Sri Lanka is
slowly but steadily rising up to the ‘power challenge’. The
Ceylon Electricity Board is now stretched to the maximum and
generates most of the country’s power requirements from thermal
sources which are very expensive to run. It is a huge drain on
foreign exchange reserves as well.
The present Government has taken steps to develop several
power stations which have been delayed by years, if not decades.
But even these will take a few years to come on line. More
action is needed to avert a power crisis of the sort we faced in
1996, at the height of a severe drought.
Enter India. According to news reports, the feasibility study
for the proposed US $ 450 million mega undersea power
transmission link between India and Sri Lanka is slated to be
The 200 kilometre long submarine cable would enable India to
export electricity to Sri Lanka and is likely to be set up with
a capacity to transmit around 1,000 MW of electricity.
This is not a new idea at all. It has existed in one form or
another for several decades, but the technology needed for such
a gigantic task is becoming available only now. The Power Grid
Corporation of India Limited had earlier estimated that it can
set up the link in 40 months once all clearances are in place.
The link is likely to connect Madurai in Tamil Nadu and
If all goes well, it will not only be a one-way flow of
electricity from India to Sri Lanka. With an Indian company
already working on a 500 MW coal fired plant in Sri Lanka,
wheeling power from Sri Lanka to India could also be a
possibility over the long term.
This mutually beneficial project marks yet another milestone
in the ever-improving bilateral ties between the two neighbours.
We recently read reports that Sri Lanka and India have become
partners in the proposed 27-country Trans Asian Rail Network
which is slated to be opened by 2025, just 17 years away.
It will theoretically be possible to embark a train in
Colombo and disembark in Hong Kong once this network is set up.
The SAARC region, if it aspires to become a true union on the
lines of the EU, must eventually relax travel formalities and
allow more people-to-people contact. That will really give more
power to the SAARC peoples.
A ‘Titanic’ discovery
Sir Arthur C
Clarke, who goes on his final journey today, would have been
elated to hear this: Saturn’s moon Titan may have an underground
ocean which could have just the right conditions for life.
The discovery, announced in today’s issue of the journal
Science, was made when scientists tried to match corresponding
features on radar maps created during two-and-a-half years of
flybys by the Cassini spacecraft.
Ralph Lorenz, a planetary scientist at Johns Hopkins
University in Baltimore, Maryland, who led the study believes
there is a water and ammonia ocean 100 to 300 kilometres below
Titan’s surface. Lorenz has every reason to be excited because
the planet’s surface contains large quantities of hydrocarbons
and other organic molecules. These are the very ingredients
needed for life to begin.
It was just a couple of days ago that another team of
scientists announced the discovery of a possible life-harbouring
planet in another planetary system hundreds of lightyears away.
But Titan is literally in our backyard in astronomical terms
and it would far easier to send even a manned mission to the
only other body in the solar system with weather and
geographical features eerily similar to those on Earth. Robotic
missions are already exploring every inch of Titan.
“Large reservoirs of water, a condition for life to form and
develop, [would thus be] a common feature in the solar system,”
the researchers wrote in Science. Appropriately and
coincidentally, the discovery’s announcement today, World Water
Day, gives hope for mankind that water - and life - could be
common throughout the universe.
As Sir Arthur once said, we could be or could not be alone in
the universe and either way, it is quite staggering. Life as we
know it needs only a few ingredients and the right conditions to
develop. The Earth had such a ‘primordial soup’. It cannot be a
phenomenon unique to Earth.
Scientists are still debating whether there was or is life on
Mars, which is once believed to have had liquid water. Apart
from Titan, three other moons of Saturn could be harbouring
There is little doubt we will have ‘proof of life’ in these
celestial bodies within the next few decades. Mankind will
eventually leave Planet Earth in search of other habitable,
life-bearing planets in our galaxy and beyond. That will perhaps
mark, in the words of Sir Arthur, mankind’s Childhood’s End.