- From bad to worse
“I had a dream, which was not all a dream.
The bright sun was extinguish’d, and the stars
did wander darkling in the eternal space.”
Darkness, Lord Byron
The morose vibe that is both unanimous and ubiquitous at the moment.
The picturesque vista of island hustle and bustle is now replaced with realistic portraits juxtaposing vehicles queuing in traffic; snaking on lane the passport office, whilst the other is struggling to pump fuel.
Both elongated serpentine roads symbolising struggle and survival.
A majority willing to risk their futures and take their chances anywhere else in the world in confluence with a majority doing whatever it takes to weather and endure the economic tempests: hyperinflation, the escalated cost of living, the scarcity of bare essentials.
The island has most recently experienced shortages in essentials; gas, petrol, diesel, fertilizer, milk powder, US dollars, general good ole inner sanctum and dignity.
Small businesses are hit hard. Shops and retail stores face considerable hardship.
Families in disarray, finding it impossible to cope with the sporadic and planned power cuts.
Students of all ages and caliber thwarted and affected, with the bulk of educators taking online lectures and classes having their sessions disrupted.
The telecommunications networks are dysfunctional, with signals dropping throughout the day, with their towers impacted with the fuel shortage.
This encapsulates Sri Lanka at the moment.
The power cuts are the latest in a line of catastrophes and calamities. Why has our nation rolled out power cuts while the economic crisis has significantly and irrevocably worsened?
The obvious correlation and answer is that part of the economic crisis stems from the financial debacle which has in turn led to shortages in fuel.
The electricity has been switched off on a rotating basis due to the national grid suffering a loss of 700 MW due to an inadequate supply of fuel.
Our island has thus experienced a myriad of sporadic power failures and electricity cuts islandwide. Some fuel stations are closed. Others are running on low supply. Many are the vehicles queuing to load up fuel.
But that’s not all folks!
Also the lack of steady power supply being impacted owing to plunging water levels in hydroelectric dams in the country: also leading to water cuts.
Give us a reason
There is no shadowed qualm or doubt that the Covid-19 pandemic played an active role in dealing a fatal blow to our economy. It is alleged that in the last two years the nation suffered a $ 14 billion loss due to tourism and trade being laid to paralysis.
Inflation has surged to over 12% as well.
The country has borrowed heavily and is subjugated financially, owing around $ 12.5 billion in sovereign bonds.
While payments have been duly made, we face foreign debt obligations of over $ 50 billion.
“Hello darkness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again,
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping”
The Sound of Silence, Simon and Garfunkel
The shortage of power results in a much greater disruption than one might envisage.
The sporadic power shortages; often outside the scheduled and allotted slots have resulted in many businesses being hit hard without warning, many professions of work interrupted and disrupted for one thing.
Consider the impact the power cuts have had on people’s tech; devices and appliances alike. Mobile batteries affected, laptops and PCs crashing, fridges packing up, air conditioners going bust… and while one may argue that having a UPS for your computer, a power bank for your mobile and an external regulator in your household to muscle through the circus crazy electricity fluctuations is a smart move, that may not be a long-term solution.
The offices, businesses, conglomerates and more affluent households that could afford generators have managed to scour the unadulterated hopelessness of the situation with this solution.
With many people scraping and scratching and clawing to make ends meet, it isn’t a pragmatic investment, save for a precious few.
But one needs to also ponder if those who do own generators, able to procure diesel and if so, for how long until that proverbial well runs dry?
Those who are fine
Of course there are exceptions to the divine rule: the fortunate ones sharing grids with those of status and influence haven’t succumbed to power cuts.
So not everyone has had power fluctuations or issues.
It is also fair to assess that there are key segments that have ample fuel reserves and a formidable supply of essentials thereby unaffected by the plight of the “common Jane or Joe”.
For the privileged and entitled – this is but a mere spell of nuisance… merely an inconvenience.
Answers as clear as glass
Yes! We are a culturally proud nation. With a heritage and history that would put most to shame.
Sri Lanka is geographically immaculately positioned in the warm embrace of the Indian Ocean.
A tropical paradise with lush biodiversity, globally cherished exports, natural environs of unparalleled splendour.
Let’s not be remiss of the absolute bare naked fact that Sri Lanka is an epicentre for diverse economic capacity and capability such as agriculture, mining, textiles, gems, tourism, fishing, manufacturing and natural resources.
Then why in the name of all of Lovecraft’s creations, Aurelius’s ideologies and Tony Iommi’s riffs are we not – mind you with all our progressive notions of grandeur of advancement and forward thinking – not tapping into the abundant gifts of nature and her resources to utilise renewable energy to power our country?
It’s obviously been mentioned time and again. Sure.
However, what has truly been done about it? Have we necessarily flipped all of the metaphorical stones?
Why pray, are we surrounded with a plenitude of nature’s handouts? And instead of attempting to devoting our efforts, time and investments into formulating more sustainable, sensible and systematic solutions to our energy issues – we need to concede that this current dilemma may ensue in future.
We have the momentous potential to espouse and put to use wind, wave and tidal power, solar, bioenergy, biomass etc.
“I’ve been very passionate about renewable energy for many years, particularly solar energy and its capacity to bring abundant clean, sustainable energy to millions around the globe.”
Solar panels in a country like Sri Lanka would be an excellent investment professionally and personally. More of the populace having the means to convert to solar would support the electricity grid, utilising a renewable energy solution that will help reduce the cost of living.
Yet here we are still only using fossil fuels, hydroelectric and carbon based energy sources.
Mayhap, we had a somewhat marred trajectory – but a trajectory nevertheless…
Fast forward to 2022…
Here we are; a supposedly proud barely developing nation rocking on our fractured heels, while spiralling into obsolescence, unless something is done fast, strategically, immediately and with purposeful intent to tip the scales of indefinite existential crisis and steer the proverbial ship through the aforesaid storms and finally reach a better, safer, somewhat stable shore.
“If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.”
(The writer is the frontman and lyricist of Stigmata, a creative consultant and brand strategist by profession, a self-published author and poet, thespian, animal rescuer, podcaster, and fitness enthusiast)
The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of this publication.