#Privacy online is not absolute but relative: within that, we can & should determine how much of our personal data we want to give out when using #SocialMedia. Beware of third party apps riding @Facebook!
These sum up my remarks in an interview for the evening English news bulletin of TV Derana, currently Sri Lanka’s top ranked terrestrial TV channel. Broadcast on 22 March 2018.
Sri Lanka’s 2012 Census of Population and Housing categorised only 18.2% of the Lankan population as being urban. However, that figure is highly misleading because we currently use a narrow definition.
Currently, only those living in Municipal Council (MC) or Urban Council (UC) areas are considered urban. However, some Pradeshiya Sabha areas (the next local government unit) are just as urbanised.
At the recent LBR/LBO Infrastructure Summit 2015 held in Colombo in early November, Minister of Megapolis and Western Development Champika Ranawaka took on this myth head on. He argued that Sri Lanka’s urban population share is probably as high as 48% — which is two and a half times higher than the current figure.
His concern: misconceptions such as this distort the country’s policy decisions on infrastructure planning and urban development.
The World Bank’s global lead for urban development strategies, Sumila Gulyani, who spoke during the opening session, agreed with the Minister’s contention of nearly half of Sri Lanka’s population having already become urban.
I discuss the matter in this week’s Ravaya column, (appearing in issue of 29 Nov 2015).
The United Nations, convener of the conference, has also designated 2014 as the International Year of Small Island Developing States (details at: www.sids2014.org). The year is meant to express global solidarity with the small island states around the world.
SIDS was first recognised as a distinctive group around the time of the first Earth Summit in 1992. They are low-lying coastal countries sharing many development challenges, including small populations, limited natural resources, remoteness, susceptibility to disasters and fragile environments. Many are…
Text of my ‘When Worlds Collide’ column published in Ceylon Today newspaper on 29 August 2014
Diesel fuel sulphur status – June 2012, Map by UNEP
Progress is slow and incremental. Those who take all-or-nothing positions often end up with…nothing.
So let’s hail Sri Lanka’s leading petroleum distributor introducing a super diesel with lower levels of sulphur. This is indeed good news. But much more remains to be done.
Until now, Super Diesel marketed by the state-owned Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) had a sulphur content of 500 ppm (parts per million). From 22 August 2014, its sulphur has come down to 10 ppm.
“CPC is compelled to improve the quality of diesel, since it contributes a lot towards the reduction of harmful diesel exhaust emissions causing environmental pollution and serious health hazards which have been reported to have costly effects both economically and socially on the society at large,” a…
If there’s one thing (many) South Asian nations have in abundance, it’s people. Now, countries of this populous region are competing to hold the world record in an unusual phenomenon called the human national flag.
On 23 August 2014, more than 35,000 Nepalese came together in Kathmandu’s city centre to form the world’s largest “human national flag”. The feat was best seen from the air, and had a special visual significance too: the Himalayan nation has the world’s only flag which is not a quadrilateral (it’s made up of two triangles).
The exercise was billed as an effort to ‘unite the hearts of Nepal’. As seen from the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/events/1521476671414710/), it entailed plenty of preparation. Unless you’re in North Korea, getting thousands of people to perform an act of mass coordination isn’t easy.
Pakistanis beat Bangladesh to this record. A total of 27,117 volunteers, mostly students, stood up with red and green blocks to form their flag at the National Parade Ground in Sher-e-Bangla Nagar in Dhaka on 16 December 2013. They stood there for 6 minutes 16 seconds, though the requirement for setting a new world record was 5 minutes.
So here’s a chance for Sri Lanka’s patriots to literally fly their flag into a world record. Of course, coordinating the creation of the Lion Flag will be more demanding (making up Pakistani and Bangladeshi flags is relatively easier than Nepal’s).
“Sri Lanka has many persons claiming to practise astrology with its professed powers of predicting the future. However, not one of them anticipated the Indian Ocean Tsunami on 26 December 2004 which killed close to 50,000 people in Sri Lanka!”
With this statement, Ajith Thilakasena, veteran Sinhala author and rationalist, opens his powerful prologue to an anthology of essays he recently edited titled Hethuwaadi Lipi (Rationalist Essays, Sarasavi Publishers, 2013).
He notes how, despite this, the hit-or-miss (actually, more miss than hit) ‘prophecies’ of astrologers are still widely amplified by our print and broadcast media. That, in turn, prompts many people to accept them uncritically.
“There is no shortage of blind followers for astrologers and other soothsayers despite their proven…
It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong, cautioned the French writer and philosopher François-Marie Arouet (1694 – 1778), better known by his pen name, Voltaire.
Thankfully, men and women with the courage of their conviction regularly disagree with the establishment (whether political or academic). Societies move forward largely thanks to them.
A case in point is organic farming in Sri Lanka, sustained by a handful of committed individuals and groups while the full resources and might of the state promoted the opposite.
Half a century ago, Sri Lanka adopted the Green Revolution’s approach of high external input farming. It policy favoured hybrid seeds along with the widespread use of chemical fertilisers, weedicides and pesticides. These boosted yields, for sure, but there was…
Text of my ‘When Worlds Collide’ column published in Ceylon Today newspaper on 8 August 2014
Dr Chandra Wickramasinghe
At 75, astronomer Dr Chandra Wickramasinghe is still very much the scientific maverick that he has been for several decades. He loves to challenge orthodoxy even if that means taking on much of the establishment.
The Lankan-born, UK-based mathematician and physicist now prefers to call himself an astrobiologist – one studying the origin, evolution and distribution of life in the universe.
He started researching cosmic dust in the early 1960s, first at the University of Cambridge and later at Cardiff University. He was mentored by Sir Fred Hoyle (1915 – 2001), an iconic theoretical astronomer who championed many an unorthodox idea himself.
Chandra Wickramasinghe (left) and Fred Hoyle during their collaboration days
Together, Hoyle and Wickramasinghe stirred up more controversies than most scientists during the last century. In the 1980s, they…
Text of my ‘When Worlds Collide’ column published in Ceylon Today newspaper on 18 July 2014
Road safety infographic – courtesy WHO
The Apollo 8 space mission, which lasted from 21 to 27 December 1968, was the first time that a manned spacecraft left Earth orbit, travelled to the Moon and returned after taking a close look.
They didn’t land, but tested many procedures for the actual landing six months later. When they were heading back, a ground controller’s son wanted to know who was driving the spacecraft. Astronaut Bill Anders, replied: “I think Isaac Newton is doing most of the driving now.”
That witty summing up of celestial mechanics is one of the finest quotes of the entire Apollo space program. It comes to mind when I ask myself who — or what — is driving on our chaotic Lankan roads. My own answer: lots of testosterone
Text of my ‘When Worlds Collide’ column published in Ceylon Today newspaper on 11 July 2014
Last time the FIFA World Cup was approaching its climax in mid July 2010, I did my bit for interstellar cooperation (or conquest).
If you’re an alien planning to invade the Earth, choose the day of the Cup Final, I said in an op-ed published on both sides of the Palk Strait. Chances are that our planet will offer little or no resistance, I predicted.
Well, no aliens took my unsolicited advice (such spoilsports!). But if any such race is still interested, another chance comes up this Sunday, July 13. That’s when World Cup 2014 will culminate at Estádio Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
On that day, a sizeable proportion of the 7.2 billion members of the Earth’s dominant species – Homo sapiens, or humans — will be fully preoccupied with 22 able-bodied…