya the center and west and Pihitee was the north. For example Trincomale was known as Gona-phabbatha. These names are from the Yakka and Naga eras. After the death of Parakramabahu a succession weak rulers emerged and the island was invaded and settled.

          The Early History of Ceylon and Its Relations with India and Other nations
          G. C. Mendis – 1996 –
          Another area in which the chiefs tried to be independent was the Vanni. The Vanniyars are mentioned first during this period. They seem to have occupied the frontier country between the Jaffna and the Sinhalese kingdoms, and acknowledged the supremacy of one of these, or remained independent whenever possible. Vijaya- Bahu III became king of Vanni before he expelled the Tamils from Maya Rata. The Vanniyars acknowledged the supremacy of Parakramabahu ..

          The Vanniyaras are the the same people as Veddas. Vedda being derived off the word Vanni Atho ; the ancient people of the Vanni .

          Professor Max Miiller (Congress of Orientalists 1874 )
          But I may say so much, that more than half the words used by the Veddahs are, like Sinhalese itself, mere corruption of Sanskrit. There is a remnant of Words in their language of which can make nothing as yet; but so much is certain—either the Veddahs started with the common inheritance of Aryan words and ideas, or, at all events, they lived for a long time in contact with Aryan people, and adopted from them such words as were wanting in their language. If they now stand low in the scale of humanity, they once stood higher ; nay, they may possibly prove in language, if not in blood, the distant cousins of Plato, and Newton, and Goethe.”

    • 3
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      To Jim Softy
      Here we meet again. The ancients who lived in kadjan thathed housrs had life expectancies of 30 or 40 years, when you remember that most families had 10 or 12 children, and just a few surviewed to adulthood. Those who survived were hardier and lived longer. Houses (kAjan huts) with thathed roofs become home to insects, micd, rat snakes (gaerandiya) mould etc. , not to mention cockroaches who are there in all circumstances. It is established that particulate density increases rapidly as the roof ages. This also contributed to the poor health of the dwellers, in addition to malnutrition and disease typical of preindustrial subsistance life style.

  • 0
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    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

  • 1
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    SJ

    Its all Sabandan’s fault.

    • 2
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      N.V
      Diplomacy works in mysterious ways. Just lift the ban on Russian Glyphosate and Asbestos, and see how quickly this virulent beetle turns into a harmless butterfly!
      Oh, BTW, it might help to buy a couple of rusty ships for the Navy.

      • 0
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        old codger

        “Oh, BTW, it might help to buy a couple of rusty ships for the Navy.”

        Then take it to Chittagong, Bangladesh cheapest place to scrap ships, sell it as scrap metal. By the way come to think of it, Basil and his military mates may be interested in scrap metal business.

  • 1
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    To Old Codget
    Is old codger an Engineer? Then he knows that engineers apply old well codified knowledge to standard problems, while scientists bring in cutting edge new technologies to new problems. Even if Solar is beyond old codger because he is old even by6 name today Solar is a mature technology that can deliver all the power needed for this country. I remember several articles by Dr. Dharmawardana on solar, and also by Kumar David who pushed the old school thinking.
    Solar power and engineering should have a chair in every Eng Fac in these contemporary times, and taught as a standard engineering course, and old codger can take a refresher course.

    • 1
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      Dear young engineering prof,
      Would you kindly explain how the national grid would work on solar power if it rains for a week ? What would back it up?
      I don’t think Dr.Chandre’s expertise on solar power amounts to even Dr.David’s expertise on agriculture.
      There is in fact a solution (suggested in this forum by engineer Edwin Rodrigo) through linking with the massive Indian grid. But then, the very people who want solar (like Dr. Chandre) oppose any link with India for nutty political reasons.

      • 1
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        oldcodger

        Have you forgotten Indians are desperate to migrate to this island hence they could always attach themselves to the electrical grid to smuggle themselves into this island. They could always build cable cars therefore linking with the massive Indian grid should be stopped.

        • 0
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          N.V,
          Stop supplying ideas to the dumb.

  • 3
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    dear author of this article.

    you are indeed giving good ideas,but the russians don’t want their credit line to be used for things that they can easily sell.They want us to use it for the frigate which they can’t sell.that is the whole point of bringing out the beetle bomb.Siri’s son in law would have told them that they can squeeze our balls since they have 25% of our tea sales.your brilliant ideas are useless as long as our top people are corrupt and also nepotism is rampant.It may be better for you to loan your brains to another country.

    • 1
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      Old coger wants to know what happens for solar power if it rains.
      Old codger and old engineer probably forgot that a safe system is one designed to have several resources and several redundancies. Handing over our power control to the indian grid is similar to handing over your town to the mafia for safety.
      When the sun shines, we produce excess power and store it. We can store it by converting water to oxygen and hydrogen, and recover the enerrgy as electricity in an Oxygen/Hydrogen fuel cell. We can also store power in molten salts, as latent heat, and gypsum is being sucessfully used fir it. You can use new Li based mass-storage batery technology. Or, in a very low-tech way you can use the solar power to pump water up into reservoirs.
      You see, old codger has a few new things to learn.
      He also has to learn that India has an even bigger energy short fall in energy, and expecting to get energy by connecting to the indian grid is to commit hara-kiri as our own energy will be syphoned away by the Hindians. We wil also become a helpless pawn in the hands of India.

      • 0
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        Dear Young engineer,
        Please show us just ONE country that is using these allegedly great technologies you seem to have discovered, to achieve 100% green electricity? Don’t make me laugh. Oxygen-hydrogen electrolysis? Imagine the size of the pressure vessels to run the whole grid or the amount of energy needed to compress the gas? What new Li-Ion batteries? What will you do with the dead ones?
        Don’t you know that the sky is overcast for weeks in this country?
        As to Indian electricity, they have surpluses in places at times. We too will have a solar surplus in the daytime (when available). What is wrong in selling that to the Indians in exchange for support on overcast days? Supplying our miniscule demand will not make much difference to them. Much like Net-metering, but they keep their coal pollution and we get steady supply.
        Using blinkered political arguments is pointless. We already are a helpless pawn of India. So make use of that fact. Being old gives you perspective, dear young engineer. Being young and wet behind the ears makes you believe in miracles.

        • 0
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          Old Codger
          Tha k you for your comments which certainly make sense, but not quite upto date. The hydrkgen is NOT stored under pressure, but in Palladium or Carbon nsnotubes where vast amounts of hydrogen could be stored In fact the (false) cold fusion people tried to use hydrogen adsobed in palladium precisely because Pd can absorb a lot. When you want to extract electricity back you use the Pd as one of the electrodes in fuel cell. Just google Pd based hydrogen fuel cells to find all the details and follow up
          Some IEEE papers.

  • 3
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    A writing of a typically ignorant former Sri Lankan.Chandre do you know to count ?Seems not.It is 40 years since Bank’s Review.So much of changes has taken place Mister..May be the cold winter is freezing up things!

    Yes make use of every opportunity to promote glysophate!But conveniently forget to pay up the bond signed with Sri Jayawardenapura University that has been due from you since the early 1970s.And you call yourself a patriot!Good for you Chandre.Cest la vie nes pas?

  • 2
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    I think various people (ex Vidyodaya people) answered you in previous postings about your attempt to smear a good scientist who served the country for decades, but left it because of people like you. Tell us more specifics about this bond. Are you an agdnt of Venerable Ratsna, or the glib talking Asoka Abeguna? Are you one of the people trying to sell “Kohomba thel” to replace glyphosate? You may make some money initially, but soon the fsrmers will lynch you.

  • 1
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    To Old Codger and Native Vedda
    Ask yourself why India which is so short of power does not want to join its grid to the Chinese grid which is close by, and an addtional trunk line will go along the new Chinese silk road. In fact, India does not even like to associate itself with the new silk road. They can do net metering more efficiently with a link to the Chinese grid. But no!!! India does not want to link with the Chinese grid.
    May be Native Vedda might explain the Indian reticence due to their fear that the chinese might hang along the power cables and sneak to India, or build cable cars on the power grid and sneak to India?
    By the way, does NV know why his Vedda Cousin Wigneswaran objected to supplying Jaffna with water by extending the Mahaweli? He mumbled something about regional sufficiency being necessary for ” self determination” and being a “nation”.!!!!!

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