By Ranil Senanayake –
We are held hostage to a group of of greedy politicians and corrupt businessmen willing to sacrifice our health and our heritage to the purveyors of energy addiction. It is universally accepted that Coal is one of the most toxic sources of power and contributes volumes of climate changing Carbon Dioxide gas.
On all International Platforms the dangers of using Coal for energy generation has been made patently clear. The negative impact of of Coal on human health, to biodiversity and to Ecosystem Services has been demonstrated time and again. Yet, the sad argument “The developed countries used Coal and got developed, so we have an equal right to use Coal for our development”, is oft repeated by some ill-educated and greedy people, ignoring the reality as to what its use is doing, to our health to our wellbeing and to the planet. Today, the argument on coal is being craftily modified to state that there is a mythical substance called ‘clean coal’ and using this myth they try to foist coal burning plants, rejected by the populace of their own countries, on some poor, gullible, ‘developing’ nation.
It was not so long ago that a great number of Sri Lankans who are experts in their fields provided information to the Ministry of Environment on the massive negative impact of using Coal. This presentation was based on scientific research and was it amassed a massive body of evidence, it was then decided to cancel the proposed Coal fired power plant. But now, suddenly some politicians within the system have seen it profitable to jump at the bait offered by Japan, “Clean Coal “ fired power plants ! There is no such substance as ‘Clean Coal’. To make such a move, while the President himself is the minister, bespeaks of dark doings behind his back, for we know that the President will never go against his own words at international fora. The plotters who conspired with the Japanese should be outed, the public has a right to know. The public needs to know ‘What is Clean Coal ?’
However we should bear in mind that in a lop sided vision of ‘development’ the public will be coerced to consume more and more as ‘development’. Compound this with unplanned constructions with their profligate use of power and we move into a future with greater demand for power and thereby a call for more power generation. This is the tragedy of a government policy whose concepts of ‘development’ are still rooted in the consumerist/growth models 1970’s, and whose awareness of power generation stops at coal. Coal is an environmentally destructive substance, it degrades human health. But none of that is important to the purveyors of coal who want us ‘hooked’ on their product to give as power.
“In a port city in France, goes a story; there lived some of the most unscrupulous criminals. There were the drug traffickers who dealt in the cruel drug heroin. Heroin is addictive, it creates a sense of well-being; but one requires increasingly large doses to maintain this sense of well-being. The victim who begins to take it becomes ever more dependent on the drug and freedom from it becomes increasingly difficult. The traffickers, it is alleged, give free doses to children in the 11, 12 age group knowing well that the gullible, naïve, children will soon become addicted. When they become addicted they have to pay and the price they have to pay increases with the addiction. They are trapped in a vicious dependency cycle and there is no way out. They end up being the chattel of the criminals.” Is development to be spelled out as dependency on fossil fuels? If this is the energy source that powers development and if our hopes and sense of well-being is tied to the oil, coal and gas purveyors, how safe are we as an independent nation?
Politicians of every colour has pushed us along this path, until today we are ready to accept any poison, any compromise of our future as long as our increasingly profligate fossil energy dependent lifestyle is not affected. It is the level of consumption by a household that is the measure of development today, a far cry from the vision of our founding father D.S. Senanayake who said that development should be measured by the larder of the poorest of our homes. But under the guidance of the ‘new’ leaders, the worship of GDP and international monetary metrics, is more important than the well-being of the citizenry.
So burning coal, is considered good because it give us more energy and thus adds to the GDP. The myth of ‘clean coal’ is now being developed, the public, are told that; ‘The will be no problems, do not be concerned’, the same mantra we heard when Norochcholai was being promoted and the same set of crooked EIA writers will probably be commissioned again. The reality of Norochcholai
was very different to the EIA that was given. The cost that the populace is paying through the increase of non-communicable diseases in the operation of this power plant, is painfully evident.
The danger was clear to our first president J.R. Jayewardene, when as a young politician, he wrote; “The environment which the State provides today, for building up the character of its citizens, tends not to the establishment of the ideal but to its destruction. The majority of States, including Sri Lanka, stand for “the purely industrial and utilitarian view of life, the cult of power and machinery and national comfort”.
Today, this cult of power and machinery, with those subscribing to it, is pushing us to accept the purely industrial and utilitarian view of life as development. The current crop of the BBP (Businessman-Bureaucrat-Politician) nexus, sees consumerist growth as the only valid goal.
Is the present deal to push the Japanese coal fired power plants on a nation whose leaders have rejected coal power a sign of some crooked BBP elements once again attempting to subvert his excellency the President by going against his international undertakings ?
Sri Lanka was a foremost nation speaking on Japans defense after the war. Using the ignorance of our politicians, to foist a substance that undermines our international stance is not a reciprocal gesture.
To have a cabinet that issues a cabinet paper promoting a mythical substance called ‘Clean Coal’, is shameful.