Is it ethical? – The Island


This is the article “Cooking with firewood and its effects on human health” written by Professor Illeperuma, published in The Island of June 17. In it, the professor says that I told Parliament that using firewood instead of LG gas would increase a person’s life expectancy. He adds that “according to Weerasekara, the life expectancy of women living in countries that use firewood for cooking is much higher than that of people in developed countries who use new and clean energy for their cooking”.

With all due respect to professor illeperuma, I would like to mention that I have NEVER said (in Parliament) that the use of firewood will increase the lifespan, or that the life expectancy of women in countries that cook with firewood is much higher than that of people in developed countries. .

I ask the professor to listen to my entire speech in Parliament. (Parliament website, June 7, 2022) and dispel any doubts in this regard. A newspaper carried the same erroneous message but immediately corrected it the next day by publishing my full statement. Perhaps the professor was misled by said newspaper and the social media smear campaign against me that followed.

Basically what I’ve pointed out is that people tend to use more firewood today due to the scarcity of gas and if the government doesn’t get involved to manage it properly at least now it would lead to health risks, environmental impact, etc. It will therefore require intervention at the national level to mitigate adverse effects on health, food security, living standards and educate about inefficient biomass burning, etc.

My recommendation was to establish a special unit under the renewable energy authority of the Ministry of Electricity and Energy with experts in this field.

My entire speech was based on an article written by engineer RM Aamarasekara, recipient of the Presidential Award for Sustainable Energy and nominee for the Global Clean Energy Award in 2007. He was an advisor to the World Bank on Biomass international. few years ago. I’ve dropped his post above, titled “Is It Possible Without Firewood?” and all the statistics that I mentioned in Parliament were the World Bank data quoted by RM Amarasekara.

We see on television how people suffer in queues for petrol and fuel. Unfortunately, we hardly see alternatives to gas being promoted, at least as a temporary measure. How to make an efficient firewood or biogas stove etc. It is time we got rid of this negative approach. Our politicians and concerned officers are more inclined towards commercial type energy, but it is a pity that little attention is paid to firewood.

We use about 12 million tons of firewood per year. 46% of Sri Lanka’s total energy supply comes from biomass. Over 70% of the total population depends on biomass energy for cooking and industrial needs, placing biomass as a crucial factor in Sri Lanka’s economy. it is not a commercial fuel in Sri Lanka, and unlike fossil fuels, it will never run out if used sustainably.

So it is firewood that does not get enough attention from the government and that people fetch themselves without being a burden on the government that contributes enormously to the way of life and livelihoods of the rural population and the maintenance of local industries. Thus, the use of biomass has become a crucial factor for sovereignty, energy needs, food security, etc. in Sri Lanka.

There are advertisements in the media discouraging the use of firewood or improved wood stoves as primitive, backward and dangerous compared to commercial fuel, which also pollutes and contributes to climate change, and impacts the environment.

The World Bank study indicated that the life expectancy in rich developed countries, where they use modern and clean energy, is 80 to 85 years. In our country, the majority of women, about 70%, use firewood for cooking, and according to World Bank data, women in Sri Lanka enjoy a high life expectancy of 80.3 years. This means that firewood did not prevent women from having a long life in Sri Lanka.

However, Professor Illeperuma concluded his article by saying that what is needed is not to stop using firewood, but to use it safely to avoid adverse health effects and also to learn about the proper use of firewood. A former sailor, I only know naval warfare, but despite my poor knowledge of biomass energy compared to the professor, it is the same message that I wanted to convey to Parliament.

Professor Illeperuma says the controversial statement about ‘life expectancy’ is far from the truth and contradicts all scientific findings.

I think it is safe to mention that my mother mainly used firewood and led a healthy life until her death at the age of 92. My grandmother ONLY used firewood for cooking and she passed away at the age of 98 without any health problems.

Professor Illepreuma, biomass expert and researcher, is invited to discover how our ancestors lived healthy, strong and long lives for thousands of years without using today’s much sought-after blue and yellow LPG cylinders! !

Rear Admiral (Dr) Sarath Weerasekera


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