By Dr. Hiran Amarasekera | May 22, 2006
The main crisis faced by Sri Lanka in this 21st century is the power crisis. At present, hydropower produces 37% of electricity and the deficit of 63% is fulfilled by fuel. Yet, the demand for electricity increases by 10% each year.
Due to the price increase of fuel at the world market, Sri Lanka faces not only a power crisis but also financial constrains. As the production cost of producing electricity through coal power is lesser and the capacity that can be generated is higher than other modes such as windmills, firewood etc. the Sri Lankan government decided to go for a coal power plant. Finally, the
foundation stone of Norochcholai Coal Power Plant, to mark the official launch of the project was laid on 11th May 2006, with the aim of fulfilling the electricity need of people and to give electricity at a cheaper cost
The coal power plant is being constructed in the Southern end of Kalpitiya peninsula with the funds of China. It will be constructed in three stages, with a capacity of 300MW per plant per year, making a total capacity of 900MW by 2010. High quality low Sulphur containing coal is due to be supplied from Australia, South Africa and Indonesia.
For projects of the size and importance of the coal power plant, which can have considerable impacts on the environment, Sri Lankan legislation requires an Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Report. The EIA report discusses the environmental issues relating to the coal power plant and evaluates its potential impacts on them. Major issues are the possible impacts on air, ground water, soil, marine water, terrestrial animals and vegetation, the coast and the coastline buildings and socio-economy due to the coal power plant. They are: the air getting polluted from gases like CO2, CO, NOx and SOx resulting from combustion of coal and also from particulate matter like fly ash, bottom ash, and coal dust; the ground water and soil getting contaminated from leachate through ash landfill, coal stock pile and waste waters; marine water from warm water discharge, coal falling from unloading, coal dust and
the fuel and greases from ships; coastal erosion and impact on buildings specially the St. Anne?s Church at Thalawila due to the jetty etc.
Mitigation measures are being proposed to control these possible impacts on the environment. Some of them are: to use low Sulphur containing coal to reduce the emission of SOx, Flue Gas Desulphurization equipment to absorb SO2, low NOx burners to control NOx emission, an Electrostatic Precipitator to collect fly ash, spreading water on coal piles to control coal dust, sealing of the base of ash landfill and coal stock yard to avoid leachate to ground
water and soil, drape a canvas between the unloading ship and the jetty to catch falling coal etc.
A major concern was that whether the jetty may affect the church but it has been shown that there will be no impact on it due to the jetty. Another concern was whether the warm water having a temperature of 70C above the intake temperature can affect marine water and animals. A computer program has revealed that there will be no such impact as the warm waters temperature will fall down to 0.50C within an area of 500m after discharged due to the rapid mixing with sea water.
Due to the mitigation measures that are being proposed the environment effects due to the coal power plant will be minimized. Therefore, it is ensured that there will be no harmful impacts on the environment due to this coal power plant. By this coal power plant general public, small industries and factories will get electricity at a lower cost, and most importantly as a country Sri Lanka will gain many years of development.