Tamil Diplomat

Why desalinization is inappropriate for Sri Lanka?

Eng. M. Sooriyasegaram

We have plenty of water in Sri Lanka. In fact we have more water in Sri Lanka than we need for drinking, domestic uses, industrial uses and for agriculture.

We have sufficient rain fall. We have perennial rivers, streams, lakes, reservoirs/kulams and ground water stored in aquifers. A lot of fresh water is wasted into the sea due to mismanagement. This is why King Parakramabahu Proclaimed that not a drop of water coming from the heavens shall be allowed to reach the sea without it being used by man.

If we manage them without polluting them with oil, grease and chemical fertilizers and properly re-distribute them, as is done throughout the world, everyone in Sri Lanka will have the required amount of water at the required quality and at affordable prices.

In Sri Lanka we not only have sufficient sources of fresh water but also have the necessary expertise, civil engineers, mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, geologists, hydrologist and so on to harness these naturally available water resources to satisfy the water needs of every Sri Lankan. Our hydraulic civilization is well recognized throughout the world.

Unfortunately our politicians are too ignorant on these matters and are unwilling to learn. That is why they have now succumbed to the commercial pressures and payout of commissions from American companies, who are now coming into Sri Lanka to sell desalinization plants. They have come to sell refrigerators to the Eskimos.

  1. Desalinization process is expensive. There are two methods of desalinization – one is by reverse osmosis and the other is by distillation. Capital and running costs are very high for both. The general consensus is that it is 5 times more expensive. For this reason alone Americans, the richest country in the world, has rejected this technology. We must ask our politicians – why they are falling for this trickery? One TNA politician has asked – if Sri Lankan government are prepared to pay for this why should we worry about the cost? Apart from the fact that this is a childish and irresponsible question he fails to realize that these things are always directly or indirectly paid by the people only. More over why should we waste resources when there are so many unfulfilled needs of our people due to a lack of resources.
  2. Desalinization is heavily energy dependent. We will have to depend on imported fuel for producing the required energy. It is unsustainable in the long run. We almost exclusively use fossil fuel energy to convert salt water into fresh water. Therefore we are causing environmental pollution and adding to the greenhouse effect due to Ozone depletion, which raises atmospheric temperatures, raises sea water level and thereby losing habitable coastal lands and disappear before long. Desalinization is not a sustainable method of securing our water needs. We will cause disasters in the long term in return for short term and expensive gains. We will be at the mercy of imported technology and imported energy forever. We can never hope to be an independent nation and will not be masters of our own destiny. Even for drinking water we will be at the mercy of others.   
  3. Sustainability – this is crucial not only for water needs but for everything else such as employment, livelihood, development, devolved power, economy, language, culture, education etc. On these matters we cannot afford to have a short term view. A long term view and policies are needed. We must always seek sustainable solutions for everything as a principle as necessity. Desalinization is definitely not sustainable.
  4. In governing our province (and governing Sri Lanka too) we must give utmost importance to Environmental issues. This applies to water supply, electricity generation, development, built environment, solid waste and sewage disposal, agriculture, fishery, transport etc. In every one of these areas we have misgoverned and caused a great deal of environmental damage. I am not blaming TNA for this but TNA now has the power to correct these things and they must use their developed power intelligently to change things. So far in my view TNA has not reversed these wrong s and in fact taken policy decisions to make them worse E.g. Iranaimadu Project, Chunnakam Oil Pollution issue, and protection of our fishing resources.
  5. When nature has blessed Sri Lanka with plenty of rain, perennial rivers and streams plus underground aquifers in the north, all of which provides us with more than sufficient quantities of fresh water at no cost to us and the environment, why should we go for expensive, environmentally damaging, dependent, imported and unsustainable desalinization technology? Why should we reject nature’s gift to us and go for very expensive and unaffordable artificial solutions to fill the pockets of foreign companies and their local promoters? What is the benefit to our people except that they will pay more for their water? I do not see any logic in this.
  6. Another falsehood or myth that is now being propagated by those vociferously trying to sell to us desalinated technology is that desalinated water is purer than potable water! They do not understand that pure water i.e. H2O is no good for drinking. It is only good for your car battery (older type only), the new types being maintenance free. No one wants to drink pure alcohol instead of whisky! Pure salt (sodium chloride) is not good. That is why we add iodine to it. Purity and virginity are misplaced past concepts not valid for the 21st century. Drinking water must be free from coliforms, pesticides, nitrates, free from suspended impurities, smell (odour) and colour but don’t have to be pure. Some salts are preferable and in some countries fluorine is added to prevent tooth decay. Our politicians are not taking informed decisions to solve many of the issues we are facing. Their decisions are governed more by ignorance than by science, taken for enriching themselves and to reain in power though deception. We must continuously challenge them to save our people from the dangers of reckless spending, environmental disasters, poverty and economic dependence, indebtedness etc.

Desalinization technology was developed by US companies to provide clean water to countries like Saudi Arabia, unblessed with natural water from rain fall, rivers, streams, aquifers etc.

The US and European companies, who developed this technology made a killing in these countries! They, having already made huge profits from middle eastern countries, are now enticing us to their trickery to make us buy this inappropriate technology to make even more profits while impoverishing our people and making our people dependent on them forever for our drinking water needs i.e for our survival. We must be foolish to get trapped in this dependency forever. In their privacy these companies must be laughing all the way to their banks nourishing at our foolishness.

US control the oil wells in Saudi and other Middle Eastern countries under franchise and makes supper profits. They did not stop at that. They control the entire construction industry, supply of military weapons, primary, secondary and tertiary industries, agriculture, micro-irrigation and many other things in the middle eastern countries, notably Saudi Arabia. In fact US almost rule Saudy Arabia as a police desalination technology. Saudy Arabia is now a puppet state of the USA. Desalination is a stepping stone for many more evils in the pipeline for us. We do not want to become a Saudi Arabia.

We must not forget that we elect our representatives here only to serve our people and not to serve US companies and the USA for personal benefits of any kind.