23 April, 2024


Ask India To Replace Neurotoxin Mercury Laden Coal With LNG Or OTEC In Trincomalee 

By Chris Dharmakirti

Chris Dharmakirti

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.

0,,15670552_303,00The 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!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 1

    Well, the emissions will have dust and other heavy metal particles.

    I think a form carbon sequestration can be used. Instead of releasing the smoke directly to the atmosphere pump it underground.

    The heavy particles will settle in a cavity underground. The clean air will be released once the dust has settled. Its an engineering challenge that can be easily met.

    Its an economical form of Carbon sequestration that can be easily implemented.


    • 8

      Good one, Keep it coming Chris!

      Fact is that India is moving fast towards SOLAR Energy after putting on a big show at the Paris Conference – so why build a coal plant and export pollution to Lanka?!

      Citizens groups must start saying NO to Indian and Chinese white elephants like the Sampur Coal plant and the Colombo port city which will cause environmental and financial ruin to the people because of bi-partisan POLITICAL CORRUPTION.

      Mahinda Jarapassa, Sira and Ranil are to blame for the massive National Debt incurred by building white elephant projects like the Hambantota Port and airport and stadium and conference center which should be shut down as they cost too much to maintain.

      Throwing good money after bad, and getting into greater debt to pay off the massive debt caused by Mahinda Jarapassa’s Vanity Projects seems to be the policy of the current Ranil Sira Ayahapalanaya government instead of holding Jarapassa ACCOUNTABLE and ceasing his assets to pay off some of the debt!

    • 5

      Chris Dharmakirti

      RE:Ask India To Replace Neurotoxin Mercury Laden Coal With LNG Or OTEC In Trincomalee

      “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!”

      Thanks for exposing this environmental problem. Expose, expose and expose.

      Ask them to supply coal that meet US or EU standards, or have Environmental equipment to remove those pollutants. We do not want the mercury going into the atmosphere and injuring the people for generations.

      Mercury Pollution from Coal-fired
      Power Plants
      A Dangerous Threat to People and Wildlife

      In the U.S., 1 in 6 women of childbearing age (15-44) has blood mercury levels that exceed those considered safe by the EPA for a developing baby. This amounts to approximately 630,000 babies born every year at risk of developmental problems because of prenatal mercury exposure.

      According to the Center for Disease Control, health effects linked to prenatal and childhood methylmercury exposure include problems with language, memory, attention, visual skills, and lower IQs.


  • 3

    The choice of coal was based on cost mainly I think.
    There are “clean coal technologies” and methods to capture or minimize toxic emissions. But everything costs money, even if not more than the extra cost incurred in using natural gas (which will still emit pollutants other than heavy metal and SO2).

    Sending CO2 underground or under water is not a clever idea as there are various long term implications, and involves immediate cost as well.

    Solar electric energy consumes a large energy input, which at present comes from unclean energy. (It is a large payment in energy in advance for an anticipated surplus. The surplus margin will widen with time as technology is advancing and will make it more competitive.) It has long term environmental implications that should be addressed in anticipation. Wind energy too has such issues, but of a different nature and scale.
    Our problem is that we do not have any energy technology with us, clean or not, but for what we had in the last century.
    Energy planning requires anticipatory development of skills and technologies as well.

    One thing that we often forget is energy economy.
    Increased energy production is of no use if it only encourages wasteful consumption.
    Thus our notions of development need serious reviewing.

  • 3

    I might recall that this matter was presented in a Paper by The Planters Association of Ceylon when coal power was
    mooted. In brief the end of Tea plantations within a decade was forecast?

    The mutt politicians were concerned with their com. only and thats it.

  • 3

    Thanks, Chris Dharmakirti,

    These are subjects where my knowledge is not great, but what you say makes sense and is well presented. All the responses that have come in are also sensible.

    What I hope that my comment will assure you of is the fact that even guys like me who are not brilliant, but are determined to apply common sense and approach vital issues with the seriousness that they deserve, can spot an intelligent approach when they see it.

    I hope that other scientists will join your group of activists, and that you will be able to persuade the decision makers to take account of the long term effects that you describe.

    “sekera” has also made an important point: “Increased energy production is of no use if it only encourages wasteful consumption.”

  • 0

    I think it is India which provided heavy metals full of Glyphosate too.

  • 3

    India bagging Solar & dumping Coal to Sri lanka.

    Thank you Chris D for a very informative article which has educated me.
    It appears the Yahapalanaya is not interested in the people’s welfare and well being.

  • 3

    Having a minister for environment wont do. We need s knowledgeable regulatory body who would police such projects and guide the policy makers. Sri lanka is also signatory to international pollution conventions. If they passed regulations compelling vehicles to produce emission test certificates, isn’t contrary to the coal power project? Other countries are moving towards LNG and Sri Lanka too must move in that direction. Timely reminder.

  • 4

    Our politicians must take the blame for this huge blunder.
    Above all, what surprises me is that the same ”know it all” Paata-lee was the minister responsible for these power plants and he did not mention a word about the grave hazards.

    Shouldn’t all of them be jailed for this crime against the nation ?

  • 2

    Coal power plant has to stop, Sri Lanka will become a desert in no tine. No more Ceylon tea, marine life, defect babies. sadu sadu.

  • 0

    Finally…sanity seemed to have been restored..Prime Minister Modi seemed to have agreed to shift to LNG for Sampur, based on reports from New Delhi that cites the outcome of the discussion President Maitripala Sirisena has had with his Indian counterpart. Hopefully the Japanese Government will now follow suit.

    Here is the excerpt of the Island article:

    NEW DELHI, May 16: Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena has asked Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to convert the Sampur Power Station in Trincomalee from a coal power plant to one powered by liquified natural gas (LNG).

    Modi has responded positively to Sirisena’s suggestion, and asked his officials to discuss the issue promptly with their Sri Lankan counterparts, and move forward.

    This was revealed to The Island here today by Sri Lankan High Commissioner to India Esala Weerakoon.

    The Sampur project figured in the bilateral deliberations between the two sides on Friday. President Sirisena raised the issue, and Modi reacted to the former’s suggestion favourably.

    Present at the bilateral talks were Sri Lankan High Commissioner to India Esala Weerakoon, his Deputy MKR Lenagala, and Asoka Girihagama, Director General of the South Asia Division in the Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry.

    The Indian side included Foreign Secretary Dr Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, Indian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Yashvardhan Kumar Sinha, and Ms Renu Pall, Joint Secretary (Sri Lanka, Maldives and the Indian Ocean Region) in the Ministry of External Affairs.

    The Sampur Power Station (also known as Sampoor Power Station and Trincomalee Power Station) was meant to be a coal-powered power station. The MoU for the first 500 MW phase was signed on 29 December 2006, between the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) and India’s National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC).

    The Power Purchase Agreement, Implementation Agreement, BOI Agreement, Land Lease Agreement and Coal Supply Agreement were signed on 7 October 2013 by relevant parties including the Government the CEB and the Trincomalee Power Company Limited. The power station was expected to come online in late 2017.

    However, there has been opposition to the coal-powered plant from people living in the area. Prominent leaders like R Sampanthan and Rauf Hakeem have expressed reservations about the plant.

    In view of this and President Sirisena personally taking up the issue with Modi, India may now do what Sri Lanka desires.


Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 200 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically disabled after 5 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.