By Uditha Jayasinghe
India President Narendra Modi had responded favourably to a request by his Sri Lankan counterpart to change the Sampur coal power plant to an LNG facility as it would have significantly less impact on the environment, a top Government official said yesterday.
Cabinet spokesman Dr. Rajith Senaratne told reporters the change of plans was conveyed to Modi during the President’s recent visit to India where he had discussions with Modi. The president had reportedly made the move after being appraised of the potential environmental impact of coal by environmental groups.
“The Indian president was very positive about the request. Especially when the president made it clear that he has to support the environmental issues that would have to be faced as a result of a coal power plant. President Sirisena is not just the President but also the Environment Minister,” he said.
Dr. Senaratne also hinted that Sri Lanka’s current electricity generation plan that details Sampur and a third coal power plant funded by Japan, would be changed following the recent developments. However, he stopped short of saying the coal power project would now be cancelled.
“The relationship between India and Sri Lanka runs deep and it cannot be changed overnight. These things have to be done step by step,” he said.
A delegation of the Ministry of Power and Energy will meet their Indian counterparts on Friday to discuss the possibility of shelving the $ 600 million project funded by India.
The Sampur coal power plant is to be built in a 500 acre land in Trincomalee district of the Eastern Province with the financial assistance from India. The thermal power plant to be built by India’s state-owned NTPC Ltd at an estimated cost of $ 600 million will add 500 megawatts to the national grid.
However, the location of the power plant has been a concern since the internally displaced persons (IDPs), who were displaced in 2006, are yet to be resettled in Sampur.
An official at the Ministry of Power and Energy said the Cabinet Committee on Economic Management (CEM) has decided to conduct feasibility studies to set up Liquefied Natural Gas plants in Sampur instead of coal powered plants.
“The CEM has arrived at several decisions which include negotiating the need for a coal power plant and replacing it with a cleaner model like LNG,” the official was quoted as saying.
“They have also decided to suspend all activities including tenders that have already been called,” the official added.
He said that the CEM also discussed enabling the Kerawalapitiya power plant to operate on dual fuel basis with the facility to convert to LNG when needed.
Officials of the Indian company, Trincomalee Power Company warned that LNG is likely to be more expensive than coal and that Sri Lanka does not have the capacity to handle large volumes needed for the power project, Indian media reported.
Cabinet gives green light for solar power in Vavuniya
A 10 MW polar power plant for Vavuniya received Cabinet approval yesterday.
Vydexa (Lanka) Power Corporation Pvt Ltd has proposed to establish a 10 Mw solar power plant in Vavuniya with an investment of $ 14.5 million, and it would add 19 GWh annually to the national grid.
The proposal made by International Trade Minister Malik Samarawickrama to transfer a land of 22 hectares in KaththarsinhaKulam, NedunKulam, Vavuniya, to the Board of Investments according to provisions of State Lands Ordinance to be leased to the said company on the above purpose, was approved by the Cabinet of Ministers.