ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has promised action on cutting the environmental fallout from the Norochcholai coal plant and said no decision has been made on a new plant at a meeting with church leaders.
President has directed that the plant be operated on proper environmental standards following a meeting with Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, the Bishop of Chilaw, environmentalists and residents of the area.
“The attention of the President was drawn to the damages caused to the environment as well as issues created to the day-today lives of the people due to non-adherence to the environmental standards agreed at the time of commencement of the project,” the President’s media office said in a statement.
He had promised to summon officials in charge.
Sri Lanka’s Ceylon Electricity Board had originally planned a Japanese funded coal plant which was equipped with the cleanest technology available at the time, but it was halted amid opposition to from Church leaders and others.
After Sri Lanka hit severe power crisis, a Chinese design-build-transfer plant was set up. Sri Lanka’s auditor general has said it is one of the best investments of all time in terms of economic returns.
However there were then problems with ash and coal dust. Sources say mitigating initiatives such as tree buffers originally planned were not built and CEB’s lengthy procurement procedures also slowed down other activities.
The Norochcholai complex has three 300 MegaWatt plants which is providing the most cost-effective base load at the moment, and a fourth is planned.
“No decision has been taken yet regarding the fourth phase,” the statement said.
Sri Lanka is now in both a capacity financial crisis after another coal plant in Trincomalee was cancelled in 2015 and no price increases were given to the utility after 2013.
The rupee has also fallen from 131 to 182 in the period due to liquidity injections involving the operation of a soft-pegged exchange rate. (Colombo/Jan20/2020)