Norochcholai power project will generate 3,000 jobs directly
Sri Lanka to-date has dismally failed in its quest for
self-sufficiency in power or simply electricity. Moving in the footsteps
of our forefathers, the country was lit by electricity generated by
hydro-based sources. The generation was far below our requirements.
It is an accepted fact however that electricity is a crucial
pre-request for development. Electricity should also be made available
at an affordable price to the consumer. Development and an envisaged
economic growth rate of around 8 per cent, sans electricity is a myth.
Referring to the paramount importance of this scarce resource of
electricity in the overall development of his country, the Soviet
Union's founder V.I. Lenin had quite rightly sees that a backward
agricultural country could evolve itself into a newly industrialised
nation, only when its power requirements are met.
Nevertheless, for more than fifty years of our post-independence era,
the hydro-power generation was effected by the rivers which originated
from the central hills and flowed down the slopes of the country.
The hydro-power stations of Lakshapana, Samanala, Wimalasurendra,
Canyon, Nava Lakshapana, Ukuwela, Bowatenna, Kothmale, Victoria,
Randenigala, Rantambe, Samanalaweva, Inginiyagala, Udawalawe and
Kukuleganga belonged to this category which contributed to generate
around 1209 megawatts of power to the national grid.
The power thus generated was only limited to 35 per cent of the total
demand envisaged by the country. The growth in population, broadbased
economic development, local and foreign investment and large-scale
industrialisation and other demographic factors had contributed
immensely to the equation. The supply was far below the demand and it
was evident that the country was heading for a crisis situation in the
The balance requirement of around 65 per cent of the country's energy
was provided by the existing Diesel-powered stations located in an
ad-hoc manner around the country. The escalating costs of oil in the
world market by the day, proved beyond doubt that the diesel-powered
generator was not the panacea for the aggravating energy crisis.
Ever since the crisis surfaced in the early seventies or even
earlier, several schools of thought emerged within the power and energy
fraternity among scholars and intellectuals. Alternatives were
suggested, plans were drawn up and feasibility studies made.
Every alternative project had its inherent strengths and weaknesses,
opportunities and threats, merits and demerits and of course a share of
advantages and disadvantages. None was perfect and sans blemish.
The origins of a coal-powered plant could be traced back to the early
1980s. However, plans for the first ever construction of a coal power
plant at Norochcholai in the Kalpitiya peninsula, Puttalam district and
the North Western Province of Sri Lanka, was made in the 1990s.
The most significant and relevant in the plant's installation was its
environmental impact which had been closely studied and analysed.
However, their findings were sometimes exaggerated or highlighted with
misinformation, misjudgement or occasionally with malice.
Albeit the coal plant was a blessing in disguise to the region, to
some it looked a monster which had descended to destroy the whole of the
Puttalam district. Some analysts argued that the plant would cause the
loss of livelihood to the local farmining and fishing communities.
Communities instigated by these theories took to the streets in
protest. Political exigencies over-whelmed a crucial national issue and
a necessity. Consequently, the construction of the plant in Norochcholai
had been delayed by a decade.
The status quo still remained and dominated all other concerns. We
are consistently confronted with the burning issue of rising oil prices
in the global markets, and the resulting hikes in electricity tariffs
which are believed to be the highest in Asia if not the world.
The ever-increasing electricity costs are driving the domestic
consumer from pillar to post and crippling the small, medium and
large-scale industrial sector as well. A sustainable solution to the
energy crisis had to be found, and found soon, or be doomed. It was in
this backdrop that President Mahinda Rajapaksa symbolically inaugurated
the long-overdue and stagnant 'Coal-Power' plant at Norochcholai
As the Power and Energy Minister John Seneviratne noted at the
function, it was President Rajapaksa's strong political will and his
astute leadership that made this event a reality.
The inauguration invariably marked a great leap forward in the
government's genuine efforts of solving the energy crisis within the
next few years.
This endeavour was yet another true manifestation of the 'Mahinda
Chintanaya', in the provision of 'Electricity for All' policy.
Recognising the necessity and the urgency of the Norochcholai Plant at
the present juncture, President Rajapaksa urged all the stakeholders of
the project to expedite the construction process. "If not for the
unfortunate setbacks this project had to face in the past, instead of
inaugurating, I could have commissioned it today", he said.
"As electricity tariffs are entwined with the global oil market
prices which are continuously rising, I urge all concerned to complete
the project at least one year ahead of schedule", the President further
said at the epoch-making symbolic inauguration ceremony which marked a
paradigm shift in the landscape of power and energy in Sri Lanka.
Despite the ongoing conflict in the North and the East, the President
in his wisdom, vision and with foresight took the bold decision of
launching the Norochcholai, Upper Kotmale and the Kerawalapitiya power
plants which would contribute around 3000 megawatts of power to the
national grid by 2015.
The mega development project did dislodge and displace 72 odd
families domiciled in the region. Nonetheless, President Rajapaksa, a
people's leader being deeply concerned about their welfare, had directed
the relevant ministries to do the needful to mitigate and minimise the
address effects on the people.
These 72 displaced families have been provided alternative new
housing with all amenities and infrastructural facilities, inclusive of
potable water, electricity, roads, transport and the like, in a housing
complex at Daluwa in Norochcholai.
Rural electrification facilities have been provided for Norochcholai,
Daluwa, Senapura and Narakkalliya. Work is already under way in the 40
feet wide, 40 kilometre stretch of the Puttalam-Kalpitiya road.
The Power Plant will undoubtedly be of yeoman service to the people
of the Puttalam district in their path to progress. Around 3000 jobs are
to be generated directly by the project for the people of the Puttalam
district. The Power and Energy Ministry has also agreed to grant them a
50 per cent tariff reduction on their electricity bills.
Last but not the least, the assistance and co-operation extended by
the Chinese Government in making this mega project a reality should be
The financial services offered by the Chinese EXIM Bank and the CMEC
Company of China to whom the construction of the plant has been assigned
to, should also come in for praise.