By Ranil Senanayake –
What do we call someone who threatens the Sri Maha Bhodi and our heritage? Once we had a terrorist outfit called the ‘Tigers’ who attempted to damage our living link to the Buddha, the Sri Maha Bhodiya. Should the label now be given to the gang who are attempting to build a 500 MW coal fired power station in Trincomalee (as stage I). They have been informed time and time again of the negative global experience on Coal fired power plants. They are aware of the damage to the health of the current and future populations living in the NCP. The fact is, that these people who are already suffering from being poisoning by agricultural water, will now poisoned again through the air. These realities seem not to bother the promoters of Coal fired power plants. Their profits seem to be more important than the health of the population living around. But the most disturbing and disgusting aspect of the cover up is that neither the CEB, CEA or any other so called ‘Sri Lankan’ institution with responsibility to the public, has pointed out the obvious cost we will have to pay with acid rain and heavy metal fallout from this power plant.
A 500-megawatt coal plant ( only the first stage of Sampur) burns 1,430,000 tons of coal, uses 2.2 billion gallons of water and 146,000 tons of limestone. It also puts out, each year
10,000 tons of sulfur dioxide. Sulfur dioxide (SOx) is the main cause of acid rain, which damages forests, lakes and buildings.
10,200 tons of nitrogen oxide. Nitrogen oxide (NOx) is a major cause of smog, and also a cause of acid rain.
3.7 million tons of carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the main greenhouse gas, which is the leading cause of global warming
500 tons of small particles. Small particulates are a health hazard, causing lung damage.
220 tons of hydrocarbons. Fossil fuels are made of hydrocarbons; when they don’t burn completely, they are released into the air. They are a cause of smog.
720 tons of carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide (CO) is a poisonous gas and contributor to global warming.
The list goes on, approving such a polluting monster not only threatens our well being, but runs directly opposite to the promise that our President gave the world at the COP21 in Paris last year when he announced that Sri Lanka will seek a fossil free future in our power generation. Perhaps this is the group hell-bent in destroying our Presidents reputation by giving lie to his international obligations.
The whole reason for considering Coal as the energy source for our future was based on the premise that Coal was the cheapest option a study was made by the same people who will benefit from the coal trade. This study is astounding in the fact that all costs have been externalized in counting the cost of power from the coal power plant. The loading-dock, conveyor systems, grid structures, support infrastructure, land, water etc. are all provided free by the Government of Sri Lanka (us). In addition, the costs to public health or biodiversity are considered as externalities and not computed, only the operation of the power plant for coal is considered in the cost. With such lopsided costing they announce that coal is the cheapest and push for the acceptance of coal.
The promoters of coal-fired power have a great responsibility by our nation. We live on a land where the rocks were turned into the art that bespeaks our culture; clouds of acid rain from the coal-fired power plants will erode our precious heritage in a few short years. An erosion of our cultural icons truly indicates an erosion of the culture. Luckily for us the spluttering Norochicolai coal fired plant on AB (Always Breakdown) mode has its pollution cleaned by the NE monsoon, this will change if the Sampur plant begins to spew out its pollution into the NE monsoon winds.
But the most disturbing and heinous outcome of allowing this power plant to be constructed is the danger that the coal fires power plants will pose to the Jaya Sri Maha Bhodiya.
Any smoke from Trincomalee will be carried across the NCP by the North East Monsoon winds and because these winds are wet and rain laden, acid rain is a certain consequence. Acid rain happens when gas pollutants such as nitrogen oxides and sulfur oxides react with water molecules in the atmosphere; the chemical reaction of sulfur oxide turning into sulfuric acid is the consequence. The oxides of nitrogen produce nitric acid. These acids are delivered to Earth when it precipitates with rain and is called ‘wet deposition of acid’.
As the sad death of many European forests have taught us, acid rain effects trees in several different ways, it will dissolve and wash away the nutrients and minerals in the soil, which help the trees to grow. It will cause the release of harmful substances such as aluminum into the soil. It will wear away the waxy protective coating of leaves, damaging them and preventing them from being able to photosynthesize properly. In Europe the acid rain travels for miles, going across national boundaries, carried by the wind and dispersed by the mountains.
Obviously, the promoters of the power plant understand the problem, the EIA for Sampur attempts to allay our fears by suggesting that the winds from the NE monsoon will be deflected east or north and will not pass over the NCP. But the reality is that are no mountains between Sampur and Polonnaruwa or Anuradhapura to disperse or deflect the acid rain, all the acid rain will fall over these areas. Being an acid it will burn the leaves of plants causing them to sicken and die. A freak wind event that concentrates the acid rain over the Jaya Sri Maha Bhodi only once, is the trigger needed for a national disaster !
Armed with this knowledge of the effect of large coal fired power plants, any enemy of Sri Lanka could damage our cultural icons without resorting to bombs and weapons. Should the Sri Lankans, who, in the face of this knowledge, promote this monstrosity, be looked as the same as the terrorists who once attempted to attack the scared tree of our nation. When stating that their acid rain will be deflected north and eastwards, are the Indians attempting to lull as into a sense of false security until the deed is done ?
And this is just the tip of the iceberg, the destruction of Sri Lanka’s environment is being planned to satisfy India’s greed for power. The power generated by coal is being promoted for India’s use, this is clear from the CEB’s projects of their energy scenario for Sri Lanka. There are insidious, plans to lay an underwater cable to carry a massive power load to India, suggesting that many more power plants are being planned. Is this a blatant attempt to export the pollution that Coal fired power plants generate in in India, to us in Sri Lanka, while they get the power ? Not at all the action of a friendly neighbor.
Armed with this knowledge, let us watch the dance of the CEB and the Indians, will the politicians be mesmerized by their dance.? Sampur is the litmus test of India’s friendship towards us. Will they heed the concerns of Sri Lankans and give us solar or renewable power instead of Coal? or will they try to push the polluting Coal on us by force ? Now that the despicable trick of portraying coal as the cheapest energy option, while externalizing all national costs have now been exposed, will they still continue to deal with the con-men and help them accomplish what the terrorists could not ?