Tuesday, August 10, 2021

First days in Wilpattu House:2012

 The first time I ever was direct North of Puttalam was in 2010.  My dear classmate Shantha Weerakoon suggested we drive thru the gravel road thru Wilpattu had just opened.   Anyway he could not come because his dogs were having problems.

So I chatted with my mother till about 12pm.  Next day was Sinhala Tamil New Year. so stocked up on booze on the way.  Had a Nissan Wingroad (rental) and very low.  The 30Km Puttalam to EVK took me 1.5 hrs.  The road was not gravel, not tarred either.  By the time I got to  EVK  the road had closed at 3pm.   So slept in the car.  Next day had a early morning bath in Nelum Wewa  and then crossed Wilpattu.  Took 2+ hours to cross the 40km across the Park.

This is the Dry Zone of Sri Lanka, no rain from around April to late October.  However, thanks to the ancient Sinhalese Kings, this part of Sri Lanka has been Environmentally Engineered since around 300BC.  eg Abhayawewa built by King Pandukabhaya.  Walk at most a kilometer and there is a reservoir.

Always had a yen for the Dry Zone of Sri Lanka.  So after seeing Nelum Wewa thought I would buy some land around. When I sounded the idea to others, most said it was stupid.  Mostly because it was civil war borderlands. One of my perfect gentleman bosses Nihal de Silva, author and photographer got blown  by a LTTE landmine inside the National Parjk.

Around July 2011 had decided to buy land in EVK.   My good old pal Shantha Weerakoon was intrigued always wants to see new out of the way places.  Other classmates were going on a Safari next day. There was no entrance to the park from EVK till bout 2015.

Anyway Weera and I came to EVK,  Weera  to check out the area.  Me to check out three properties  the local contact had arranged.  Local contact played me out big time, but thats part of the learning curve as an outsider even in your on country.

So, even tho many said I was paying too much I paid much extra for going rate.  Waterfront etc.

Anyway by Sept 2011 had bought the property. 

So around end Sept came with another classmate, Dushyntha Peter  and we brought  my tent along.
There was no electricity, or running water.  We walked down to the river did some of our three S's (shit.shower and shave).  I preferred doing my swim pre dawn or post dusk, so oxford style.

Mohammed and Murugan. The road thru Wilpattu closes at 3:00 pm. This is the water tower for Eluvankulam, I slept here on the camp bed (booru anda) seen just behind Murugan.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

කරවලකැබිල්ල. Bignay (Philippines) wild cherry and currant tree (Antidesma bunius)

Planted a few days ago. Sinhala කරවලකැබිල්ල  Karawalakebilla  (Tamil: நாளைதளி Nolaidali ) Bignay (Philippines), Mao Luang,  wild cherry and currant tree (Antidesma bunius). Attracts birds and can become a 15m (45 foot) tree.

The skin of the fruit has red juice, while the white pulp has colorless juice. The fruit contains a light-colored seed. The fruit has a sour taste similar to that of the cranberry when immature, and a tart but sweet taste when ripe. This tree is cultivated across its native range and the fruits are most often used for making wine and tea and is also used to make jams and jellies. 
Rich in antioxidants and anticancer properties. The leaves can be eaten and can be included in a salad mix.


Antidesma bunius

Video in Sinhala

Monday, May 24, 2021

Covid: Droplets vs Aerosols and UV sterilization

Recent studies have shown that COVID-19 is not transmitted  just by droplets but also by aerosols. (eg Twang et al, 2021  and Samet et 2021.  Aerosols can disperse as far as 10m (33 feet).  Thats about the size of a small waiting room or small office. (WHO dragged its foot about accepting aerosol transmission of COVID-19 and cost many deaths.)

If transmission is only by droplets, then masks, hand washing and sanitizer can reduce transmission.  However, if it is aerosol airborne then other precautions are needed.  Sterile clean rooms are probably crucial to contain the highly infectious Indian variant B.1.617.2. 

For aerosol sterilization, proper ventilation and air that is not re circulated would reduce transmission. For space that is not properly ventilated, such as air conditioned rooms an option is sterilization by UV radiation.  Sterilization by UV is now not very expensive, and commonly available home and house supply stores.

Waiting Room/Small Office 
Air Purifiers with UV  that can purify a 1,000 sq ft in one hour (or 600 sq ft in 30 minutes) is about USD 100.  Not giving a link to a particular item or store, as would appear endorsement.  A search for "air purifiers with UV" will give many results.

Isolation Beds
Isolation rooms maybe to expensive in numbers.  A cheap alternative might isolation beds with in-going and outgoing air being UV sterilized.   Basically a plastic canopy covering for the bed and adaptive plumbing to two UV air purifiers  One for air into bed enclosure.  The other for air to be sucked out of bed enclosure.

Important Note
Combining UVC irradiation to recirculating air filtration might enhance elimination of airborne microorganisms.
UVC irradiation (100–280 nm) is highly mutagenic for microorganisms and its efficacy is dependent oh the dose (J/m2) which is composed of

  • a) UVC intensity (W/m2) and
  • b) exposure time (s),
  • c) the wavelength (254 nm),
  • d) relative humidity (RH) and
  • e) the susceptibility of microorganisms to UVC irradiation

Through the formation of thymidine dimers, UVC functions as a mutagen and leads to damage of the microbial DNA. Several studies demonstrated the virucidal and bactericidal effectiveness of UVC irradiation  (see pig facility citation for more detail)

Some References of UV Sterilization of Air

Wai et al (2020) BMC Infectious Diseases volume 20; 127

In the disinfection tests against seasonal influenza viruses H1N1 and H3N2, we also demonstrated that viral load could be effectively reduced by 4-log10 folds after 20 min VUV illumination and this also satisfied the criterion of valid germicidal result. Additionally, more than 3-log10 reduction in viral load can be attained with < 10 min of treatment.

Eisenhofel et al (2019) PLOS ONE, November 2019  (This was on pig facility)

Tests at laboratory scale were performed using aerosols of Staphylococcus (S.) aureus, Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae, porcine parvovirus (PPV) and porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus. We varied relative humidity (RH) to evaluate its effect on UVC irradiation efficiency. In addition, viability of pathogens inside the filter material was determined over up to six months. UVC-combined air filtration resulted in a more than 99% reduction of viral and bacterial particles. RH had no influence on UVC efficiency. Viability in the filter matter varied depending on the pathogen used and RH with S. aureus and PPV being most resistant.

Tim Sandle (2020) American Pharmaceutical Review June 2020 (does not seem peer reviewed)

Effectivity of HEPA Filters to Remove Viruses from Air Entering Cleanrooms

sereno barr-kumarakulasinghe, May 24th, 2021

Also published on

pdf version available


The 60-Year-Old Scientific Screwup That Helped Covid Kill

All pandemic long, scientists brawled over how the virus spreads. Droplets! No, aerosols!heart of the fight was a teensy error with huge consequences.

They ticked through a growing list of superspreading events in restaurants, call centers, cruise ships, and a choir rehearsal, instances where people got sick even when they were across the room from a contagious person. The incidents contradicted the WHO’s main safety guidelines of keeping 3 to 6 feet of distance between people and frequent handwashing. If SARS-CoV-2 traveled only in large droplets that immediately fell to the ground, as the WHO was saying,

Marr was no stranger to being ignored by members of the medical establishment. Often seen as an epistemic trespasser, she was used to persevering through skepticism and outright rejection. 


Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Clitoria, Butterfly Flea, (Sinhala: Katarolu, කටරොළු)

Clitoria ternatea, Butterfly Flea, (Sinhala: Katarolu, කටරොළු) two types blue or white flowers.  The blue flower variety is very common and grows wild and considered a weed in rural areas. 



  • Southeast Asia, the flower is used as a natural food colouring
  • Thai cuisine the flowers are dipped in batter and fried.

Tea from the flower

  • Flower tea and dried lemongrass
  • with lemon juice turns it purple
  • With honey and lemon gives the tea a pink-purple color

With Gin

  •  Blue in the bottle (Needs to be stored in a dark place to keep color)
  •  Pink when mixed with a carbonated mixer


Also see

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Olu (ඕලු), Nelum (නෙලුම්), and Manel (මානෙල්)

There is some confusion regarding Olu (ඕලු), Nelum (නෙලුම්), and Manel (මානෙල්) flowers and its English names.  To be honest I am not  sure I have got it 100% right, so open to correction.

The confusion is because Sinhala and English do not match one to one. 
A very good example is Honey and Pani (පැණි) is considered equivalent.
Pani පැණි is Syrup in Sinhala.  Honey is  Mi Pani මි පැණි (i.e. Bee Syrup),  Coconut Syrup is Pol Pani පොල් පැණි (i.e. coconut syrup) and medicine syrups beheth pani බෙහෙත් පැණි i.e. medicine syrup

Nil Manel (නිල් මානෙල්) (Nymphaea nouchali)

It is a Lily and the National Flower of Sri Lanka.   Though a Lily it is also called blue lotus*, star lotus
The Lilly Of Life.JPG
In Sri Lanka, this plant usually grows in buffalo ponds and natural wetlands. Its beautiful aquatic flower has been mentioned in Sanskrit, Pali, and Sinhala literary works since ancient times under the names kuvalaya, indhīwara, niluppala, nilothpala, and nilupul as a symbol of virtue, discipline, and purity. Buddhist lore in Sri Lanka claims that this flower was one of the 108 auspicious signs found on Prince Siddhartha's footprint. It is said that when Buddha died, lotus flowers blossomed everywhere he had walked in his lifetime.

Claire Waight Keller included the plant to represent Sri Lanka in Meghan Markle's wedding veil, which included the distinctive flora of each Commonwealth country

For you eternal children, a reminder, Tintin and the Blue Lotus.

Nelum (නෙලුම්) (Nelumbo nucifera)

Known as just Lotus or Indian lotus or sacred lotus.  Just to confuse the naming, it is also called water Lily and confused with water lilies of genus Nymphae.
Sacred lotus Nelumbo nucifera.jpg
"Nelumbo" is derived from the Sinhalese word Nelum.

The roots of lotus are planted in the soil of the pond or river bottom, while the leaves float on the water's surface or are held well above it. The flowers are usually found on thick stems rising several centimeters above the leaves.

An individual lotus can live for over a thousand years and has the rare ability to revive into activity after stasis. In 1994, a seed from a sacred lotus, dated at roughly 1,300 years old ± 270 years, was successfully germinated.

In Sri Lanka (and other countries) the yams are eaten as curries.

Olu (ඕලු) Nymphaea Lotus

This is a Lily, i.e in the family Nymphae.  Obviously to confuse everyone, it is called White Lotus or Egyptian Lotus.

Lily pads which float on the water, and blossoms which rise above the water. 

In Sri Lanka (and other countries) the yams are eaten as curries. The young fruits are sometimes consumed as a salad (not SL as far as I know). The fresh seeds, white color taste like almonds.  The dried seeds are cooked like a rice.  To cook the seeds, one must either soak it for a day before boiling or cook it in a pressure cooker. Olu haal kandha (Olu rice porridge) is a healthy and wholesome preparation from ground olu seeds and is generally consumed for breakfast.


A short and sweet description of differences

The leaves of lotus are emergent, meaning that they rise above the water level whereas the leaves of water-lily are found floating on the water surface. Same is true for their respective flowers; lotus flowers are emergent and water-lily flowers are floating."

Flame lily, Sinhala Niyangala, (නියඟලා)

Flame Lily.jpg


Flame lily, Sinhala Niyangala, (නියඟලා) Extremely poisonous and beautiful.
Had a term like, Wifes Friend in Sinhala. Cook the yam with potatoes and give the husband to get rid of him. Luckily hard to find, so would have be really long premeditated murder.

From Wiki

It is also the national flower of Tamil Eelam, and as such was displayed during Maaveerar Day and the state flower of Indian state of Tamil Nadu (Tamil: senganthal (செங்காந்தள்) or kanvali kizhangu (கண்வலிக்கிழங்கு)).

This plant is poisonous, toxic enough to cause human and animal fatalities if ingested. It has been used to commit murder, to achieve suicide, and to kill animals. Every part of the plant is poisonous, especially the tuberous rhizomes (yams).

Research* shows that poisoning mimics infection, so poisoning is not suspected.
Research paper cause was found because the patient finally said he had consumed with the intention of committing suicide.

It also takes 10-12 hours for effects to be seem. The longer a poison takes, the better for the poisoner. i.e. A wider range of potential poisoner suspects.


Thanks Suchetha Wijeynayake for the tip on the paper.

Friday, June 19, 2020

The Crusades, Wootz/Damascus Steel, Pandanus and Dumbara Mats,

A post connecting  three kinds of Pandanus, a beautiful blue flower,  color of Buddhist priest Robes, Dumbara Mats, Wootz/Damascus Steel and Tenuous thoughts to the Crusades

Sri Lanka has three kinds of Pandanus commonly known and used and a beautiful third plant, with beautiful blue flowers. 
  • Rampe| රම්පෙ| Pandanus amaryllifolius
    Kora-Kaha |කොරකහ| Memecylon umbellatum
  • Wetakeyiya | වැටකෙයියා| Pandanus kaida,
  • Dunukeiya |දුනුකෙයියා|  Pandanus thwaitesii
  • Kora-Kaha |කොරකහ| Memecylon umbellatum
Rampe| රම්පෙ| Pandanus amaryllifolius
The most common and in home gardens.  Used extensively in cooking in Sri Lanka and SE Asia.  Most of the Sri Lankan dishes use these leaves for aroma along with curry leaves. In India it is called annapurna leaves; in Bangladesh, it is called pulao pata (পোলাও পাতা )
Wetakeyiya | වැටකෙයියා| Pandanus kaida
Grows by seaside. Long thin leaves compared to Dunukeiya (දුනුකෙයියා|).  Used for mats mainly by sea side communities.  During the 2004 Tsunami areas that had Wetakeyiya along the shore front were protected from the full impact.  Post Tsunami many programes to plant and re plant Wetakeyiya along Sri Lankas sea side.  (an Evaluation in 2010)
Dunukeiya |දුනුකෙයියා|  Pandanus thwaitesii
Grows by rivers, paddy fields, muddy areas. Leaves broad, used for mats called Dumbara mats.  Wgasahantharindu has a nice description of the process to make the mats.
Paduru: Sri Lanka's Magic Carpet

Kora-Kaha |කොර-කාහ| Memecylon umbellatum   (Hindi : अंजन (Anjan)  Tamil காயா (Kaya))
A tree with beautiful blue flowers. The Sinhalese name for the plant does not reflect the beautiful blue flower.  More its practical side, the use of as a yellow dye.  i.e. kaha කාහ means yellow

a) The leaves contain a yellow dye, a glucoside, which is used for dyeing the robes of Buddhist monks.
b) Also used for yellow colouring of reed (Dumbara)  Mats 
c)  Historically, this plant was burnt as fuel in the production of Wootz steel also see Eleventh-Century Pittsburgh in Sri Lanka

Note: Wiki says this tree is called Ironwood.  It is NOT the Mesua ferrea, the Ceylon ironwood national tree of Sri Lanka

So to put it all together

  • A common home garden plant used for cooking (Rampe| රම්පෙ|Pandanus amaryllifolius)
  • Related to a plant that was/is Tsunami protection (Wetakeyiya | වැටකෙයියා|Pandanus kaida)
  • Related to both above used for Mats (Dunukeiya |දුනුකෙයියා|  Pandanus thwaitesii)

  • The  First Tenuous* to an unrelated plant, that connects to the above. Kora-Kaha |කොරකහ| Memecylon umbellatum
  • Yellow colouring from leaves used for mats made from  Dunukeiya| 
  • Buddhist priests robes are dyed by flower of Kora-Kaha
  •  Mats used by Buddhist priests and lay people  are dyed from the flower of Kora-Kaha
  • The Second Tenuous*,  Use of Kora-Kaha for Wootz Steel/Damascus Steel. 
    • Was there not enough Kora-Kaha  trees to make Steel to fight the 12th Century South Invaders.
    • Or were the Sinhalese Kings busy exporting the Wootz steel/Damascus Steel to the Mid East and not enough steel to fight invaders (I dont think so, just a thought process)   The Mid East Saladin was busy fighting the Crusaders eg Richard the Lion Heart.

      For the Sri Lankan readers, the 12th century was the decline of the Sinhalese polity in North  and establishment of the Kalinga/Tamil polity in the North

*Tenuous as  in without researched back evidence.