Category Archives: Eco-Friendly

Modernization and Loss of Biodiversity

In the city and the villages that surrounded it where I grew up,  almost anything that one throws away grows (Plants and Seeds) on its own provided they did not rot away due to too much water.

There was no need to water plants and like a clockwise fashion rain did come in 10 to 14 day cycles even in the dry season.

Inter-monsoon rain was regular and now I understand and believe that the vegetation itself fashion this rain and its cycles. 

More trees mean more regular  inter-monsoon rain. 
Less trees means less rain, for sure, inter-monsoon period.

I lived for short period in Kurunegala and we moved there since doctors advised my father to move out to reduce the recurrence of wheezy episodes I had in Kandy, when very young.

I moved back and never had any problems and the problems were probably, related to growing up and poor nutrition, I ponder now.

That is just to restate the damply state of affairs of my city, yesteryear.

Even Kurunegala the weather, then, when compared to as it is now with lot of vegetation and coconut trees was very mild with more frequent dry spells than in Kandy.

Now we are going through perennial failure of rain and even the rain fails in the upcountry regions where the most of the hydroelectric  power plants are located.

All these are related to modernization and clearing up of scanty vegetation for what we call development. It is going to get worse and there is no master plan to arrest it except adding more vulnerable projects including coal power plants.

Coal Power Plants will cause irreversible damage to our eco-system and by the time it is recorded by scientific pundits I would have been long gone (Dead wood sitting on a cremation site) but I hope somebody will trace back to year 2005 where I started voicing this on a regular basis in the web.

It would have been earlier had it not been for the slow pace of development of the web but the slow pace of the printed paper of course accelerated my efforts.

Now I have made it a pastime and I study what I call the “my sphere of activity” (very limited indeed) and its observation and I want everybody who is versed in biology (or not) would contribute to this type of observations and record since we cannot believe the government and will never make any worthwhile consideration (except pass legislation they, themselves violate with political patronage and impunity) to this effort since politicians and their stooges won’t understand their policy impact on mother nature.

Like the mess we have inherited with cricket after 1996 and filling up an ancient tank and building a cricket ground on it is the classic example of the idiocy of our policy makers cricket or otherwise.

We are set for power cuts in spite of thermal power added to the system.

Now if I do not water the plants including water plants they will dry up and wilt away in as short as three days.
Unfortunately there is nobody to help me with a little background knowledge in biology to look after my plants.

If I go out for a short holiday for two weeks abroad all the plants I have collected over the period of a decade will be no more.
I am late in using my power of observation since when we were young we did not have to worry about plants wilting away.
The observation period is over 25 years.
This started rapidly from 1975 when plantation section was nationalized.
Everything I observe is in the direction of loss of bio-diversity.
The little exotic (I have lost all the orchids) plants I have now if I do not replant will be lost, if not in the wild, but in my garden which is very very tiny.
Lot in my neighbourhood has changed and except for the remaining jack-tree and the breadfruit tree (which is gradually dieing) which stand tall, all the other trees have been felled by the owners and all the tree shade/s we have now is / are less than 20 years old.
Glad to say I have contributed to many of the remaining ones with a few exotic palm trees in that lot.
None of them were for commercial value but for shear beauty of their presence in my garden.
Now I have to make a significant observation and this writing was prompted by need to emphasize that.
We live in a small hill (in the middle) not very step but the road now we use is where the waste water ran down and I believe there was a little stream trickling (probably during the heavy rainy season) down and the underground water table is very near the surface with solid rocks on top and we were without pipe born water and we had to dig a well for our daily use.
It took another 10 years to get the pipe born water and with my friends who were engineers (they worked hard) were instrumental in the Nilambe Project from which present politicians in the city steal water when they come for a respite from Colombo.
Particular president made sure he gave connections only to his partisans and I had to wait till he died for everybody in the area to get a regular water supply and that was the only time we had a president from the hill country.

Now what they do is surreptitiously divert our water to Kandy and elsewhere and depriving us at times of greater need.

Suffice is to say they never started a new scheme for a long period of time.
There was a natural shallow well at our level which we used liberally during the construction of the house and I used to take a bath on some days for pleasure.
There were plenty of fresh water crabs there (they are gone now) and I had saved couple of big crabs who landed on our low roof to safety who had escaped on flight from birds of prey. 
You should not believe that the crabs could fly on to my roof. Way our politicians travel by air I have to believe even frogs and crabs would learn to fly if they happen to be partisan with politicians, with or without wings.
The whole place is dry now in spite of ancient minor stream long long time ago.
We came to this area when water was becoming scarce but there was still some underground water, left.
Now to my point and re-directing my thoughts and the reason why I came this far.
1. I said I live in the middle.
2. The road was once where there would have been a minor stream now totally dry.
3. Unlike those days which I drove a car I walk up the road for my exercise which is my workout and the day I cannot walk up the road I would retire from this world for good and do not need a bypass or a borrowed organ or two to live
as a living destitute.
4. Unlike those days (it was a brisk walk,then) now I take my time to watch the flora and fauna (now dogs and cats only and a few birds).
5. I one day notice the flowers of the seeds I tried to grow in my plot but could not on the wayside at the beginning which is the ground zero level.
5. Seeds that I used to get sometimes from abroad are germinating in not my plot of land but in the plot of land at the bottom.
6. All the seed I put at the middle level could have got washed away and settle at the lowest level.
7. Strangest of my observations was a white flower (I got the seeds from botanical garden and tried to grow in our plot but never succeeded). Very pleasant surprise and the owners had left to Canada over 20 years ago and that house is still empty and once in 5 years somebody cleans it up and there was no way the cleaner (not a gardener) had planted it.
Few of them are still there.
8. Same day I went to the botanical garden from where I got the seeds (from the hanging runners coming over the fence). To my horror those runners have all gone, no flowers and dried up stems were seen in a tall tree.
I think I did some honours to the Botanical garden for picking few seeds (which I never was able to see  flowering in my garden) and spread in my garden which had got washed away and landed on a foreign soil where nobody was living now.
9. The sense of sympathetic joy was overwhelming and that is why I have to pen it down here.
10. I now remember, just couple of meters away there was an exotic plant and on a rainy day dug up the yams and I now have an enormous collection (personal favorite) of it in my roof garden.
This Sunday when I walk up I will be picking up some seeds from that flower and then try again to germinate them, and perhaps I might even donate it to the botanical garden chief (previous one was a good friend of mine and I never asked him for any exotic plants except those on sale.
The present one when I met, I suggested  he should start selling water plants (which has become a monopoly of a selected few) and I am glad to say he has obliged and there are a few new guys doing water plants in Kandy now.
I should now go for cuppa tea and wind up after stating from whom I learned the secret of throwing seeds all over the foot path (by accident) where I walk, now, though ambling.
It was my wife’s grandma.
She had the habit of spreading the seeds all over the garden and I used to pull most of them out to get some order in the garden. She was a sweet lady and she needed flowers for her daily offering to Buddha and we had at least 5 varieties almost everyday.
Now she and her daughter and my mother all gone we cannot pluck two varieties on a single day.
Strangely enough my roof top garden has three to six including three varieties of Jasmine which I grow (a trick I learned from her) in the memory of my mother who died well past 90 (and the other two ladies too I fondly remember when I see these flowers).
I wish I should not live that long since then there won’t be any birds or wild flowers to smell in this blessed island.
But as long as I could walk up the footpath (any footpath, for that matter) I am going to pluck dry flowers and spread the seeds like birds do.
I don’t care where they start germinating and like a good Buddhist I have to lose attachment to any worldly thing including flowers from now onward.
In this scenario I differ slightly from Buddhist virtues.
I want our great great grandchildren to have a reminder of the old times not of my photographs but some beautiful and fragrant flowers which we are losing by the day.
We do not have bees and the the little innocent black variety which were there for over 20 years and they come collect honey from my tiny water plants.

20 years ago there was a seed i tried to germinate by various mean but never could.Then one day I asked the lab assistant who was a keen gardener and my patient till he died when nearing 90 told me that the seeds crack when there is intense heat and then when the rain comes it germinate and if i soak the seeds it will rot.
Just today I picked up three of those plants to pot before they are run by the three wheelers. The road now finished with concrete to lure the voters get heated up and the seeds on either side crack and germinate.
Suffice it to say all the seeds coming from a plant / tree my mother in law planted.
When generation take the exit pathway like in America we will have only commercial growers and mono-culture.

Rough Guide to the Tree Equivalent of Man and their Re-plantation

This is not referring to the commercial scale of replacement since the rate at commercial scale exploitation cannot be estimated to any accuracy.
This is based on the use of tree, timber and its products by man during his productive life.
If we were to sustain each man or women has to grow at least 10 trees and maintain them till their mature life. This  has to be done in 4-5 year cycles and older you (above 35 years) are the cycle has to be at least 1-2 years.

Ideally each man or woman plants a tree on his / her birthday!

1. The use as timber products for roofing and housing

2. To replace the use of paper products
3. Use of fire wood (this has to be in relation to the use)
4. The use of furniture
5. Wastage in every production line
6. The trees not sustaining themselves due to bad planting or weather conditions
7. The last 4 are for unaccountable felling and vandalism encountered and may have to vary according to the country.

This amount is to keep the balance of nature. If one has a house with 4 adults in it this estimate makes it 40 trees around their neighbourhood and the way the houses are built in a city next to each other there is is no room for to grow enough trees.

Not even a single tree or hedge to act as windbreaks and shade. (please look at how rich Americans build their houses and walkabouts).
That means every major city has to have a buffer zone (this is how the ancient people built cities) of tree cover equivalent the population that is incarcerated in the name of development.

Colombo city can never regain its splendor what ever we do now for it.

The Kandy city has almost 3 three times population density of Palestine Refugee Camps and we are going to be no different to Israel in another 10 or 20 years.

We are losing it faster than it’s regeneration.

Regarding the commercial exploitation the re-plantation has to be according to the tree’s cycle. If the tree grows to maturity in 4 years for every tree harvested 4 should be planted and only a few trees fall into this category.

For some trees, if it is lost it is lost for ever.

They take may be 400 to 500 years for it to grow to maturity and often not reproducing fast enough due to their longevity and this simple equation cannot be applied in recreating it natural habitat.

This is only a rough estimate and we have lost about 60% of our forest cover in 50 years of unsustainable use.

I do not think these people with mega-development ideas have understood the problem or have insight into the matters of concern we are facing now.

The have no futuristic goals but presence of mind for exploitation.

Very soon we will be like Dubai, the work we have to do now is enormous if we are to arrest these trends.

Growing Grass Under My Feet

Growing Grass Under My Feet

It is high time that we calculate the CO2 foot imprint of every living human being on this planet before it is too late.

It is one of the most important mathematical exercise that we can undertake now.

It may be easy to do that on an animal say a cow but it may be an extremely difficult proposition for even a forest dweller of today.

Since he carries his cell phone and at least a box of matches or a lighter to the deep jungle, his carbon footprint cannot be even remotely compared to a pre-historic man. Where ever he set foot even the deep-sea shore he leaves behind lot of CO2 footprints.

What we can do is to calculate it for an average American and then compare with a Chinese, Indian and hypothetical man who lives for 60 years.

On the alternative we can calculate for a bull or cow and extrapolate that to a sedentary American man.

American Man eats 3 to 4 cows by the time he is 45 and probably 5 by the time he says good-bye having consumed every possible advantage and resources available on this planet earth.

Then we calculate for a hypothetical bionic man who needs energy for all his activities including his air travel from say New York to New Delhi and all over the globe in one year to schedule a typical American company owner.

Then we have to figure out how many Americans live hand to mouth existence with minimum of a car ownership.

The equations will go like this

1.  5 bulls X USA (poor American)=USA (poor)

2.  USA X USA (Wealthy American) roughly equivalent to 25 bulls

3.  Total Bull consumption  = A x USA X USA (Wealthy) + B x USA (poor)

A= Total Rich Americans 

B= Total Poor Americans

4. Now 3  has to be divided by (American census-minus rich Americans)

5. Now 3 has to be divided by  (American census-minus poor Americans)

4 and 5 gives the ratio of consumption in nearest approximation to current American Standards

The results 4 and 5 should be multiplied to get a total figure

This figure should be now divided by the total current human population

My estimate even without going into nitty-gritty of the equation is like this.

  1. An average American (poor) will have a figure of 1000

  2. A rich American will be 1000 x 1000

  3. Average Chinese is 100

  4. Rich Chines will 100 x 100

  5. An average Indian will be 10

  6. Rich Indian 1000 x 10000 (more than that of a rich to American

The total CO2 foot print of China comes first.

America comes second. 

And India comes 3rd even though the population come only second to China since after many years of open policies some Indian still live and breath air and do not produce much CO2 since their meals are going down including onions.

This is what India call it 21st century progress and send rocket to the space and moon and still find a way to fail in Cricket World Cup including completing of venues.

While China is barely able to feed its masses India has failed to make a square meal for the poor whereas a poor American eats 100 times equivalent to a poor Indian.

Mind you a rich Indian with a Maharaja Image produces much CO2 footprint than an American. This equation has nothing to do with the bank balance or capital of an individual except it’s somewhat close relationship with affluence.

There are some rich people who do an enormous amount of work to decrease our impact on the planet and I appreciate their efforts. This is an indirect complement to them.

I  want an American Scientist to disprove my equation and discovery and publish a relevant article in the prestigious magazine, American Scientist.

While all this happening I grow grass under my feet to cushion the CO2 foot prints of mine with my urine added to make it’s growth luxurious unlike our banana growers.

Bamboo and the Windbreaks

This fastest growing plant rather a grass is one of the most vandalized plant in this country. Since it is growing fast we take for granted to destroy at every opportunity available and never care to plant any.

I have never seen a nursery for bamboo even though there are hundreds of varieties.

These plants are not seen in the temperate countries and in early as 18th century Americans took them from Asia and started growing them as ornamental plants.

 

While they do research on these plants we vandalize them.

 

Why?

 

We have plenty of them and we do not care for the mother nature.

 

If I write one plant a day and continue I may have to continue for years how we destroy our wealth of plants.

 

The plants going extinct were never recorded in our history and we have not even begun to take an inventory as a proactive exercise.

 

This is not to elaborate on that issue but to state how bamboo tree protects our river beds and roads that run along the rivers.

 

The do protect the embankments but what our guys do is to chop them at will since they are not protected by the local authorities.

 

River basin and embankment is nobody’s business in this country.

 

It also act as a windbreaks.

 

It cools the air on a warm day with with gentle air currents.

 

Not only that it reduces our CO2 foot prints.

 

None of these are taken into accounts since our guys who gets to the parliament have never studied any including social science and not at all pure science.

 

They use environment issues to form green parties but never practice what they preach once they get there.

 

If we want to do as little as possible for our mother nature grow a few bamboos around river path and the surrounds.

 

Like eating a banana a day (not poisoned by UREA) is healthy for our life growing a bamboo a day would protect our rivers, roads and environment (air) too.

 

That is my message for today.

Coconut Tales of Tail Spin and the Windshield of Whirlwind

Coconut tree which lives over 50 years of productive life sometimes more than 80 years if left untarnished by human activity lives behind a tell tale story of the weather beaten life.

If one looks at a human face at 80 (eighty) it leaves behind a sad tale of wrinkles but never leave behind the tale of destruction he or she has caused over his or her life time, leave alone the junk that is collected and left behind.

On the contrary, the coconut tree tells us all the rough times it has had over the years, if we look at the way the trunk had twisted and turned against the air current around it, it bears the true tale of forbearance.

What a contrast?

In fact it can tell the exact time of the last grand cyclone it had managed to withstand on its own.

Unlike the humans they are a barometer of wind currents of today and tomorrow.
If one looks at its leaves, the gentle rustle they create with the wind and how it raises a rhyming tune with some alarming whirring of a whirlwind, foretelling a thunderstorm that is about to land is something we have taken for granted but never given thought in any scientific manner.

We take it for granted that the water is abundant but at the same time pollute it in every possible way from Adams peak to the sea.

The same story is true for the coconut tree.

It is vandalized to the stem and we cry hard only when the coconuts go high in price but never cared to listen to its story and the windshield it creates on a daily basis.

My observation days back to my childhood inquiry not necessarily based on any scientific themes. If I wanted to fly a kite I look at the coconut trees and their leaves and then bring out the kite if I consider the conditions are favorable.

Then I go to a place where I can get the kite over the coconut trees quickly and off I go with the wind.

I never paused to think what a service it does as a wind breaker.

This little piece is to finally put to rest and peace of my mind with the wind physics (theory) of biological nature and facts which I call the biophysics of coconut saga.

I should have done this decades ago!

Not only the coconut tree stands to the wind upright but it divide the wind to upstream high and a downstream gentle for us to live in peace. This we forget when we chop it for fast growing development and consumption as timber.

It is the scene of coconut trees that touches my heart when the plane lands at Katunayake. It was strikingly beautiful 30 years ago but now we see s few coconut trees near the airport and the sudden thud of landing.

The landing is also not as smooth as it used to be.

I even go to the extend of saying that the planes used to land smoothly due to the coconut plantation driving the unnecessary tailspin and head wind currents well above the plane as it touches down making it easy for the pilots to land.

Think about it this as food for for thought for scientists who are hell bent on discovering new source of energy along with foot prints of destruction.
I wish our veteran pilots do some study on this keeping in mind those who were on service during the second world war II might know it better than the present day autopilot youngsters.

Coconut tree is a wind breaker and a windshielder.

Of course it will provide its trunks to climb when the next tsunami comes if we start growing thousands and thousand of them around our beaches instead of constructing polluting hotels that divert the sewerage to the sea.

This is my wishful thinking but I am sure more trees will be down to move the fast development trends of our political mights.

Good Bye my friend windshield and welcome thy whirlwind of destruction in the name of construction!

Majestic Elephants

This is a country run with Mega Mania Memorabilia (3 Ms) but unable to look after our majestic elephants.

Three years ago one of the tuskers was dead due to negligence and dehydration after a so called majestic pageant that paraded the hill country.

Then recently a giant tusker was dead in captivity and the popular story circulating round is he was let to die to get the tusks for ornamentation in high office.

Then comes the floods in the East.

A young dead elephant is trapped in a tree. First of a kind of news item and quite relevant in context.

That tells the sorry story of our majestic heritage and how we care.

It is an eye opener for the world if not for this blessed country.

We had 90% forest cover at the beginning of the last century and had over 60,000 elephants.

By mid last century the estimate was 6000 in the wild.

I do not believe we have 600 left in the wild now and the the forest cover is less that 20% now not enough to sustain vegetation let alone elephants.

We are going to commission two mega coal power units in the near future.

The forest cover will be reduced to 10% within a decade of their operation due to acid rain and the environmentalist are hiding behind the saffron clothed M.P.s.

Very soon we won’t have a place in the jungle to meditate in quiet solitude.

Mega mania development will sacrifice the rest of the trees in the name of development efforts.

Very soon we have to import coconut timber with coconuts on top.

Last tsunami a few people survived by climbing on top of coconut trees.

We have mega floods after 53 years in the East and there are no coconut (palms) trees grown for 6 years after the tsunami to climb onto.

But we have election after election to elect representative who ruin this country.

Mega Mania Memorabilia at its best!

The carnival goes on!

Thinking before the leap

It is unfortunate that man is the biggest polluter on the planet earth and he thinks only after the fact or afterward.

This is very relevant today with flash floods in different parts of the world.

He thinks the rivers and sea are dumping places for his economic activity.

He does not care for the river basin or its management and install industries upstream and discharge all the waste to the river and its basin around. This is seen in India, China, USA and all European countries.

It is true of Sri-Lanka too.

From the time of Portuguese this has happening in this land. They started with a port called Colombo and the Kalani river is the most polluted of all.

Then he invents filters and the like to purify water.

We might even invent nanotechnology but is it worth if we continue to pollute our soil and water?

We have water cutting ceremony every year and it is time to rethink and revisit our heritage.

Pure drinking water we had 100 years ago.

More development more pollution that is the equation which we cannot understand with the big brains we have.

We need not have to filter if we do not pollute it in the first place.

Is there a single river or stream in this country which hails for over 40 rivers and streams that we can sip some water for thirst without any treatment?

If we cannot drink it does not matter.

We can filter or boil it.

What about the animals who try to live with us.

Can a stray dog drink a bit of pristine water on a Poya Day!

When we see the sorry stage of our stray dogs I begin to wonder is it a Buddhist country in practice anymore?

We had Kings who cared for animals but can we say the same thing about the elected elite!

That is my message for the first Poya Day. of year 2011.