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Saturday, 2 July 2011


It is now established that Arsenic is present in at least some of the agrochemicals imported to Sri Lanka. Several tests by the research group at the University of Kelaniya headed by me, studying various aspects of the Rajarata Chronic Kidney Disease Unidentified Etiology (RCKD un et) has come across this finding, and at least one other group has confirmed these results. As the name indicates the cause of this disease is not identified in western medicine though many patients have deceased during the last few years. The research team at the University of Kelaniya, other than me consists of western Chemists, Botanists, Mathematicians who are employed as Professors and Senior Lecturers at the University of Kelaniya as well as those who practice western Medicine, some of whom are academics at the Rajarata University. We have made use of standard techniques in Atomic Absorption Spectrometry in almost all of the tests we have carried out at Kelaniya.

Our research team had to explain (i) the spread of RCKD un et only in Rajarata area and (ii) the incidence of the disease only during the last twenty years. Various groups working on the RCKD have come up with causes such as Cadmium, Aluminum in the cooking utensils. However due to reasons not described here for want of space, our group has rejected all these “explanations” and we have all the reasons to come to the conclusion that Arsenic is the cause of the disease. Now the question may be asked as to how the Kelaniya group was able to detect Arsenic in Rajarata drinking water in the affected areas and in agrochemicals when the other groups were not able to do so. In fact we are also surprised that Arsenic had not been identified in agrochemicals, as only standard methods known to the western Chemists were used by us in detecting Arsenic in these products. It has to be mentioned that detection of Arsenic in drinking water in Rajarata that is contaminated with certain salts needs a special technique that has been developed at Kelaniya. We are more than surprised how these agrichemicals have been allowed to be imported and distributed in Sri Lanka when the authorities could have easily tested for Arsenic before the relevant products were released to the importers.

We have to distinguish between two cases here, they being the presence of Arsenic in drinking water in the relevant areas and the presence of the same in agrochemicals. As mentioned above the authorities should have tested for Arsenic in agrochemicals before they were allowed to be imported and distributed. Apparently the importers of the agrochemicals with Arsenic have declared to the Sri Lanka customs that Arsenic is not present probably based on information supplied to them by the exporters. Even if the exporters had claimed that there was no Arsenic present in the relevant agrochemicals, we are of the opinion that the importers and the authorities in Sri Lanka responsible for giving clearance should have tested independently for Arsenic knowing its deadly effects.

Our group at Kelaniya consists also of people who are interested in developing our own systems of knowledge and in this respect we not only create (or discover as many are accustomed to that term) our own theories (ape pravada), rather than being satisfied with being mere tinkerers of western knowledge in the periphery, and we have been successful at least in a few instances. During the last two years or so we have come across another source of knowledge, namely the “samyak drushtika devivaru” who communicate knowledge when necessary to a lady who is known to us. Those who have been brought up in the western scientific tradition would laugh at this source of knowledge, but we are in a position to debate with them on this matter publicly not in a five star hotel, but in a place such as the Public Library Auditorium, if they are not happy with the “samyak drushtika devivaru”. The communicator does not go into a trance or any such peculiar position (arudha, avesha etc.,) but communicates with the devivaru while she is in conversation with the others.

I had been thinking of Bhavana as a means of acquiring knowledge for some time but did not know how or where to begin. Under the instructions of the devivaru (I do not want to use the word gods as the word has many connotations) few among us (I do not have that “vasana” probably due to my karma) are able to “experience” knowledge after engaging in Bhavana, and the devivaru and these people with “vasana” (it is not luck for anybody’s sake) have diagnosed deceases and treated successfully patients who had been turned away by the western medical personnel. I do not want to go into details at present but we will present our story to the public in due course. What is emphasized here is that neither nobodies nor some bodies could acquire this knowledge through Bhavana as only those who are “endowed” with the necessary “adhyathmica shakthiya” could do so.

It was the devivaru who suggested to us that we should test for Arsenic in the water, soil, and even flora in the affected areas in Rajarata. Our group that consists of western trained scientists set about in the usual way as they have been instructed, to collect samples of water soil, plants etc., and tested for Arsenic in the laboratories in the Faculty of Science of the University of Kelaniya. We did not want to carry out these experiments without informing the rest of the academics in the Faculty of Science, and as the Dean of the Faculty I made it a point to make them aware of what our group has been doing. There was no opposition as such from these western trained ladies and gentlemen at the meetings of the Faculty Board though many “kathas” spread and a few people with vested interests tried to obstruct our work. They had even complained to the Minister of Higher Education and the President that a “devale” has been created in the Faculty of Science as we had commenced Bhavana sessions for students as well as staff (both academic and non academic). I suppose they wanted the Minister and the President to interfere with our work but the latter had decided to ignore these complains. I must say subsequently some members of the group met the President and that he is more than interested in our work.

It is true that the idea that Arsenic is present was given to us by the devivaru but we do not want anybody else, especially those who are trained in the western scientific tradition to believe us or the devivaru. I must also add that there are some among us who could “see” Arsenic in the samples we collected from Rajarata area, with “adhyathmika shakthiya”. However, we went through the standard methods in western Chemistry using the Atomic Absorption Spectrometer available at the University of Kelaniya in order to convince the western scientists of the presence of Arsenic. Unfortunately, the standard methods available in the text books and the journals did not help us to identify Arsenic in hard water in Rajarata areas, and then again the devivaru came to our rescue and suggested a particular method that could be adopted. Using this particular method, and using chemicals only, our group has been able to detect Arsenic (Arsenates) in the samples of hard water. I am only giving an outline of what our group has been doing and the details have been presented at seminars held at Rajarata University and the ministry of Technology and Research. I must also add not being a western scientist or a western academic in general my interest in the whole exercise is confined to epistemology as developed in our culture, in addition to finding a cure for the disease.

The western medical personnel in our group observed symptoms of Arsenic poisoning in the samples of patients whose number is around twenty thousand in Rajarata, especially in Mahavillacciya, Padavi Sri Pura, Padaviya, Vahalkada and surrounding areas. This led to tests in biological parts such as hair, fingernails from patients and kidneys removed from at least two people who died from RCKD un et. We have no reason to believe that Arsenic is not the cause of RCKD and we may now drop the tag un et that follows the name of the decease.

It was also found that the arsenate compounds responsible for the RCKD are formed only when Arsenic is mixed with hard water found in the Rajarata areas. This is the reason why the decease is confined to the Rajarata areas. As Arsenic is not found naturally in Sri Lankan soil, we wanted to find out how Arsenic got into the soil and the water in Rajarata. The suspect was nearer at hand and it was nothing other than the agrochemicals. We tested for Arsenic in agrochemicals using standard western Chemistry and the tests carried out have confirmed that Arsenic is present in these substances in high proportion. This explains why the RCKD is confined to the last twenty years or so as the effect of the agrochemicals which were first introduced in the sixties is felt during that period.

The Sri Lanka customs got interested in our work and they wanted us to test some samples of agrochemicals that they had acquired. Our group detected Arsenic in those samples as well, using again the standard methods in western Chemistry. When the importers had complained to the custom officers that the former would not believe in our results we took the unprecedented step of carrying out the chemical tests in the presence of a delegation of importers as we realized the gravity of the problem.

I would not say that our job is now over, as we have to work hard to get the authorities to cancel the license to import these agrochemicals contaminated with deadly Arsenic and also to cure the unfortunate citizens of our country who have been victims of “thanhadika” western manufacturers and local importers. There is a cure for the disease communicated to us by the devivaru, but unfortunately we do not have sufficient number of “vedanan” to attend to the victimized patients. (The Island - 2011/06/08)

Copyright Prof. Nalin De Silva