Investing in Science and Technology

Investing in Science and Technology

Scientific Expertise will be made use of in transforming Sri Lanka into a Technology based developed nation – Minister Thilanga Sumathipala

State Minister of Technology and Innovation, Thilanga Sumathipala stated that his Ministry would make use of scientific expertise, in steering towards transforming Sri Lanka into a technology-based developed nation. He said this on the occasion of assuming office at his Ministry on 2 December.

“In order to attain economic development based on technology and innovation,” he elaborated, “we will have to invest in higher education and advanced technologies, in place of cheap labour. Internationally-renowned scholars of our own have always laid emphasis on the need to invest in technology-related fields, so as to ensure future economic development. Therefore, we should not limit ourselves to the traditional exports such as tea, rubber and coconut, but embark on technologically-competitive inventions, utilising intellectual labour.”

The Minister expressed his intention of working towards the creation of a technology-based society, a prime objective of the government, as envisaged in the policy Statement of H.E. the President, by creating the much needed platform, a task which would be performed by Ministry in the future. He also expressed his belief that through investment, necessary for the creation of a developed country based on technology, the city of Colombo could be made the capital of Asia in the not too distance future.

Former Minister of Science and Technology Prof. Tissa Vitharana, and Sri Lankan solid-state physicist, internationally renowned senior research scientist and group supervisor at the US National Aeronautical and Space Agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Prof. Sarath Gunapala, took part in this event by delivering special lectures and both expressed their wish to extend unconditional support for the future initiatives of the Ministry of Technology and innovation.

“Even though a number of Advanced Technologies emerged globally in the recent past,” said Professor Tissa Vitharana, “we as a country did not grasp them properly. If we are to move from the middle income level, that we are placed at present, to a higher income level, we definitely will have to grasp advanced technology. Technological products of high end technologies are essential to compete in the highly competitive world market. By utilising such technologies, we will be able to add more value to our raw materials. We will be able to overcome this challenge only by utilising high end technologies such as nanotechnology, biotechnology, artificial intelligence, robotics, and mechatronics, while also improving our human resources”

“Countries like Taiwan and South Korea have achieved rapid economic development within a relatively short period of time,” Professor Sarath Gunapala said, “through their investment made in human resources, science and technology sectors. This is a great opportunity for Sri Lanka too. If the future role of technology and innovation in properly navigated utilizing high end technologies through the intervention of the Ministry of Technology and Innovation, the economy of Sri Lanka could be elevated from its present status of being a developing economy to a developed economy”

This event was attended by political representatives, Secretary to the Ministry of Higher Education, Technology and Innovation Anura Dissanayake, former Secretary to the Ministry of Science, Technology and Research Chinthaka Lokuhetti, along with scientists, technologists, scholars, artistes and more.

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Prime Group introduces Proptech

Prime Group introduces Proptech

Sri Lanka’s first real

property e-commerce website

Are you planning on buying a land, building a house, or thinking about purchasing an apartment? Don’t think too much. Prime Group is taking the worry away from you. On 6 August 2019 – Prime Group launched “Prime Hot Deals” – Sri Lanka’s first ever real estate e-commerce website, expected to revolutionise the real estate sector of Sri Lanka.

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PUCSL & University of Moratuwa to Introduce Self-Powered, Heat Resilient, Low-Cost Housing Model

PUCSL & University of Moratuwa to Introduce Self-Powered, Heat Resilient, Low-Cost Housing Model

The public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL), the electricity sector regulator, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the University of Moratuwa, early this year, to collaborate and introduce a self- powered housing model for low-income households, with the aim of providing the best architectural housing structure, with the use of maximum daylight.

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Mindfulness for corporate leaders

Mindfulness for corporate leaders

WHO has identified stress
as the “health epidemic
of the 21st century”

We spend more time working than doing anything else, and researchers have found that, on average, this results in the least happy hours of our lives. In knowledge-based industries, the stress in working life accounts for a hefty part of work-place absences and huge losses in productivity.

In the current economic climate, employees are under pressure to perform with limited resources. According to business insiders, companies in the USA lose over USD 300 billion every year due to workplace stress. The American Institute of Stress states that 80% of workers feel stress on the job, and need help in learning how to cope with it. In the UK, Health and safety executives say, stress-related illnesses among employees cause businesses lose GBP 530 million a year. According to Medibank, research in Australia shows that employees are absent for 3.2 working days each year due to stress, costing the Australian economy about AUD 14.2 billion.

Effective working environment

Therefore, it is clear that employees’ mental health has a direct impact on the success and effectiveness of the company. Research into neuroscience and psychology shows the importance of “mental capital and wellbeing”. This new perspective is, increasingly, helping business leaders to see that the cognitive and emotional resources of organisational team members determine the health, resilience and future performance of their organisations.

One of the approaches that is used globally to overcome stress is mindfulness practice. Mindfulness training has been at the vanguard in organisations keen to experiment with innovations that develop the internal resources of individuals, and keep their minds healthy. As businesses invest in employees’ professional skills and physical health, mindfulness training as been at the forefront in benefitting all employees, across a broad spectrum of wellbeing.

Mindfulness is a natural capacity, present in all of us. It involves paying purposeful attention to our experience, with attitudes of openness and curiosity. We are all familiar with a distracted state of mind, often described as being on “autopilot”. This default inattentiveness from present experience can mean we react to life out of habit rather than care and consideration. When we spend more time alive to our experience, we unlock our potential for learning and growing to respond creatively to life and to corporate challenges.

With the speed of distraction today, our attention is under constant siege. We have entered the attention economy. Research shows that 47% of the time we are mentally off- task; said another way, we spend half of our time on autopilot. What if we could get a second ahead of distractions and avoid autopilot? What if we could overcome our addiction to action and multitasking? The good news is we can. The key is to train the mind to be more focused and clear. We do this through corporate mindfulness.

What is it?

Mindfulness originated in Buddhist meditation techniques, such as outlined in the Satipatthana Sutta (The discourse on establishing of mindfulness). Although it is a millennia-old idea, it has been re-invented in order to address present issues in our modern society. As mindfulness has reached most aspects of human life over the past decade, it has expended beyond its spiritual roots and, with its adoption into modern psychological theory, it has developed into a secular training method, subject to many scientific trials.

The mechanism behind mindfulness is based on how it changes your mind-set from a fixed mind-set to a growth mind set. A fixed mind-set is when an individual believes their qualities, talents or intelligence are simply fixed traits. Employees with a fixed mind-set tend to avoid challenges, give up easily, see efforts as fruitless or worse, ignore useful negative feedback and feel threatened by the success of others. As a result of a fixed mind-set, these individuals may plateau early and achieve less than their full potential.

Leading researches into mindfulness have established that it enables employees to focus on what they experience in the moment, inside themselves, as well as their environment, with an attitude of openness, curiosity, and care. We are all mindful sometimes, but through mindfulness practice, we can cultivate this faculty and refine it so that we may harness it to a greater degree.

Apart from the benefit of reducing stress in the workplace, mindfulness provides many more advantages, such as reduced rumination, boosts to working memory, less emotional reactivity and even relationship satisfaction. As these benefits will certainly lead to a better quality of life, they will also improve our empathy, love and compassion. It is apparent that these benefits of mindfulness practice will provide the ultimate outcome of a peaceful mind and immense happiness. On the contrary, individuals who possess a growth mind-set will embrace challenges, persist in the face of setbacks, see effort as the path to mastery, learn from criticism and find lessons and inspiration in the success of others. These individuals will end up reaching ever-higher levels of achievement. Therefore, employing more individuals with a growth mind-set will lead to better achievement in organisations.

In the corporate world

There are numerous potential business benefits to mindfulness training. It is important to establish one or more key benefits that reflect your organisation. Mindfulness assists in three key areas of workplace functions: well-being, relationships and performance. It also helps to enhance working relationships become resilient, and improves performance through leadership, decision making, organisational transformation and creativity through innovation.

Mindful practice will also help an individual to choose between two paths, which are learner path and judger path. We tend to take the judger path naturally. This is due to lower awareness of our surrounding and to how our mind-set was moulded since childhood, to judge most of the things around us; which can be people, situations or even material objects. Mindfulness will help us to deviate from this common mind-set and perform well in our life.

Leaders who are mindful tend to be more effective, in understanding and relating to others, and motivating them toward shared goals. Mindfulness can help to reduce stress anxiety and conflict, and increases salience and emotional intelligence, while improving communication in the work place.

As Janice Marturano, former vice president at General Mills, and founder and executive director of the Institute for Mindful Leadership says in her book Finding the space to lead, “a mindful leader embodies leadership presence by cultivating focus clarity, creativity and compassion in the service of others.”

An introduction to mindful activities

This is a simple exercise in mindfulness. take a piece of paper and write down all the thoughts came into your mind reading this article. if you don’t remember, it is better if you could go back and read it, and then notice the thoughts that came into your mind while reading this article.

Mark the thoughts relevant to the article and the irrelevant thoughts that came into your mind. You will be able to see that there are lot of thoughts irrelevant to the article or to the subject of mindfulness have come, as well as a lot of judgemental thoughts.

To get better understanding regarding the relationships of mind, external environment and mindfulness, let us do another simple activity. Choose a paragraph from the article and try to read it again. Then try to memorise the words in the paragraph. Afterwards, read it again word by word, well focused and you will realise there were words that you have missed. What you have done is to skim over the paragraph, rather than reading it properly, which is why you have missed out these words.

This is how your mind works. This is how your daily life works. You tend to skim through rather than attending to details. Therefore, there is a great tendency to miss out most important details. Mindful practice makes your mind slow down the process of skimming and makes it more attentive to details around you. Consequently, mindfulness practice will help individuals to be more productive and effective in their working environment as well as in their daily life.

Being a mindful practitioner, you will be able to understand what is occurring at the present situation and to attend effectively. A more unobstructed and calmer mind-set will allow the individuals to improve their creativity and critical thinking; we will be able to overcome the situation in the country.

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Solar power in Vavuniya

Solar power in Vavuniya

Vydexa (Lanka) Power Corporation Offers Environmentally Friendly
Energy Solutions

The Energy sector – especially its renewable energy components such as solar energy – is an important segment of investment for the Board of Investment of Sri Lanka (BOI). Energy is important for both the public and for economic and industrial development.

Vydexa (Lanka) Power Corporation (Pvt) Ltd has set up, under the BOI, a 10 MW solar photovoltaic power plant in Kaththansinnakulam, in Vavuniya. The facility consists of 35,721 numbers of 350 W solar photovoltaic (PV) modules established on a land of 54 acres (22 ha).

The PV modules are fixed on a single-axis tracking system, which is capable of tracking the path of the sun throughout the day. This is the first project of this nature established in Sri Lanka and it uses 100% labour from local villages. The facility has therefore played a key role in uplifting the living standard of the people of the region.

Another important factor that needs to be taken into consideration is that this renewable energy project is extremely environmentally friendly, and has resulted in saving 3,800 tonnes of diesel annually to generate the equivalent amount of energy from thermal sources. Furthermore 16,000 te of carbon dioxide emission have been reduced annually, as a result of the use of solar energy.

Opportunity

In addition, as a result of this project, the local infrastructure has also been upgraded, including improvements to the road network, street lighting, religious places and even new direct and indirect employment opportunities created.
The solar photovoltaic collectors are normally mounted on a fixed slope in large installations, or as individual collectors to track the sun throughout the day and year. Tracking of the sun is continuous.

Solar Farms are generally set up on barren or unutilised lands. This is an opportunity to put to productive use any excess lands by setting up on such lands, large solar energy facilities. In the Vavuniya facility, it was done on a land previously used for gravel excavation.

Solar power offers new options for energy needs for a nation such as Sri Lanka which needs to industrialise in order to develop and create new opportunities for its population without sacrificing its pristine natural environment which is also a national asset in achieving that endeavour.


Dilip S Samarasingha
Director(Media & Publicity)
Board of Investment of sri lanka

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THE ICE PACKS HEAT UP WILL “TECHNOLOGICAL FIXES” WORK?

THE ICE PACKS HEAT UP WILL “TECHNOLOGICAL FIXES” WORK?

The recent heat wave in the Northern Hemisphere has brought a foretaste of what global warming – the ongoing long-term increase in the Earth’s average temperature, an aspect of climate change – can be like in future.

A recent study by the Union of Concerned Scientists, using 18 climate models to predict changes in heat and humidity across the contiguous USA, found that it will face a substantial rise in the number of extremely hot days. Even if something is done to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (blamed for climate change) this will occur, but if nothing is done, the impact could be far more harmful.

The heat wave engulfing Europe is heading north, which may have disastrous consequences. Unprecedented wildfires have been raging north of the Arctic Circle, so large that they are visible form space, causing climatic devastation.

“The northern part of the world is warming faster than the planet as a whole,” reported the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). “That heat is drying out forests and making them more susceptible to burn.” The resultant wildfires, it said, released a minimum of 50 megatonnes of carbon dioxide, greater than Sweden’s annual emissions.

The heat wave could also speed up the melting of the Arctic ice cap, particularly the crucial ice sheet covering 80% of Greenland – if this were to melt, it could cause a cataclysmic rise in sea levels, effecting all the world’s coastal cities. The recurrent flooding of seaside roads along the southwest coast of Sri Lanka may be a consequence of this – with dire ramifications for Sri Lanka’s tourist trade.

Artificial snow

Climate scientists in Singapore warn that the city-state’s coastal defences should be strengthened as a measure against sea-level rise. An increase in global temperatures of 0.5°C may lead to a 10cm rise in sea level, according to a study by a team led by Professor Adam Levermann, of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, which says that the West Antarctic ice sheet has begun a “self-sustaining ice discharge.” It says that the more than 3-metre concomitant sea level rise may cause severe problems in highly-populated coastal areas, including metropolitan cities – such as Colombo, Galle and Jaffna in Sri Lanka.

Melting of the sea ice in the Arctic can also accelerate climate change. A recent scientific paper indicates that the white surface of the Arctic ice pack is key to reflecting solar rays away from the Earth and reduce temperatures, preventing the faster heating up of the dark oceans. The shrinking of the polar ice cap, already at a record this year, may be worsened by the heat wave. Losing this ice cover would be the same as adding 1 trillion tonnes of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.

The acceleration in the melting of the ice caps is causing scientists to study how to ameliorate the effects. Professor Levermann, of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, told Reuters news agency that “We are already at a point of no return if we don’t do anything.” Levermann’s team of climatic researchers has come up with a radical proposal to thicken the melting ice by creating a layer of snow artificially. They suggest using over 12,000 wind-powered pumps to spray cold sea water onto the surface of the West Antarctic ice sheet, to create snow.

However, they warn that carrying out their proposal practically “would mean an unprecedented effort for humankind in one of the harshest environments of the planet.”

Particulate mist

This is just one of the less extreme schemes for offsetting the effects of climate change, which underline the growing anxiety among scientists. Harvard University professors David Keith and Frank Keutsch hope to launch a small-scale atmospheric experiment to test the feasibility of geo-engineering, i.e. altering the climate deliberately. This would be the first such experiment outside the laboratory.

They expect to launch a balloon, equipped with propellers and sensors, to high altitude. There, it would spray a fine mist of sulphur dioxide, alumina or calcium carbonate into the upper atmosphere. The sensors aboard it would then measure how much the mist particles reflect, how they scatter or combine and how they react with atmospheric compounds. This could lead towards scattering particulate matter on a large scale, in critical areas of the atmosphere, to reflect the sun’s rays before they can heat up the lower atmosphere.

However, one section of the scientific community is apprehensive that such experiments can legitimise the idea that there can be a “technological fix” for the effects of global climate change and prevent meaningful action being taken to prevent it, or at least slow it down. There are also fears that these experiments could lead to other, unforeseen problems, or to their use as weapons for intimidating smaller nations.

Savithri Guruge

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Colombo  Tech City

Colombo Tech City

Colombo Tech City is a project that the government of Sri Lanka has formulated for the development of the country, with particular emphasis on the area of scientific and technological innovation. It is the government’s major concept for developing the “Western Megapolis”, its ongoing project to convert Colombo and its environs into a multi-million population conurbation – whereby it hopes to haul the rest of the country into the 21st century.Tech cities exist elsewhere, points out Rahula Senanayake, Deputy Director (Promotion) at the Tech City project, in China, South Korea, Malaysia and Singapore. “Even in India they have 100 tech cities, whereas we have only one.”

Policy framework

However, the going is slow. The project is a many-faceted one, requiring the participation of multiple parties, and a slew of preliminaries for it to get off the ground.
In the first place, there is the need for a policy to be hammered out for the development of this type of hypothesized city.

This is complicated by the division of responsibility between different ministries, departments and authorities. Senanayake says that the policy framework for the Colombo Tech City is in the process of formulation but it is delayed, “because in Sri Lanka it is connected to different ministries.”
“We are under the Megapolis Ministry,” he elaborates. “This is a ministry where some of the identified projects to be implemented are taken forward, whereas other ministries have their focus on the subject area. So, automatically science, technology and innovation goes directly to the Ministry of Science and Technology.

But the project itself continues with our ministry. So some policy matters, need to be discussed, we should not allow overlap. It is a problematic question.”
Another issue, which causes considerable delay, is procurement of land for locating the Tech City projects.
“You especially need land for the development of this project,” Senanayake explains. “Land area is a question at the moment, because many of lands on which we have planned on developing Tech City projects, belong to private stakeholders, it is private property, so the government needs to acquire these lands.”
The Land Acquisition Act gives the Urban Development Authority (UDA) the power to carry out the process of acquiring suitable lands. However, the procedure is time-consuming.

Universities

When the Colombo Tech City proposal first emerged, the Sri Lankan university system was not included in the concept. However, about six year ago, the idea of integrating university campuses came up. Accordingly, the Ministry of Megapolis and Western Development included this notion, of universities connected to the Tech City Development Project, in the master plan.

“We have allocated a certain acreage, 15 or 20 acres,” says Senanayake, “for the Colombo, Sri Jayawardana Pura, and Moratuwa universities, so that they are directly connected. Now all the infrastructure facilities are being done. Other infrastructure services such as electricity, water and road networks are also now underway.”
Consequently, academia, and beyond, have linkages to Tech City, so that when a university comes up with research and development (R&D) concepts, they can be commercialised, associating with the process not only the younger generation, but also higher scholars at the universities – including the process of innovation and innovation within the entire Tech City programme.

It is an evolving programme. The new Technology Facility of the Sri Jayawardana Pura university took the first steps, and now Colombo and Moratuwa universities have developed their faculties dealing with research and innovations along the same lines.

Ecosystem

Research and development is not simply the purview of academia, however. For it to be vibrant, in needs to tie in with functioning areas of industry and services.
“We are also expecting research in the health care field. There are thousands of research institutes, whom we are inviting here. However, just a research institute on its own cannot survive, so we discussed the matter and decided on research based on a hospital. Patients using the hospital could be charged for the medical services they receive.

We think private parties would find this concept attractive.In order to attract vibrant start-ups, the business incubation system will be adopted – to facilitate small and medium enterprise development and innovation from among the younger generation. Senanayake expects this will enable knowledge acquisition and innovative product development.

“We are aware of other countries, who are very successfully doing this, so we are bringing academia into close proximity and making the required facilities available. Apart from the business incubation centre, we will, provide the commercialisation, linkages, and prototype production. We will provide the physical building for the incubation centre.”

Although there are several small business incubators in Colombo, this one will be larger. Tech City invites the small incubators to link up with them, so that they could also benefit. The business incubation centre will be linked to government agencies, but also to the private sector – “we realise that government institutions cannot do anything unless linked to the private sector,” adds Senanayake.

“So this would be Mahenwatte, in Homagama Tech City ” he explains. “The whole area will be one ecosystem, where your research institutions labs and academia universities and the students and the other SME support services, with a shared resource pool. That is what have made successes of Silicon Valley and other world famous tech cities.”

Iconic Building

The Sri Lanka Institute of Nanotechnology, the NSBM Green University, the military research unit and Standards Institution are up and running at the Homagama Tech City. Apart from that, John Keells and several other private institutions are connecting up. ICT-related companies have requested facilities such as supermarkets, restaurants and coffee shops in the vicinity, to serve their staff.

“We have requested famous suppliers to go and see and open up even temporary facilities, we can provide accommodation. We are planning to have an iconic building, called the ‘Iconic Building’. It will be facilitating all shopping, restaurants, car park and leisure areas, and everything else required. Even housing will also be provided in that complex.” Senanayake stresses that, for the private sector to invest, they need profit margins, to achieve which they must be able to go to profitable or bankable projects, otherwise there would be no point their investing. “That is why we are carefully selecting some projects. Private sector investors, whether local parties or foreign, they need to get a return, so they need carefully designed projects, not on such the iconic building, If it is merely a symbol, it would not be bankable. In order to make it bankable, we added many components inside the building.

The Iconic Building is envisaged to contain vehicle parking, government or non-governmental office area, a shopping mall, and housing, on all of which of money can be made. The multi-faceted facilities are linked to the Iconic building to make it an economically feasible, bankable project.

“The staff of Jayawardana Pura, Colombo and Peradeniya universities may make new appointments to these faculties, at least 1,000. They need facilities. So we have an immediate need for 1,000 housing units.”
Scholars, workers other staff members, who settle with their families, need education for their children. Since ending their children all the way to Colombo is difficult, they need educational facilities in the area. A very good government school, Mahinda Rajapaksa College, is located there. “However, some people might prefer a private educational institution. We have identified this need.

We have identified the land, and we need investment to run a private school, even up to university level.”
The Tech City master plan calls for providing employment to150,000 people. At the first stage, Universities are expected to provide over 2,500 new jobs in the three faculties they will set up at Mahenwatte. Another 2,500 job opportunities are envisaged in the next four years, making a total of about 5,000 new jobs, in the near future.

Yasas Nainanayake

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Road to  convenience

Road to convenience

The Maga Neguma project uses optimal technologies for developing rural roads

The need for road construction arose as civilisation progressed from the tracks made by humans and beasts. Civilisation needed paved roads for trade and communications. Fear of invaders retarded road development in Sri Lanka, which only gained access to a proper network of roads with the advent of the colonial rulers, who required them to ship produce from the interior to the ports.

However, the roads were concentrated in plantation areas, and did not serve the needs of the general population. Hence, road construction became an ever-increasing concern for successive governments since Independence.

In the 21st century, road infrastructure has become a core element in the country’s development strategy. Maga Neguma was born as an optimum solution to the country’s need of a technically savvy, quality conscious and object-oriented force in the construction of roads, and the related supply chain management and consultancy services spheres. The project operates under the purview of the Highways and Road Development Ministry.

Rural roads

In an interview with OSL, Maga Neguma Project Director Mangala Gunaratne offered the basic classification of roads into three major classes: A, B and E. While the A and B class roads are directly maintained by the Road Development Authority, the E class remains under the Provincial Council. About 70 per cent of the roads run across the rural hamlets.

“The main issue was the rural roads. Neither methodology nor institutions had been established in a proper manner to look into these rural roads. We commenced this project 10 years ago, mainly with the focus on the rural roads. The Highways and Road Development Ministry has the powers vested in it to implement the project.”

The Maga Neguma Project looks into the roads that come under the direct purview of the Provincial Councils as well as those which are not. Thankfully, the budgetary allocations for the road construction keep on growing on an annual basis. The project banked on the primary methods for road construction during the initial phase and launched several methodologies later. Two major methodologies are concreting and interlocking (using interlocked paving blocks).

Gravelling is another methodology adopted in addition to concreting and interlocking. Though primary in purpose, the methodology is ideal for wide roads especially in areas such as Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa. The gravelling focuses on transportability more than durability. Interlocking or concreting could be introduced as the next improvement.

 

Interlocking

Interlocking is the ideal methodology for the flat surfaces common in the Western, Southern, Northern and Eastern provinces. Concreting is perfect for mountainous areas such as central, Sabaragamuwa and Uva provinces.

The interlocking methodology is gradually gaining ground over concreting on several grounds. As Engineer Lasith Senaratne points out, “At a cost of LKR 1 m, the concrete can cover about 100 metres long and three metres wide. But at the same price, the interlocking will accommodate only 90 metres.”

However, in terms of maintenance, the interlocked road provides more benefits than its counterpart.

“Suppose you need to make a water tap line. You need to break up the concrete, whereas it is simply a matter of removing the stones if it is interlocked. You refix the stones after installing the pipeline. On the other hand, a concrete road cannot be used soon after being built [as the concrete needs to cure]. There is no such thing for interlocking roads. There are practical benefits,” Project Director Gunaratne explains. “

 

Durability

Yet, attitudes are an issue, according to Gunaratne. As the majority inhabiting the rural areas are used to the concrete, they have more faith in it. Attitudes, in fact, play a vital role in building public opinion, though it takes time. For instance, over time, the Maga Neguma project has earned a reputation in its own right, from the general public. As the years have gone by, the faith in Maga Neguma among the general public has grown.

“They believe in the durability of our road construction. We strive regularly to maintain that reputation. This is really important as most other projects are centred about money. Since we represent the government, we need to focus on all parties.”

As the government stakeholder, the project sources its labour from the villages. The very first aspect of the Maga Neguma is quality control, which is handled by the RDA. The contract will be offered following a strict selection procedure.

“We consult the local associations before hiring our recruits. That provides a conducive environment for most job-seekers.”

Quality control will be a long procedure if the provincial council permission is required. Following the executive engineer’s estimate, the testing will be performed by a government laboratory. Following the construction, the road will then be handed over to the relevant local authority for maintenance. As Engineer Senaratne notes, a repair will be likely only following a lapse of a minimum of 20 years.

Ran Mawath

Asked how much has been covered so far, Project Director Gunaratne observes that 50 % is complete. But the facts and figures may vary with the advent of new lands and new houses. The new lands and new houses mean new roads as well. It is a continuous process.

The new “Ran Mawath” Rural Road Maintenance and Construction Programme – a massive project of LKR 10 bn – is currently focusing on carpeting the roads, with special focus on the northern region. Only a few roads were constructed in the northern area owing to the practical difficulties stemmed from Provincial Council regulations.

The road construction has its own benefits for the people, especially those in the rural areas. Road construction may not pose much significance to the urban dwellers. But for distant rural villagers, it is a solution to a longstanding problem, often a question of life or death.

“I remember one road we constructed in Welimada. There was a hospital, but the road was dilapidated. Even a three-wheeler could not use the road. Once the road is built, the villagers were happy. They no longer have to lift the patients,” Gunaratne explains.

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An eco-friendly and  economical alternative

An eco-friendly and economical alternative

Electric trishaw

Sri Lankan engineer and University of Moratuwa lecturer Sasiranga de Silva’s name won much public attention recently. The buzz being that he had invented a trishaw (tuk tuk) driven by electricity. OSL-THE Investment Magazine interviewed him regarding this innovation.

De Silva had had a passion for sustainable energy systems and electrical vehicles since the days he was a university undergraduate. “After I joined the university of Moratuwa, I wanted to create electrical vehicles. We had an old [Austin Morris] Mini Minor in the automotive laboratory. I and three of our undergraduate students got together we converted this Mini Minor into an electric-driven vehicle, as a university final year project. We did a lot of research with that vehicle. We tried a range extender, apart from the electric drive. We installed a hybrid power-train where lithium-ion batteries connect with super-capacitors.”

There have been electric trishaws in Sri Lanka before [see box], but de Silva wanted to deliver a system to which could be retro-fitted to a vehicle previously fitted with a petrol or diesel engine.

Advantages

“After the experiments with the Mini Minor, we moved on to an old three-wheeler chassis, which was also at the automotive laboratory. I thought it would be a good candidate to be converted to electric driving, because three-wheeler chassis have very low weight compared to chassis of other vehicles. A car weighing 1500 kg can carry 5 passengers, while a trishaw weighing 350 kg can carry four passengers. If you compare the vehicle weight to the passenger carrying or the load carrying capacity ratio, the tuk tuk has a very high ratio.”

De Silva and his team tested the trishaw with different motor capacities. The last tested motor has a power of 5 kilowatts and it worked well. At present, the electric trishaw conversion kit uses Lithium-ion batteries for power as they have a longer lifespan and a balanced performance. The advantage of the electric motor is twofold: it delivers maximum torque, even at the minimum revolutions per minute (rpm) while not adding much weight to the vehicle.

“With fuel engines, you get low torque at low rpm. It gradually increases till reaching maximum torque at a particular rpm and drops down. With the electrical Motor, maximum torque can be achieved even at the lowest rpm. From lowest rpm to the maximum rpm, torque keeps at maximum” de Silva explains. “The weight of a fuel powered tuk tuk and this electrically driven one is quite similar.”

Lowering cost

The electric conversion kit costs LKR 350,000 at present, without government tax. De Silva is working on bringing the cost down, and plans to request a government tax concession. In his view, the possible final price would be between LKR 300,000 and LKR 400,000.

After conversion, the owner of an electric trishaw would see his fuel costs almost halving, according to de Silva. “With that saving, according to my my calculations, a driver who drives about 100 km a day can save around USD 1000 annually. The conversion would cost about USD 2000. So it would take around 2 years to recoup the investment.”

He and his team are trying different powertrains at the moment and conducting running tests within university premises. “Right now, we are trying to lower the cost of the kit, as tuk tuk buyers are price sensitive. The next step would be to get a testing licence from the department of motor traffic and do extensive road tests. I’ll have to drive this about 10,000 kilometres to see the robustness and the reliability of the components. Thereafter I can look into commercialisation.”

De Silva is confident that his brainchild would benefit the country. “Electric vehicles consume less energy and are more environment-friendly than fuel-driven vehicles, both in the long run and the short. There are over a million tuk tuks in Sri Lanka. The government itself has signed the Paris Agreement, promising to reduce harmful emissions. With this kit, we can not only reduce emissions but save money on fuel and crude oil imports as well.”

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The Lineja Vehicle-Washing Machine

The Lineja Vehicle-Washing Machine

The Lineja Vehicle-Washing Machine is mounted on a covered hand-cart. Opening the lids reveals a sink, into which wet washing-cloths are placed to drain them into the water tank, and a compartment in which washing tools and liquids can be stored. A photo-voltaic (PV) panel on one the inside of one of the lids charges the battery, which runs the pump. The pump runs water into a hose, at the end of which is a rose which emits a high-pressure near-mist, used to wash vehicles efficiently.

The machine can wash 7-8 vehicles before requiring its water tank to be refilled. It also has internet – linked camera for remote – monitoring.

OSL-THE Investment Magazine had one of its vehicles, which had acquired a coat of rural dust over the previous seven days, washed by a Lineja team. The operation took just 15 minutes to complete, and the run-off water only wet the forecourt paving below, insufficient to actually drain away – it simply dries off in a short time. The vehicle was cleaned most effectively.

At present, Lineja Enterprises is popularising the machine by deploying vehicle-washing teams to supermarket forecourts. CEO Thanuja Samarawickrama, however, hopes to find an export market as well, particularly in the Middle East.

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