World population


By Emeritus Prof. P. A. de Silva,


Some time back in the 1960s a very interesting article appeared in the Reader’s Digest Magazine. I was a regular subscriber at the wonderful price of Rs. 1.75. The price in Japan was 150 Yen. In Hong Kong 2 HK Dollars. The whole range of prices for the Asian Edition is given in the last page and the magazine had around 200 pages all very interesting including some attractive full colured advertisements. Today the pages are reduced, paper quality is better but the price is not affordable at 9.90 Singapore Dollars. So we borrow from a library and read with great eagerness. All this is attributed to worldwide inflation.

But what I am going to write now is about the particular article by a reader in England perhaps in London itself. He had measured the size of the London tube trains and the number of people travelling at peak hours. There were no calculators at the time and slide rules were rare, so it is probable that he used logarithm tables. His conclusion was that with the same packing ratio as in the tube train, the whole world population can conveniently live in a cube just 1.5 miles across. Those days most of the world used British Units.

But all this happened when technology was not what it is today. Now in the internet, there are many interesting calculations we can get in a minute. In one analysis a person has packed the whole world in to a single building.

Now the Chinese have planted cotton seeds on the Moon. But as a small country we were far ahead. In 1970 our politicians claimed that there is plenty of rice on the moon. The Americans had gone to the moon by then physically, while our politicians went using supernatural powers. There was a worldwide shortage of rice, the principal food of most Asians and the politicians told the gullible public that rice will brought from the moon.

Irrigation is a well-known art to our ancient kings. There is hardly any king who had not built an irrigation tank or a canal. It is said that when King Parakramabahu was building a canal a giant rock stood in the way. The workers and the ministers were dismayed and stopped work. Parakramabahu heard of this and came to the site. He removed his Kingly robes, put on working clothes and with a giant sledge hammer and a noble wish gave a powerful blow. The rock shattered and the people started to work. The canal was completed and it is still in use. In all probability it was Ridi ela, so named because the workers were paid in silver coins. This was over thousand years ago.

In 2016 the Swissn a nation with a small population and a small mountainous land area decided to build a dual rail track tunnel in the year 2000 and took 16 years for completion. The grand opening was in 2016 the cost being 12 Billion US Dollars. The railway will handle the goods which were earlier transported by a million lorries per year and reduce the pollution of the diesel driven trucks.

In our country there is still enough land for cultivation provided there is enough and a reliable supply of water for the poor peasants. We talk of Mega projects with foreign aid often payable over 20 to 30 years for the city dwellers. I brought to the notice of the government of pipe borne irrigation water as far back as 1983 when we were able to manufacture 14 inch diameter Cast Iron Pipes at the State Hardware Corporation foundry at Enderamulla. We had plenty of Electrify from the newly opened 200 MW Victoria project as well as enough steel and cast iron scrap. President Jayewardene banned the export of all scrap when I was Chairman Ceylon Steel Corporation. As we proceeded we could have made bigger pipes or have several pipes of 14 inch alongside. Sadly the wrong advice of people who thought importation is a better substitute to local manufacture ended our plans. When I mentioned this at the COPE committee MPs of both the government and the opposition were very interested but advisors who had no interest in this country started importing a slightly bigger pipe.

Now President Maithripala Sirisena after opening the Moragahakanda project has mentioned the use of pipes and it is high time that we rethink our plans. We often have floods in a part of the country and drought in another part of the country making the poor people in the regions poorer. The vast irrigation schemes of our forefathers were destroyed by the Chola invasions. In the book Ceylon under British Rule 1795 – 1932 Lenox A. Mills states thus.

This magnificent district was once the granary of the island: it is now utterly neglected. With 1,700 tanks some of immense size but almost all in ruins, it had a population of only 60,000 miserable, half starved and dejected looking wretches… dying out by disease and starvation. Dickson the Governmant Agent was able to get the villagers to repair several hundred of the village tanks about 50 acres each. Centuries before they had been connected by canals with storage reservoirs such as the Kalawewa Tank.

This is an extract from page 134 of the book.

As far back as 2009 I wrote to the Sunday Divaina an article titled "Uturata Giyoth Watura Okkoma Godai Mithura" The translation will be Friends if we supply water to the North all will be well.

On the same issue I wrote another article to the Rivira Sunday paper of 2017 December14 th titled Uturata Watura Demu. Mr. D.S.Senanayake traveled in his own car as the Minister of Agriculture with no guards to rebuilt the irrigation works. Where there were no roads he travelled in bullock carts and lived with the farmers as the British will not give him the Government Rest House. This is how the rice country was rebuilt. But as time passed after the untimely and very doubtful death of the Prime Minister DS Senanayake the country was plunged into chaos by Bandaranaike and the few leftists.

We have lost time due to political intrigue and the main problem is said to be the Constitution. The descendants of the Chola invaders are telling us that the main need of the people is a Constitution. I personally feel no country needs any constitution. England that conquered the entire British Empire has no written constitution. This small nation of Europe had only three and a half million people during the time of Henry VII. The Treasury was empty but the lords had plenty of money. The Arch Bishop Merton devised a wonderful argument. The lords who lived very extravagantly could lend the King some money. They had to give as the argument of the Arch Bishop was quite natural. Then he went to the miser barons and said, "You live a very frugal life, hence must be having a lot of savings, so lend to the King." The misers too had to give. The arrangement was called Merton’s Fork and he collected Pound Sterling 1,800,000 a large some at the time. The King developed the country and the people called him Solomon of England quite rightly. Perhaps this was the beginning of the British Empire.

Thus it is clear that the constitution is not the problem for the long suffering masses, it is hunger and malnutrition 200 years after what Mills stated. It is the descendants of the Chola invaders who want a constitution. In 1643 the English Parliament got the Hangman to burn Charles’s Act that was against the people. In our case it is the 19th Amendment that is against the people as it does not allow their fundamental right to elect a proper government until the lapse of four and a half years. What country has this kind of odd reasoning? Before de Gaulle France changed governments virtually every six months.

What madness is to tell the people to wait four and a half years when it is clear that the country is at breaking point financially, culturally and morally. So the best thing the Judiciary can do is to get this act burnt in Public as we do not have a Hangmen.

We need technical solutions to alleviate poverty of all the people Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim. It is the rich who want a constitution for them to plunder the poor. We do not need borders for any race.

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