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Friday December 9th, 2022

Gas shortages in Sri Lanka lead to innovative use of computer cooling fans for cooking

File photo – GAS LINE: People waiting in line to get gas in a suburb of Colombo, Sri Lanka.

ECONOMYNEXT –As Sri Lanka’s economy free-falls and thousands wait in queues for increasingly scarce cooking gas, enterprising Sri Lankans have found an innovative shortcut to make wood-fire cooking easier: by using a computer cooling fan to fan the flame.

Shanaka Perera, a 48-year-old entrepreneur who was fed up with waiting in line for gas cylinders, decided to take matters into his own hands. With a little help from YouTube, the Kesbewa resident built a do-it-yourself (DIY) contraption using a flower pot.

“With no gas, cooking has become a science project. We’re forced to find alternatives to get food on the table,” said Perera, who had to close down his plastic recycling company due to expensive raw materials.

He and his family of four are now dependent on his past saving.

“I watched some YouTube videos and made a cooker that uses a computer cooling fan to fan the flame when lighting the firewood,” he explained.

Perera inherits his tech-savviness from his father who was a marine engineer.

“This idea came to me when I was trying to find an alternative to avoid spending long queues and wasting my time. Finally, I ended up with this innovation,” he said.

He bore into a hexagon shape of a flower pot and first used an electric blower to provide air to fuel the fire on charcoal and firewood. But soon he found that the blower was too strong and ash was coming out of the new burner when he started to cook. He had to find something that blow the air slower. He found that a computer fan was the perfect solution.

The project cost Perera only 1,500 rupees (4.2 US dollars), cheaper than kerosene cookers and hot plates which are now sold between 8,000 to 10,000 rupees due to higher demand as Sri Lanka’s economic crisis worsens.

Thousands of Sri Lankans wait in queues for days for cooking gas and kerosene. Many are compelled to eat out at restaurants and street food stalls.

Last week, people protested, blocked roads to let out their frustration, and shouted slogans against President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his government demanding gas, but to no avail. The government-controlled cooking gas retailer Litro Gas supplies filled cylinders only when it collects enough US dollars to pay gas shipments which have been waiting outside Colombo harbour for weeks.

Some bought electric burners, but they are soon discouraged by higher electricity costs and extended power cuts, as well as the lack of fuel in the absence of dollars.

Creativity, however, was not in short supply.

Some innovators even used scrap metal to cook their meals.

“I have made a cooker with scrap metal, a rice cooker, computer cooling fan and a clay pot, G U P Malavige, who collects scrap metal for a living at the commercial heart of Colombo, told EconomyNext.

“The total investment for the project was 2000 rupees. It cooks three curries in 45 minutes and takes up only a little bit of electricity.”

Suddenly computer fans are in high demand in Sri Lanka and, as a result, prices have almost doubled.

Suresh Jayathilaka, the owner of Ace Technology, which sells computer fans said many come into this store looking for them to make cookers with.

“Many customers are coming in asking for cooling fans to make cookers and stoves. In my stock, I had 20 fans and I’ve sold all of them and now I have nothing to offer until the supplier sends me my order. People are finding alternatives from all over,” said Jayathilaka.

As Sri Lanka’s ongoing forex crisis affects making payments for shipments of gas and fuel through Letters of Credit (LCs) amid payment delays by banks, citizens are forced to stand in line for hours to meet their daily needs.

Alarmingly, the death toll whilst waiting in queues has shot up to eight, pushing people more towards alternatives.


Eighth Sri Lankan dies after waiting in line for fuel

Sri Lanka’s Litro raises LP gas price to record high

Some people use alternatives like polythnene and plastic instead of firewood as rains have left firewood too wet. The kerosene shortages aren’t helping matters.

“The problem is there is no kerosene in the market. So to start the fire we cut out a small piece of polythene and stick in between the wood,” said Lakshika Danthasinha who was forced to cook using firewood due to the shortage of cooking gas.

“We don’t buy firewood. We use whatever we have. We use dried coconut shells, dried palm leaves, and the husk of the coconut. This works because after we cook we use the ash as a fertilizer for our plants. It is almost like a zero-waste method that can be used in our own backyard,” Sarath Ariyratne, a 52 year old a professional fish breeder in Pilyandala said. (Colombo/May16/2022)

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Sri Lanka president slams power regulator chief after conflicting with minister

ECONOMYNET – The powers to change the electricity tariff in Sri Lanka is vested with the Minister of Power and not the Public Utilities Commission (PUCSL), President Ranil Wickremesinghe told the Parliament.

The minister of Power and Energy, Kanchana Wijesekara has requested an upward price revision to be implemented in two phases both in January and July next year, saying the recent tariff hike was not enough for the state-run utility provider Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) to continue uninterrupted power supply.

However, Jaynaka Ratnayake, the Chairman of the PUCSL had said  the recent tariff hike is enough for the CEB to cover the cost of production and it will not allow another price hike. However, he has said a twice a year price revision is necessary though it should be in April and October instead of January and July.

President Wickremesinghe said the PUCSL chief was opposing the tariff hike due to his personal reasons.

“The power is vested with the Minister and me. I am the one who made the PUCSL act and I know what is in it,” Wickremesinghe told the parliament on Thursday. quoting a letter from the Attorney General which mentioned provisions in the island nation’s Electricity Act.

Accordingly the Act, the PUCSL would be statutorily obliged to give effect to such policy. It is observed that neither the Act nor the PUCSL Act contains any provisions that empowers the PUCSL to change or act invariant of such policy guidelines.

“The Chairman of the PUCSL is misguiding the general public. I have to meet him and see,” Wickremesinghe said.

WIckremesinghe said the Chairman does not want the tariff hike because he owns one of the highest electricity consuming companies.

“He is the Chairman of the Trillium corporation. It is the firm that takes up the most energy”, he said.

The Trillium group is managed by Janaka Ratnayake and he also holds positions as the chairman and CEO of Trillium Property Management & Services Ltd., City Housing and Real Estate PLC, Trillium Residencies Ltd., Computer Care (Pvt) Ltd., and Rent a Comp Services (Pvt) Ltd., and JR Management Consultants (Pvt) Ltd.

“It means when the electricity bill increases, his expenses increase as well”

He said the CEB still has a loss of 300 billion rupees since 2013 and it needs to be covered.

The CEB issue can be solved only in three ways, either printing more money, increasing value added tax or increasing the tariffm, he said. (Colombo/Dec08/2022)

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Sri Lanka President bemoans over inconsistent LNG deals

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka President Ranil Wickremesinghe bemoaned over successive governments’ liquefied natural gas (LNG) deal that has brought in all the world powers into the discussion.

Wickremesinghe’s center-right United National Party (UNP) had discussions with India and Japan between 2002-2004 for an LNG project.

“Following dialogues with India and Japan, the UNP government could come to agreements to get two LNG power plants. After we were defeated the successor government, without cancelling those agreements granted it to New Fortress company in USA,” Wickremesinghe told the parliament.

“Thereafter, as they did not like New Fortress, they gave it back to Pakistan and China. So within the same premises, there were China, Pakistan, India, USA, Japan and only Russia was not there.”

“It was wonderful that a world war did not ignited there as there were five main powers in the world.”

“Now there is no LNG or anything here and now they ask me to solve this issue.”

Wickremesighe’s outburst comes as his government is forced to raise tariffs on power prices after successive governments failed to implement cheap and renewable power generation projects.

He said a total loss for the state-run Ceylon Electricity Board since 2013 was 300 billion rupees and a possible drought next year could increase the 2023 electricity cost to 420 billion rupees.

“If it rained, we need Rs. 352 billion while Rs. 295 is required if rained so much to have floods. How are we going to find this money? We would have to print money, but Rupee would depreciate. We would have to increase VAT but it would increase the price of all commodities or to charge it direct.” (Colombo/Dec08/2022)

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Air quality drop forces Sri Lanka to close schools; public warned

ECONOMYNEXT – A rapid drop in air quality in Sri Lanka has forced the Colombo government to close all schools across the country after a deep depression over Southeast Bay of Bengal, officials said.

The Education Ministry, issuing a special notice on Thursday said, it has decided to close all government schools for Friday, after discussing with the officials in Meteorology Department and Disaster Management Center.

An official said the drop was due to the deep depression over Southeast Bay of Bengal carrying the air from India.

Due to the depression over South east Bay of Bengal (370 km east of Trincomalee) has concentrated into a cyclonic storm “Mandous” by Wednesday night.

“Cyclone in the Bay of Bengal that is the prime reason for the increase in the pollution load as we receive more wind from India,” H.D.S.Premasiri, Senior Scientist, Coordinator-Air Quality, noise and vibrations at National Building Research Organization (NBRO) told EconomyNext on Thursday.

Officials said there is a likelihood of the cyclone moving west-northwestwards and further intensify into a severe cyclonic storm tonight and cross North Tamil-Nadu, Puducherry and South Andhra Pradesh coast around midnight of 09 th December and the maximum wind speeds will be 70-90 km per hour and can increase up to 90 in sea areas.

“Hopefully, today we can expect normalization in the environment and the effects of the fog will disappear”.

According to the NBRO’s real time Air Quality Index Indicator, the quality of air in northwestern coastal district of Puttalam has dropped drastically and indicated a particular matter (PM) 132, while Kegalle (85) and Mannar (84) were the districts which had next worst air quality.

According to NBRO, Battaramulla, Polonnaruwa, Dambulla, Kegalle, Mannar and Puttalam indicate a poor quality of air due to higher PM.

“The fog will lead to lung and breathing issues,” Premasiri said.

“So the public is warned to wear a mask when they travel outside. The pollution highly prevails in city areas and has a less impact on the other parts of the areas.” (Colombo/ Dec08/2022)

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