Science and technology for
Sri Lanka in the 21st century.
Chandre Dharmawardana
National Research Council of Canada,
and Université de Montreal
Presentations of this PPT.
• Presented (version1) as a seminar at the Presidential
Advisors’ secretariat, Colombo, June 2009
• Presented (version2) as a seminar at The Institute of
Chemistry, Sri Lanka.
• Presented (version3) at The Open University,
Nawala, Sri Lanka.
• Presented (version4) as a seminar at ICTA, Colombo.
• Available (version A) on the web, at:
What is on the plate?
• THE 4 Long-term CHALLENGES For SRI
LANKA with population of 20x106 Increasing by 1000
a day  too much for sustainability.
1. Sea Inundation of coastal areas due to Global
2. Population  Energy crunch. Currently: 5000
kWh/capita increasing rapidly (USA is x50)  pollution
3. Population  Agriculture and water crunch
4. Multi-ethnic politics, There is a technical answer to
divisive Language Politics.
Population graphs and projections, Sri Lanka:
How many to feed ? – how many new jobs?
World problems and population
• Tendency nowadays to ignore the population
bomb claiming that “populations have stabilized”
• However, see
• “Scientific American”, June 2009 issue (this
• More than a billion in Africa have no food. See
the new book “Enough” by Roger Thurow and
Scott Kilman – uncontrolled population growth.
• Religions, traditional attitudes, & ethnic rivalry
hamper population planning and family planning.
Increased Population and Energy use are a
result of 20th century Technology.
• Now we urgently need
Population stabilization
• Sri Lanka will have to
cope with 30-50 x106
• Need lots more energy
• More energy use ↔ more
garbage, industrial
• More homes, no water !
• Expect ~1 to ~3 meters
slow rise in sea level
• Education and attitudes
lead to stabilization
• Need alternatives to
hydro and fossil fuel
Solar Energy, Thorium-232
(local nuclear energy source.)
• Replace irrigationagriculture by vat based
• Need a 2-5 meter high
dyke along the coast
Sri Lanka’s 1st challenge of the 21st century
• Ancient vision was irrigation
and tank-centered agriculture.
This vision is untenable for a
comsumer-oriented 30 million
• The nation was a leader in the
hydrulic civilization of the
ancient world
• Today we need a new
technological vision
• The old hydraulic vision
(Parakrama samudra,
Mahaveli etc) has to be
replaced by a vision of
building a Dyke around the
country and connective
• The Dyke is a ring road for a
fast rail network, work,
connectivity, ports, people.
• The Dyke protects SL from
Global warming and from
naval terrorism
Sea-level increase threat
Inundation will cover an area similar to the Tsunami.
Sri Lanka’s 1st challenge of the 21st
• The first need of development is security and
undisrupted connectivity (stop inundation and erosion)
• The sea-level monitors in Maldives have already shown
an increase in sea level. Sea erosion is real.
• Global-warming CANNOT BE IGNORED .
• SL has to start NOW to protect the island..
• Build a coastal Dyke-road and a SET of FAST railroads linked to it (public transport instead of cars)
• Such civil engineering creates JOBS and is consistent
with the ancient genius of the people.
Sri Lanka’s 2nd challenge of the 21st century
• The current use of
electricity (0.3kWh per
household) will have to
increase by a x of 10-20
• Efficiently use garbage
for energy and fertilizer
• SL’s wind-power potential
is not high (60,000 mW)
• Better potential for Solar
• Increase electricity
Tariff to subsidize solar
• Tropics: Solar Energy.
Follow Japanese Solarenergy policy.
• Use monazite in Thorium
breeder-reactors. Nuclear
Energy is a long-range,
expensive option.
OPTIONS – e.g.,
biomass for gas,
• heat pumps for cololing
False claims and crackpot science
• Anything that goes against the laws of
thermodynamics should be rejected
• Running the car by “burning water”! (H2O is the ‘ash’ !).
• Energy by making alcohol from straw
How much straw? Fermentation product has to be
distilled (costs more energy than you get out of it)
• Claims that “western science” is not
applicable in Sri Lanka.
• Claims that “divine power” can be used for
making predictions using “mediums”.
False claims and crackpot science
• Anything that goes against the laws of
thermodynamics should be rejected
• Running the car by “burning water”! (H2O is the ‘ash’ !).
• Energy by making alcohol from straw
How much straw? Fermentation product has to be
distilled (costs more energy than you get out of it)
• Claims that “western science” is not
applicable in Sri Lanka.
• Claims that “divine power” can be used for
making predictions using “mediums”.
Energy -repeat
• Hydro energy already exploited- expensive
capital investment (dams, turbines, grid)
• “Dendro” (burning biomass) now paying off
and carbon neutral (Dendro pioneer - Mega10 in Bibile)
• Solar energy NOT exploited – great potential but
expensive. Curent electricity tariff too low.
• Processing garbage for energy is A MUST
• Wind energy – Sri Lanka is moderately windy
• Geothermal sources (hot springs), heat-pumps
Comment about Solar and Wind power
• Wind-power installation costs in SL around $2m
per mW * (e.g., Kalpitiya, Haley’s).
• Solar panels, 5-8 acres per mW, and $2-3m per
mW *. This price* is going down. Subsidize or
• Float the solar panels on water in Tanks (cuts
evaporation) to exploit land area.
• The ancient “village+ tank + farming”
concept is upgraded to include solar-energy
farming using the tank area.
• *2009 prices are indicated.
Sri lanka’s 3rd tech challenge of the 21st
century – agriculture & water shortage
• Mahavaeli type projects
no longer viable.
• Practice minimum-water
• More Evaporation with
global warming.
• Bio-technology and DNA
based farming - (Plant
breeding and controlledGM)
• Grow in vats where the
correct DNA produces,
e.g., ‘tomato’ or ‘soya
paste’ or ‘vegetarian
chicken’ from nutrients.
• Shading tanks with solar
panels to cut evaporation
• Nitrogen fixation to
generated nutrients
• Biotech approach to
Agriculture, fertilizers and poisons
• The expanding population CANNOT be fed
using purely “green methods”.
• There is heavy overuse of pesticides, and
fertilizers in Sri Lanka – educate our farmers
reg. Arsenic (As), mercury (Hg), and over run of
phosphates etc., in water due to over-use.
• Power plants using coal emit As, Hg, SO2 etc.
• Big infrastructure and irrigation projects release
As, Hg, heavy metals to the environment.
• School Curricula have to deal with these topics.
Communication - Sri Lanka’s 4th Sc. &
Tech. challenge
• Communicate in
Sinhala, Tamil, Hindi,
English, Chinese,
i.e., multi-lingualism
needed in the global
market but people are
mostly unilingual.
• Diffuse the danger of
Language politics.
• Quantitative thinking
for the general public.
• The technological
revolution already
provides adequate
(but imperfect) on the
spot translations check your browser
• Computers, internet,
and information tech.
for every one
• Mathematics
• Language barriers (Sinhala, Tamil,
- basis of political agitation and civil strife
- hampers commerce and development
- yet we live in a “global village”
• There is a technical solution to these
“political problems”.
• Exploit the tech. solution !!!!
Consider three aspects of elanguage
• 1. Connecting Sinhala and Tamil writing to the ASCII
keyboard – easiest part
• 2. Rendering spoken Sinhala to spoken Tamil
and vice versa, for example., in a cell-phone
• 3. Translation of a Sinhala text into Tamil and vice
versa by a click on your browser.
(translation is imperfect but adequate – already
available for European languages)
• WE are NOT looking for translation of poetry or
• Translating precise legal text is actually easy!!!!
E-language, objective- page1
• Keys on a cellphone or keyboard (English) to
Sinhala or Tamil mapping schemes- nothing
new: Every symbol grouping has a Unicode
value and a corresponding Sinhala letter
grouping. See:
• Hence we can write on a standard English
Microsoft keyboard and output directly into
Sinhlala or Tamil letters.
• The cellphone does the translation/volcalization
E-language, objective page2
• Multi-lingual conversations from one mobile to
another is a feasibility. Each person talks in
his/her language.
• Tamil and Sinhala have nearly the same
grammatical structure and colloquial
• If a Sinhala sentence be taken and each word
be replaced with the corresponding Tamil word,
you already get a meaningful Tamil form.
• This is ENOUGH for most conversations via
a mobile telephone!
Mulit-lingual conversations in
• “Cell-phone accuracy” translations can be
done in several ways:
– Hardware using micro-processors (chips)
– Software in the cell-phone + memory
– Hybrid approaches
– ICTA can best approach this problem at
the software level.
– Same software for Sinhala↔Tamil browser
Multi-lingual Text messaging
• Many cell-phone talk, twitter, blog, e-mail
facebook etc., involve text messaging
• This involves the use of the standard ascii
• Text messages written in one language (say,
Tamil) can be instantly rendered into sinhala and
BOTH the Tamil and Sinhala Unicod versions
can be presented to the subscriber.
“LANGUAGE POLITICS” that has plagued this
country for over half a century.
• Given an electronically connected society, at
least SOME aspects of government can be
carried out by immediate e-voting.
• Example: legislation regarding information
processing etc., can be put to the IT community
and their opinion can be assessed via the
internet and cell-phone links.
• Eventually, elections can be conducted
electronically, avoiding the enormous
expenditure involved in the current style of
Managing e-waste
• In western countries, obsolete computers and
electronic equipment constitute the fastest
growing waste sector: e-waste
• E-waste contains toxic elements like Ga, In, As
• USA exports 80% of its e-waste to developing
countries, contravening international treaties
• We should require every seller of electronic
equipment to take back the defunct unit which
should NOT be put into normal garbage.
Conclusions regarding Language
• Information Technology (IT) can radically change
the confrontational character of language politics
by offering a cheap technical solution making
language legislation and “devolution” irrelevant.
• IT can democratize the process of government
by make it very easy to consult the public
• We have to deal efficiently with e-waste (toxic).
• FOUR BASIC challenges – Rising sea level, Energy
shortage, water shortages, and E-communication.
• The glory of the ancient hydraulic society can be
surpassed by the Sri Lankans in the 21st Century.There
is a wealth of competent local expertise but poor
• The energy sector is the key to development.
Raise electricity tariffs, subsidize Solar
• Political and economic success is tied DIRECTLY to
HAGGLING, or rejecting “western science” due to
misguided nationalism.
• Use technological solutions to political problems.

Science, technology and the 21st century: Sri Lanka’s …