TheIsland: Don’t mix national well-being with coal contract


I am happy the ‘True Citizen’ has removed his mask and emerged, identifying himself as Ranil Senanayake as I correctly guessed, and replies my letter of 5th June, He now calls for clarifications as to the fate of our vegetation and health of our people. If RS had read and understood my letter, it clearly states, world renowned consultants in Coal Power Generation Plants, M/s Rambol of Denmark, were selected after careful scrutiny of their qualifications, experience and ability to undertake this consultancy. For the study they had engaged the following internationally reputed experts –

[a] Hans Hartelius, Team Leader, port & infrastructure planning expert

[b] Ole Michaelsen, EIA and ground water resources expert

[c] Henning Smith Lielsen, Marine environment and fish resources expert

[c] Henning Lauridsen, Coastal erosion and EIA studies specialist.

This team had met the following locals:

[a] Dr. Frank Marcus Fernando, Bishop of Chilaw who vehemently objected to siting the plant at Norochcholai, fearing damage to St. Anne’s Church at Talawila, 12 Km away and also environmental pollution

[b] Provincial Environmental Authority

[c] Ministry for Power and Energy

[d] Coast Conservation Department

[e] Department of Fisheries & Aquatic Resources

[f] Central Environmental Authority

[g] Institute of Civil Engineers of Sri Lanka

[h] Federation of Chambers of Commerce & Industries of SL

[i] Ministry of Port Development & Development of South

[j] Sri Lanka Port Authority.

NOTE -This list is mentioned to show to what extent these consultants have gone to, in meeting the local people who had fears any ill effects to both persons and country.

Surely, these internationally reputed experts would have known what RB says of Acid Rain. ‘Acid rain does not usually kill trees directly. Instead, it is more likely to weaken the trees by damaging their leaves, limiting the nutrients available to them or poisoning them with substances slowly released to the soil’. Here is what the Consultants engaged by CEB had to say on Acid Rain. “No Coal fired power plant will run 365 days of the year. For operational and maintenance reasons the average operation time is expected to be 75%, ambient air quality standards were set at as not to harm people, animals and plants. Acid Rains do not occur when ambient air quality standards are met. Low levels of S02 and NOx do not have measurable effect on the pH of rain water. As no acid rain scenario is to be prepared’.

To verify and get first-hand information on this observation, Carlo Fernando the then Consultant to CEB, was sent to India’s Orissa and Bihar tea planting districts and he reported there was absolutely no damage to plantations, confirming the views of M/s.Rambol. The comprehensive M/s. Rambol’s report is available with the CEB and in the Ministry for Power & Energy. The main concerns which RS writes have received the Consultants special attention and recommendations made. They are Coal Import System, Effects of Smoke Emission Effects of Cooling Water Outlets, Effects of Coal Handling, Ground Water Quality, and Water Quality in Puttalam Lagoon etc. Without reading the report of the consultants, it is very uncharitable or unprofessional for RS to say ‘the consultant is attempting to “GREEN WASH” the reality of Dirty Coal.

He mentions, one 500 Megawatt coal fired power plant produces approximately 3 million tons of Carbon Dioxide a year. I have with me a report “Estimated Value of Preventing Damages to the Environment by a 100 Me Coal Fired Plant, which states:


Approximately 1 Kg of CO2 is released to the atmosphere for every kWh is generated from a coal plant. Therefore 100 Nw coal plant with a plant factor of 85% will release 744,600 tons of CO2/year. –


For every kWh generated from a Coal Power plant, it will result in an approximate emission of 0.004 kg of NOx. The damage caused to the environment has been calculated at the rate of 100S/ton on a conservative basis.


For very kWh generated from a Coal fired plant, 0.02 kg of Sulphur Dioxide [SO2] will be released to the atmosphere. In order to prevent these SO2 emissions, a fuel gas de-sulphurisation system should be introduced.

I certainly appreciate his obsessed concern and his knowledge on the dangers of coal power pants, but his ignorance on the role of bureaucrats, when he says “The sorry sight of a bureaucrat [referring to me] with no knowledge of the subject under his control, depending on foreign consultants ..”, and continues to vilify me saying ‘Bureaucrats like GADS with their uninformed attitude will only help the tragic destruction process”. I am sorry for his poor understanding of who a bureaucrat is. Let me educate him. He is one appointed by government to carry out the policies of the government. In doing so he has to coordinate with others – Professionals, Experts, Consultants etc., to arrive at a workable situation. In short, a person with managerial skills. Does he mean every Secretary to a Ministry should be one who is a professional in that subject assigned to that Ministry? Here it is not out of place, the name of James H Lanerolle [Retired CCS] the then Secretary to the Ministry for Power and Energy, who introduced Coal Power Generation on the advice of Consultant to CEB Carlo Fernando. His term of office as Secretary to the Ministry as well as Chairman of CEB is even today, considered a golden era of CEB.

In this case of Norochcholai Coal Power Plant, as stated earlier, M/s Rambol was appointed who worked with a team of internationally famed experts on the subjects involved to arrive at an acceptable proposal.

If these professionals and technocrats had misdirected the bureaucrat, the blame should be entirely placed on them and not the bureaucrat. If so, have our professionals to which RS fall, failed us, the country? SHAME!

As I said in my earlier letter, all professionals, consultants, experts in different fields should get together, casting away professional jealousies, superiority and egoism to understand and reach a final decision for the well-being of the country and its people. That is a Bureaucrat’s wish.

We should be proud we have among us a super class ecologist in RS who is above all world -famed scientists to advise us, with his alarming obsessed rabid views on environment.

I am aware of the damage caused to the environment by a Coal Power Plant, but RS should understand the circumstances under which we had to rush constructing the Coal Power Plant at Norochcholai, when we were faced with a six-hour power cut. Also at that time, the EIA was not as active as now. It became a force to be reckoned with after the Paris Accord. The defects or repairs while the plant is in operation should have been attended to promptly, without allowing the EIA to take this drastic step of not issuing the clearance. It is hoped CEB will attend to these soon and not resort to closing down the plant. It is also hoped EIA will not pressurize for 100% compliance of its demands and come to some amicable settlement, to avoid a serious situation of long hours of ‘Black Outs’, inconveniencing the public and the country as a whole, and not be a party to the alleged anti-coal mafia, to boost private sector suppliers.


SLAS – Retd. Assistant Secretary


Ministry for Power and Energy

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