Sri Lanka's ruling coalition divided on Kotmale project

[TamilNet, Saturday, 13 November 2004, 19:27 GMT]
Minister of Estate Infrastructure Mr Muthu Sivalingam of the Ceylon Workers congress (CWC) told the press Friday that CWC will never permit the implementation of the upper Kotmale Hydro-power scheme and warned that United Peoples Freedom Alliance (UPFA) Government will be forcedout of power if it proceeds with the project disregarding CWC's protest.

Power and Energy Minister Susil Premaajayantha is awaiting cabinet approval to launch the scheme, having completed all preliminary arrangements to start implementation by January next year and that the report related to the cabinet investigations on the first stage of the scheme was submitted at the last cabinet meeting, according to cabinet sources.

Sources say agreement on eleven of the fourteen contentious issues have been addressed in the report and Sri Lanka's President Ms Kumaratunge has directed further investigations and report on the remaining three items with in two weeks.

Muthu Sivalingam added, "We have repeatedly apprised the government as well as Ms Kumaratunge personally of the negative impact of the Kotmalee scheme on the estates and settlements. Ms Kumaratunge as well as Ministers Dinesh Gunewardena and Jeyaraj Fernandopulle agree with us on this. At best we can permit only the St. Clare's waterfall, out of six waterfalls to be used for this purpose. Even the President has questioned the desirability of such huge investment. The lower Kotmalee reservoirs could be utilised to implement the hydropower scheme using the same Japanese aid."

Minister Premaajayantha told the press that there is urgent need to implement this scheme to overcome the energy crisis in Sri Lanka. "Total opposition to Upper Kotmale project by the CWC, despite being a partner of the Government, is likely to cause tension within the ruling coalition," Premaajayantha said.

Upper Kotmale is a 150 MW plant hydropower project proposed by Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) which is a Government Agency responsible for generation of electricity in Sri Lanka. Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the project was submitted for approval of the Ministry of Irrigation Power and Energy in December 1994 and Central Environmental Authority was the concurrent agency. The project was approved in 1998.

 

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