By Chris Dharmakirti –
The biggest health hazard Sri Lanka faces from the existing Chinese coal power plant in Norochcholai and the proposed two new coal power plants in Trincomalee, (Japan and India) is the neurotoxin Mercury!
Mercury is highly volatile and a neurotoxin. Coal power stations are responsible for the highest amount of mercury emissions worldwide. They emit the poisonous metal, also known as quicksilver, into the atmosphere and it can eventually make its way into the food chain.
When digging for information about how Sri Lanka came to greenlight two more coal power plants last month, despite the protests against them, I was appalled to discover that we had not considered LNG gas as an alternative suggestion to India, and it is still not too late to make that switch, as the power plant is yet to be built.
Nirupama Roa, the former Indian High Commissioner in Sri Lanka wanted a diplomatic win during her tenure in Colombo and the result was the Sampur Coal Power Plant. One could easily forgive her at the time, as there was a move to balance the Chinese coal power plant in Sri Lanka, that was located in the west coast of Sri Lanka, directly in line of sight ..wind path of south India.
The cost of that decision was really not taken in to consideration as the Government of the day thought that Trincomalee was the ideal location to unload coal, after having built a mini harbor in Norochcholai to unload coal during the narrow 6 month window offshore, causing much coal spillage and poisoning of our fish stocks and also one of the most sought after tourism areas in the c
Sadly, the CEB keeps picking coal as the only low cost option for Sri Lanka and continues to mislead the politicians who have the decision making power about the need to rely on coal to ensure economical power generation in Sri Lanka. What the CEB fails to tell the politicians and what the legislators fail to ask the CEB is whether, they had costed all of the external costs that has to be paid by the Government when coal is chosen.
If one factors those hidden costs of health cost, and the agriculture crop impact costs, and the drinking water table costs, and the fish contamination costs, and even the forest die back costs, the choice of coal power rises far above an LNG power plant.
After all, the Government does fund free medicine in this country, and also subsidizes agriculture, and both these economic sectors are a big burden on the budget and if one calculates those costs, coal will be very very expensive.
Leaving aside the cost argument, if one stays within the narrow, blinkered perspective of a silo mentality of only taking the direct costs associated with the energy choice for a power plant, LNG will still come up on top, as that would enable Sri Lanka to maximize wind and solar, two abundant renewable energy resources in the country.
Not to mention the numerous other extra benefits LNG provides like CNG for the public transport system and the free cooling options for the urban airconditioning and also a byproduct of urea.
We now have an opportunity to scrap that now under Prime Minister Modi and get either an OTEC or a LNG power plant instead.
That would go a long way in not just repairing the mistrust Sri Lankans have about India not acting in the best interest of our island, but also enable Modi to recast the relationship with us by promoting two of the most abundant renewable energy sources that Sri Lanka has, wind and solar a much more utilized energy source, as a gas power plant would help maximize wind in Sri Lanka, and we have 50,000 mw of that free energy going waste right now.
Wake up India, a golden opportunity to do a good deed by Sri Lanka!