04/13/2007, 00.00
SRI LANKA
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Sri Lanka’s energy needs growing

by Melani Manel Perera
The Sri Lankan government launches foreign-funded projects to satisfy the country’s growing energy needs. The 150 MW Upper Kotmale power plant’s second phase begins but the government seems to privilege two controversial coal power plants funded by China and India.

Colombo (AsiaNews) –Sri Lanka’s energy needs are rising to keep up with the development of its modern infrastructure. For this reason the government is pursuing many projects, in some cases without the consent of the population, concerned about their environmental impact.

One example is the Upper Kotmale power project, jointly financed by Sri Lanka and Japan. Launched last Monday, the second phase of the hydroelectric power project in Niyamgamdara, Kotmale, will add will add 150 MW electricity to the national grid at a cost of US$ 350 million, 280 provided by Japan.

The Japanese also want to increase their aid to Sri Lanka by providing low interest loans favourable to the government.

According to Sri Lanka’s Energy Minister John Seneviratne, the Upper Kotmale hydroelectric project will be a blessing for the people of the area as infrastructure facilities such as highways, electricity, drinking water, houses, schools, community centres, playgrounds and cinema halls etc. too will be developed” in Talawakelle and its surrounding area.

“I think this project will symbolise the strong friendship between Sri Lanka and Japan,” said Nobuyoshi  Kawashima, deputy chairman of MAEDA Corporation which is building the plant.

The Upper Kotmale project is a priority for the Sri Lankan government together with the 300 MW coal power plant planned for Norochcholai. However, it has been strongly opposed by the local population concerned about the environmental impact of high carbon dioxide emissions.

A joint venture with a Chinese company, the Norochcholai project will be the first of its kind in the country, but not the last. A second and even bigger coal power plant (500 MW) is planned for Trincomalee. An agreement to build it was signed with India on December 26 of last year.

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