Mechanization improves salt production at Elephant Pass

[TamilNet, Monday, 06 September 2004, 01:01 GMT]
Mechanized iodization and the new building housing machinery constructed at a cost of more than Rs.6m from funds provided by UNICEF have improved production of table salt from Elephant Pass and Kurunchativu salterns. More than 16 metric tons of salt, or about 20% of the output of 1990s were produced in the last twelve months from the 12 acres of salt pans brought back to production after the war, officials at facility said.

Iodization plant
Mahilan, plant manager and technical expert on the machinery
S.Sunderamoorthy, an official at the TECH an NGO operating in the NorthEast, said that equipment for the Research Laboratory, generators for the plant and a new tractor with the accessories to load, unload salt were imported from India with funding assistance of close to Rs 10m provided by the UNICEF.

"We are continually increasing salt production at both locations," Sunderamoorthy said. "Last month we constructed three additional salt pans at the Kurunchativu saltern, providing additional employment to about 115 people. The facility has capacity to employ 300 people on a permanent basis. If we include temporary and seasonal workers, the employment potential of the salt operation is close to 1000," he added.

Iodization plant
Laboratory where salt samples are tested for iodine content for conformity with Health Department regulations
Mahilan is the plant manager at the facility and is trained to operate and manage the iodization unit. "The actual operation of the machinery is pretty simple," he said. "Iodine solution at a regulated rate is sprayed through an orifice inside a chamber on salt carried over a coveyer belt. The salt is then mixed thoroughly by pushing against gravity through a spiral mechanical assembly to complete the iodization," Mahilan said.

"Salt samples are regularly sent to our laboratory for measurement of iodine content. The figure should be close to 4%. Jaffna Health officials visit at least twice a month to our facility to ensure that we conform to health standards and our operation provides salt of consistent quality," Mahilan added.

Healthy consumption of salt for an adult is nearly 12 gm a day and iodine, 150 micrograms. Iodization of salt dates back to the research by David Marine (1880-1976) and the launching of a program to combat iodine deficiency in U.S. in 1924. Now iodization is a legal requirement.

Iodization plant
S. Thilak and Sunderamoorthy, attached to the Economic Division, visiting the Laboratory at the Iodizaton unit
The British monopolized all salt production in Sri Lanka under their control in 1938 with the establishment of the Salt Department in the wake of the ‘Salt Satyagraha’ by Mahatma Gandhi in India. The Salt Department was made the National Salt Corporation in 1966. All salterns in Sri Lanka were under the corporation before 1990.

Elephant Pass and Kurunchativu salterns with a combined area of more than 100 acres were producing nearly 85,000 metric tons of salt a year in 1990, meeting the salt needs of Sri Lanka and leaving enough for export.

From 1990 until the Sri Lanka Army's (SLA's) Elephant Pass garrison was captured by the Liberation Tigers (LTTE) in 2000 the salterns in Elephant Pass and Kurunchativu were unattended and salt production ground to a halt.
Iodization plant
Research Officer in-charge of the laboratory
Iodization plant
Name board at the entrance to the Iodization unit

Iodization plant
Workers at the iodization unit
Iodization plant
Laboratory equipment donated by the UNICEF to the iodization unit

Iodization plant
Iodization machinery donated by UNICEF

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