Monday, December 5, 2016

The Gathering (elephants): Natural?

The Gathering (of elephants) in Minneriya or Kaudulla National park are considered one of the great wild life spectacles of the world, comparable to the Great migration in Serengeti.  The gathering of over 300 elephants in Minneriya occurs during the dry season of May-Sep.

The gathering is however a result of  environmental engineering two thousand years ago.  The 87 km (54 miles) Elahara canal was built by King Vasabha (67–111 AD).   King Mahasen (277-304 AD) built Minneriya Reservoir and connected it to the Elahara Canal. Currently Elahara canal starts from Amban river near Elahara and carries water to large reservoirs in north, Minneriya, Girithale, Kaudulla (Tissavadamanaka of Mahasen) and Kantalai reservoirs.
Click for Map Link

Its not just the Gathering at Minneriya. Sri Lanka has been environmentally re-engineered for over 2,000 years.  The 30,000 odd reservoirs/tanks and associated wetlands have changed the dry zone into oasis of water and wetlands for both animals and humans.

Not only has the environmental engineering changed biodiversity, it has changed social structure. Building and maintenance of village tanks was done by the village community. This resulted in a more egalitarian society, specially compared to the rest of South Asia.

Reservoirs were not built just for irrigation. It was, for example, traditional to build a forest tank in the jungle above the village. That tank, however, was not used to irrigate land: on the contrary, its express purpose was to provide water to wild animals and, hence, to reduce the likelihood that they would descend into the paddy fields and destroy the crops in the search for water (Goldsmith)

Sir Emerson Tennent in Ceylon; an Account of the Island Physical, Historical vol 2 considered it to be The Greatest Canal in the Ancient World: (complete pdf: pg 433)
“Excepting the  exaggerated dimensions of Lake Moeris in Central Egypt,and the mysterious " basin of Al Aram' the bursting of whose embankment devastated the Arabian city of Mareb, no similar constructions formed by any race, either ancient or modern, exceed in colossal magnitude the stupendous tanks of Ceylon. The reservoir of Koh-rud at Ispahan, the artificial lake of Ajmeer, or the tank of Hyder, in Mysore, can no more be compared in extent or grandeur with Kala-weva, or Padivil-colom than the conduits of Hezekiah, the kanats of the Persians, or the subterranean water-courses of Peru can vie with the Ellahara canal, which probably connected the lake of Mineri and the "Sea of Prakarama" with the Amban-ganga river.


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

GM Mustard in India: Cautionary tale for Sri Lanka

Mustard Plants
There is nasty debate going on about the use of a Indian developed Genetically Modified (GM) mustard plant to be commercially cultivated. Mustard DMH-11, has been developed by Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants at Delhi University.  It is a cautionary tale for Sri Lanka.

The Pros
  • Purported to be 20%-30% more productive than most mustard varieties. 
  •  Is resistant to herbicide Basta (Glufosinate) made by Bayer 
  • Is resistant to herbicide Basta (Glufosinate) made by Bayer
  • Basta chemicals persist in food where herbicide is used 
  • Contains genes barnase, barstar and bar genes patented by Bayer
  • Barnase, barstar and bar are terminator genes and extremely potent cell poison.
  • GM Mustard DMH-11 patent will be held by Deepak Pantel  
The sales pitch for the GM Mustard is that it will solve India's cooking oil problem with higher mustard oil yields. In 2014-15, India imported 14.5 million tonnes of edible oils valued at $10.5 billion, more than half its edible oil requirement.

Aside: Rapeseed (similar to mustard) grown in Canada is all GM modified.  For you health buffs, thats Canola (contraction of Canada and ola, meaning oil).  So not only is Canola from GM rapeseed it also contains glucosinolates responsible for metabolism disruption and erucic acid, which is damaging to cardiac muscle.   Maybe that why its called Canola and not rape-seed oil.

Back to India: How did India end importing half its edible oil. India was almost self-sufficient in edible oils by the mid-1990s, but by 2014 it was the world’s biggest importer of cooking oils. Under pressure from the World Bank, India began to reduce import tariffs on edible oils and imports then began to increase.

So this push for GM Mustard is little more than a smokescreen to divert attention from this reality, which has to date certainly benefited US agribusiness Cargill. What is more deceptive is that the genetically engineered mustard does not produce higher yields than non-GM mustard.

Patent Royalties,  sales of weedicide by Bayer to a 10.5 billion market is also the push for GM Mustard.  Deepak Pantel is not an independent scientist pushing GM Mustard but one salivating to collect patent royalties.

On a final note, Bayer and Monsanto have merged, DuPont and Dow are planning a merger and ChemChina is buying Syngenta.


Thursday, June 2, 2016

Glyphosate Found in Urine of 93 percent of Americans Tested

Glyphosate, labeled a “probable human carcinogen” by the World Health Organization’s cancer agency IARC in 2015, has now been revealed to be ubiquitous in the first ever comprehensive and validated LC/MS/MS testing project to be carried out across America.

In a unique public testing project carried out by a laboratory at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF), glyphosate was discovered in 93 percent of urine samples during the early phase of the testing in 2015.

The unique project, which has already provided more urine samples for testing than any other glyphosate bio-monitoring urine study ever in America, was supported by members of the public, who themselves paid for their urine and water samples to be analyzed for glyphosate residues by the UCSF lab.

Glyphosate was found in 93 percent of the 131 urine samples tested at an average level of 3.096 parts per billion (PPB). Children had the highest levels with an average of 3.586 PPB.
The regions with the highest levels were the West and the Midwest with an average of 3.053 PPB and 3.050 PPB respectively.

(n.b. US West and mid west has the most agriculture)

Glyphosate residues were not observed in any tap water samples during the early phase of the project, most likely due to phosphorus removal during water treatment.
The results from the UCSF urine testing in America showed a much higher frequency and average glyphosate level than those observed in urine samples in the European Union in 2013. The average level in Europe was around 1 PPB with a frequency of detection of 43.9 percent.

Glyphosate has never been studied by regulators or the chemical industry at levels that the human population in the U.S. is being exposed to (under 3 mg/kg body weight/day). This is a huge hole in the risk assessment process for glyphosate, as evidence suggests that low levels of the chemical may hack hormones even more than high levels—a higher dose does not necessarily mean a more toxic, hormone disruptive effect.

From Comments
Glyphosate (Roundup) was initially patented as a pipe descaler -- it binds with minerals, making them easier to remove. It binds with minerals in GMO crops (which are genetically modified to withstand it's lethal effects) as well as in humans, blocking absorption/utilization.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Is the Dry Zone becoming a Wet Zone

 Many Sri Lankans may remember from school geography the Dry Zone of Sri Lanka is from North West (Puttalam) to East (Batticoloa) and South East (Hambanthota).  In this area rain is received only from the North East (NE) monsoon, i.e. mid-late October to January.  May to November is dry with hardly any rain.

Has this changed. Last year (2015) there was moderate rain even in June, in the North West (Puttalam).  This year (2016) it has been heavy rains and floods in mid May and more expected at the end of May as well. So will the Dry Zone, at very least NW have rains in the coming years during the historical dry season. At very least during El Nino year, it is still El Nino conditions this year.
I think so, Sri Lanka is going to have rain and lots of it.  Why, because
  • The Indian ocean is warming up
  • Air temperature is warming
  • Water Vapor in Atmosphere
  • Amount of Water Carrying capacity increases exponentially.
The critical physics is Water carrying capacity (saturation)  of the Atmosphere.  That is the amount of water vapor that the atmosphere can hold at any given temperature.  This amount of water vapor that atmosphere can hold increases very quickly after about 30°C.

So with the air temperature increasing, the Indian ocean warming up,  there is going to be a lot more water vapor in the atmosphere. Specially above Sri Lanka because we are an Island.  So all that increased water vapor in the atmosphere comes down in a deluge, i.e. buckets of water not raindrops.

Is it possible during the SW monsoon, there is so much water in the atmosphere now, part of it get carried over into the Dry Zone.  Just like the more intense NE monsoon rainfall getting carried over to the wet zone.

This property (Wilpattu House) was bought in Sep 2011.  I was told the last time that the Lunu Ela (river bordering the property) was 20 years ago.  However, there has been a flood of the Lunu Ela every year in December, except 2013.  This year, even in May.  Old timers say never during their lifetime floods, let alone heavy rains in May.

One may well argue whether Climate Change is man made or natural occurrence.  If one thinks it is because of humans, the results of whatever mitigation (e.g. less Fossil Fuel, re forestation)  will be seen many many year later.   At the moment Climate Change is here to stay for the next few decades.

What is needed is how do we work around the effects of climate change.  For instance, flooding in Colombo will be the norm.  What kind of infra structure is needed (e.g. canals) to reduce or eliminate flooding in Colombo.  Warning systems for Landslides.  What kind of crops can handle flooding and heavy rains. Thats whats needed at the moment, not discussions of reducing fossil fuels and changing to solar power (all very good).

A comment I made in 2010

If you think in general that air temperatures have increased, you will see larger increases in rain (precipitation).
The reason is that the water holding capacity of air increases exponentially with increasing temperature. i.e. Small increases in air temperature at around 38-40C will have much larger increases in water holding capacity. See link below.
Water Vapor .
Bottom Line: Expect Deluges to be the norm even in the North East.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

East Coast Road in Jaffna Peninsula

Chundikulam Sanctuary Lagoon
Trying to leave the Jaffna Peninsula travelling by the East Coast Mullaithivu road thru the Chundikulam Sanctuary.

Bad news: Maybe in SUV with a snorkel or trail motor bike.  As Olivier and Benoît (from France) say: The lagoon of Chundikulam Sanctuary, we have to pass in the ocean, no beach road at this season (NE Monsoon).
Maybe possible to cross in May-Oct season.
Related: Crossing Kokilai Lagoon,80.5491221,12z/data=!4m2!3m1!1s0x3afe53fd7be66aa5:0xc7da0d9203baf512?hl=en

Friday, March 18, 2016

Flawed Analysis: Prof. Dharmawardana on CKDu and Glyposate

Prof. Dharmawardana has an article that dismisses links between CKDu, glyphosate and chemical fertilizers.  However this analysis is severely flawed.

To quote Prof. Dharmawardana:

New Zealand is one of the biggest users of synthetic fertilizer, applying 1700 kg/hectare in 2012. Other comparative figures (per hectare, World Bank data) are, Malaysia,1600, Singapore 3400, Holland 300, India 165, Sri Lanka 198, Nicaragua 50. Both Nicaragua and Sri Lanka have chronic kidney disease of unknown origin (CKDu). There are similar trends for glyphosate (herbicide) use. While Nicaragua uses very little fertilizer and glyphosate, New Zealand which uses more than 34 times has no CKDu.
The proposed link (e.g. Jayasumana et al (2014) ) is between hard (Ca++ and Mg++) ground water used for drinking and glyphosate and chemical fertilizer use in surrounding areas.

The flawed analysis of Prof. Dharmawardana ignores
a) New Zealand has high rainfall and rural communities use rain water collected from roofs for drinking purposes.
b) Sri Lanka does not have a CKDu problem is the wet zone.
c) Jaffna which has hard ground water has low incidence of CKDu because agro chemicals were prohibited during the war.

Related Links
Chronic Kidney Disease: Cause Hard Water + Heavy Metals + RoundUp
Groundwater Depletion, Chronic Kidney Disease (CKDu) and Jaffna .

Monday, March 14, 2016

Is Ranil Wickremesinghe planning to send Colombo Garbage to Wilpattu

Kala-Oya/Lunu-Ela 200m away from proposed Garbage site
The Garbage in Colombo is becoming a political nightmare and is standing in the way of the Colombo Megalopolis project. Is Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe advocating the move of the Colombo Garbage to the Holcim Aruwakkalu Old Quarry 200m from the Wilpattu National Park border.

The surrounding area of the proposed garbage site is pristine Mangroves and the beautiful Kala-Oya. Maybe the animals and fish do not have a vote, whereas Kolonnawa is a large vote bank for Ranil Wickremesinghe. The idea is that garbage sites should be in less populous areas – not in residential areas. i.e. Send the garbage to where there are more animals than people.

The Colombo Garbage to Wilpattu has been revived and is about to be approved. Rumors have it that the Wildlife Dept was obstructing the approval. A change in Wildlife Dept leadership is planned and will approve the Garbage site adjacent to Wilpattu National Park and the beautiful Kala-Oya. Large amount of toxic chemical leachate (7 bowser loads, every day for at least 20 years) will end up in the Kala-Oya and the Puttalan Lagoon which is a enclose environment. (See Colombo Garbage to Wilpattu and Update: Colombo Garbage to Wilpattu and Suggestions: Colombo Garbage to Wilpattu)

The reason for all the chemical ending in the Lunu-Oya and Kala-Oya is because the underlying ground is limestone and very porous.  Additionally the limestone and the High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) will crack because of blasting in the nearby active Holcim Quarry.

However, disposal to the Lunu Oya is not a good solution due to its almost stagnant nature. Furthermore, the proposed effluent treatment plant is likely to fail, with no mechanism to remove colloidals, COD and heavy metals, etc.

Therefore, releasing the effluent from the treatment plant to the Lunu Oya would result in intense pollution especially during the drier spells when discharge is very low due to high evapotranspiration and the leachate pollution would even spread to upstream areas (up to the zone of saline water intrusion) during the high tides.

The reduced, total organic carbon (TOC) rich mangrove sediments would become a crucial sink for the heavy metals due to adsorption and sulfate reducing bacteria (SRB) mediated dissimilatory SO42- reduction mechanisms; however, ingestion of contaminated sediments/detritus matter by bottom dwelling fauna wouldultimately result in bioaccumulation in higher trophic levelfaunal species such as Birds of Prey which are found inplenty due to the close proximity of the landfill site to the Wilpattu National Park (about 1.5 km to the boundary of the park, which is located towards the East of the landfillsite), one of Sri Lanka’s Ramsar wetlands. Also during high tidal events when there is saline water intrusion, there could be desorption of sediment adsorbed metals due to intense competition between Na? ions and metal ions for adsorption sites, resulting in an increased likelihood of the bioavailability of desorbed metals to fish, etc. in the long run considering that the Project area experiences a drier climate

However, operation of the nearby potential quarry sites (i.e., the Eluwankulama Forest; Fig. 1) for limestone extraction by Holcim (Lanka) Ltd (for cement production) could pose a danger to the single composite liner. This is because higher peak particle velocities due to the usage of detonators and charging drilled holes with ammonium nitrate/fuel oil and dynamite may rupture the HDPE liner and perhaps the soil bentonite layer too, ultimately leading to groundwater contamination.
Map of Kala Oya and Garbage site. Click on Image for Google Maps