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2ND LEAD

De-populating Sampoor

[TamilNet, Thursday, 28 December 2006, 23:21 GMT]
Indian state owned National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) is set to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Colombo, on Friday, amid protests from Tamil parliamentarians who are voicing concerns that the Coal-Fired Power Plant project in Sampoor has a hidden political agenda to permanently evict Tamils from the Muthur east region. Around 30,000 Tamils were forced to leave the southern Trincomalee region into Vaharai when Sri Lanka military launched a major offensive and captured Sampoor from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in September.

Indian High Commissioner Alok Prasad will be present at the Sri Lankan Presidential Secretariat when the agreement between Sri Lanka and India to build a 500MW imported-coal power plant is signed Friday, media sources in Colombo said.

Tamil National Alliance (TNA) parliamentarian from Trincomalee, K. Thurairetnasingham, in a media release, slammed the Government of Sri Lanka for rushing with the project without consulting the Tamil representatives, while thousands of Tamils are forced to flee the region. The power plant will have a permanent adverse impact on the future livelihood of Tamils in the region, he said.

Sections of the Sri Lankan establishment are advocating to shift the proposed coal power plant from the location identified earlier in 2002 near Veppankuda, above the Marble Beach, to Sampoor region on the opposite side of Koddiyar Bay.
Colombo has been engaged since April this year with a politico-military objective to capture the Tamil populated territories in southern Trincomalee and Northern Batticaloa, and have already engineered the exodus of more than 30,000 Tamils from the region, the MP charged. Tamils have fled from nearly 30 villages, including Sampoor, Kadarkaraichenai, Chenaiyoor, Ilakkanthai, Sudaikudah, Pattalipuram and Koonithivu in Muthur east during SLA's recent offensives.

The first coal power plant is already being set up with Chinese assistance, amid strong protests from the civilians in Norochcholai in the Puttalam district in the west of the island.

In the East, Indian Oil Corporation, took over 99 storage tanks of World War II vintage in Trincomalee Oil Tank Farm in 2003 during the peace process.

Sri Lanka viewed the Indian presence in Trincomalee as a part of its "international safety net" against the Tigers.

Feasibility tour by Indian experts and Sri Lankan officials with UNP (now SLFP) minister Rohita Bogollagama, 17 May 2002 [Library Photo]
On 17th and 18th May 2002, Rohitha Bogollagama, then Minister of Industries under United National Front (UNF) Government, together with the Indian National Thermal Power Corporation officials, carried out a feasibility study, and selected a location near the China Bay airstrip inside the High Security Zone in the Trincomalee Harbour to build the coal-fired power plant. Mr. Bogollagama is currently Minister of Enterprise Development and Investment Promotion, having crossed over to SLFP from UNP, two years ago.

During the 2002 evaluation, concerns were raised that the tall chimney of the Coal Power Plant may disrupt the landing of aircrafts at the China bay airbase. Foreign experts assured local officials that the chimney will not be a hinderance to the air traffic.

However, Colombo abandoned the location later, believed to be due to pressure from the Sinhala lobby which was concerned over the polution of Sinhalese populated Kantalai area lying to the southwest of Chinabay along the direction of monsoon winds.

In October this year, when the Sri Lanka Ministry of Power and Energy, announced their plan to construct a coal power plant using a loan from the Indian Government on concessionary terms, the Indian Government officials denied their participation in the project.

coal-fired power plant
In Coal-fired power plants, coal is burnt in a furnace to heat re-circulating water that produces steam at high-pressure. The steam is fed through a steam-turbine to produce torque driving an alternator to produce electricity. Low pressure steam from turbine outlet is cooled by external water in a condenser and refed into furnace.
Power plant typically requires a long jetty in proximity. By moving the project from Chinabay to the opposite side of Koddiyar Bay to Sampoor, despite the absence of a deep-sea jetty for unloading, large tracts of arable land will likely end-up as storage area for coal. Or a new jetty has to be built at high cost.

The Tamil areas that survived Sinhala colonisation will be affected with micro-particle dust from buring coal, civil society sources in the east say. In addition, the haze will reduce visibility in the region and obscure the spectacular vistas along prestine local beaches.

Power plants on average have useful life of fifty to sixty years, and emit large amounts of carbon dioxide (1 million tons of CO2 per 100MW) and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Sulfur dioxide and oxides of nitrogen which cause environmentally hazardous acid-rain are also emitted. Poisonous mercury is also released to the air.

Further, warm water outflow from the cooling pipes to the power-plant condenser will be discharged into the sea, and this will deplete the fish stock along the coast. The livelihood of Tamil fisher families along the coastal villages will be endangered.

Sri Lankan military officials and the hardline bureaucracy in the East port town, were quick to seize the opportunity following the military capture of Sampoor and the eviction of Tamils from Muthur East region, advocating to shift the site of coal power plant.

Developmental zones in Trincomalee town have been systematically colonized and the Tamil areas have been neglected in the development with a long term politico-military objective in Trincomalee.

The advocates of power plant in Sampoor region seem to think that a military victory alone would not be sufficient, in the long run, to evict Tamils from the region, permanently.


Chronology:


External Links:
US: Power plant emissions
FE: NTPC goes global; set to em-power Sri Lanka with joint venture
US: Cradle to grave: The Environmental impacts from coal

 

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