Sigiriya

Posted Thursday June 04, 2015 by Hazel Durbridge

This week-end I went to Sigiriya which is one of the 8 world heritage sites on the island, basically a huge rock in the middle of the jungle they built a fortress on BC.  You have to climb thousands of steps up the side of a vertical cliff face along which, at some crazy height are wall paintings of women with unfeasible pert breasts and a graffiti wall.  What made it more dramatic was a storm started brewing half way up and it got tropically windy, which is fierce, with sand blowing around.  When I got to the top and all you could see for miles was jungle and some craggy peaks it looked like a landscape out of a scary bit in Lord of the Rings – impressive.

On the way down the heavens opened – like sheets of rain where you are soaked to your knickers in 30 seconds flat.  I suddenly got gripped from behind by a ‘helper’ – one of hundreds of guides that cling to you for an exorbitant rate that I shook off on the way up.  They are quite useful.  I saw several cases of two either pulling some very overweight foreigner looking very pink and sweaty up the steps or preventing them from falling down them, because they are metal, narrow, high and slippy.  Even my legs were trembling by the time I got to the bottom.  In the tourist mix of course is the hippy family, with Dad carrying baby child in a rucksack seat.

Anyway, through the sheets of rain, skinny helper gets me in an iron grip and probably takes me some elongated route because we ended up climbing up steps to the car park and it was all so crazy I got the giggles again a bit like getting caught in a snowy blizzard at the top of mount Etna, but thank god it wasn’t freezing.  Anyway I got to the bottom and then had to negotiate with him charging me some excessive rate for help I hadn’t asked for.

I stayed the night in a very un-touristy but cheap guest house that the tri-shaw driver found for me.  They sent me down the road because they don’t do food, I got down there and they were in a black out because of the storm so in candlelight and as the only person in quite a big restaurant, I had the biggest piece of protein I’ve had since I got here (fish) which they frazzled Sri Lankan style and the waitress was going to walk me home by the light of her mobile phone because of snakes in the rain when the tri-shaw driver turned up with a bottle of arac, took me back to the hotel and I sat drinking with him and the brain damaged hotel cook (from a road accident) who probably would have cooked me something, but didn’t understand what I was saying.  Then today I came home squashed flat in the bus where you sweat to death under eau de unwashed armpit, but I’ve got used to it now.  I had a nice time and I saw several elephants, one stood in the middle of a little stream in the deluge with his eyes shut – it was magical.

I suppose overall I would have to say that those moments compensate for the aloneness, because your experience will be different if you are not alone.

Electricity

In 2012 the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) incurred a massive loss of Rs 61 billion. The reason for this loss was that the CEB was generating electricity at a cost which was far higher than its selling price for electricity.

At present the average cost per unit is Rs 23. The CEB sells the first 30 units to consumers at the rate of Rs 3.60, the next 30 units Rs 6.40 and 90 units Rs 7.90. The maximum is somewhere around Rs 15.

By the end of 2013 a further 300MW will be added to the national grid through the second phase of the Norochcholai coal power plant and a further 300MW in 2014. Financial Assistance for the project costing US $891 million has come from China. (Source: Sunday Observer 05.05.2013).

Table 2.6 % of households in occupied housing units & principal type of lighting

Batticaloa Total households % Electricity Kerosene Solar power Other
  133,795 100 67.5 32.0 0.5 0.0

Source: Basic Housing Information by Districts 2012

Table 2.7 Electricity connection 2011

Batticaloa No of families Houses Houses with new connections Families without electricity
  164,063 92,285 8,299 63,479

Source: Statistical Handbook 2011/2012 Batticaloa

Issues, Challenges and Opportunities

There are two sources of electricity for the district – the grids at Valaichchenai and Ampara.

Electricity is possible when there are 60-70 households close enough together. A transformer is then situated. This can then service any household within a 1.8km radius. Connection costs 17,000Rs and loans can be accessed for Samurdhi beneficiaries.

Currently 17,000 families have a connection out of a total of 164,000 families in the district. At the moment they are currently making 650 new connections every month.

Problems occur with the siting of poles as sometimes people do not want them near their property. There are also issues every year when lines come down in the rainy season.

Apparently there is a scheme through the Asian Development bank Fund where schools can be connected free of charge. This is happening in Ampara, but not here.

As common to other departments, there is generally a shortage of field staff, most of whom are about to retire. Training for these roles is provided on the job, but applicants must apply centrally through Colombo. It is not a popular career because people think they will get electrocuted easily, especially in the rainy season. They also lack roadworthy vehicles.

Batticaloa District Development Plan DRAFT 2013

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