If the croaking of frogs signal imminent rain in the offing, then the occasional rumble of CEB officials followed by attending claps of thunder boomed as warnings by their heavily tutored and house trained minister portend the call for the indispensable need for another coal plant or two to avert power cuts and prevent the [...]


Lanka’s new energy future still in the pits of the dirty coal past

But light shines at end of power tunnel as Cabinet approves one LNG plant as well as two coal plants plus 100 million dollar investment in solar power

If the croaking of frogs signal imminent rain in the offing, then the occasional rumble of CEB officials followed by attending claps of thunder boomed as warnings by their heavily tutored and house trained minister portend the call for the indispensable need for another coal plant or two to avert power cuts and prevent the age of darkness from settling on the land.

Last month when a deluge of rain fell on the land just before the advent of Christmas, an engineer at the Ceylon Electricity Board brought great seasonal cheer when he revealed to the media that the bounty from heaven was helping the CEB to make a saving of 500 million bucks per day due to the high generation of hydro power. The reservoirs were full and the CEB was using 70 percent of hydropower to meet the nation’s daily energy demands.

PRESIDENTIAL MEETING: Cardinal Malcom Ranjith heads a Catholic delegation to express their concerns over coal power to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa

But the rainbow was short lived and the one who heralded the good news was never heard of again. One week later, CEB union officials warned of imminent power cuts by March. Two weeks later, Power and energy Minister Mahinda Amaraweera, as expected, took over the megaphone to prepare the people for the dark times ahead and to emphasise on the need for a more permanent source to supply the country’s power needs instead of depending on the vagaries of the weather and await the Weather Gods to send in the rains at their whim and pleasure.

At a discussion held between Power and Energy Minister Mahinda Amaraweera and the officials of the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB), he said it had been revealed that hydropower was being used to the maximum since diesel power plants had not been operative.  The Minister said the maximum use of water in reservoirs to produce hydropower could result in draining of reservoirs and no rainfall could be expected in the near future.

And what’s the answer to Lanka’s perennial problem — a problem successive governments could not solve since independence?

The answer, of course, is the one dished out year after year in recent times by the CEB Mafia who, like a fully charged Duracell battery, propounds energetically and repeatedly the godly virtues of the Devil’s black coal as Lanka’s only saving grace. It drives the stake of fear into the nation’s poorish heart by prophesying Doomsday if we don’t pin our faith and trust in a basket of coal to light our homes, power our industries.

The unions, for reasons best known to themselves, have opted to go for the hard sell to promote this ancient 19th century fossil fuel as Lanka’s fuel of the future. They have even gone to the extent of supporting their arguments with statistics, arithmetic and assumptions. They say-assuming you can make a head or tail of what they say -  ‘assuming coal plants were not there in 2017, and CEB had to produce 5,103 GWh of energy with liquid fuel at 25 rupees a unit, the total generation cost would have been about 172.5 billion rupees. At 7.90 rupees per unit the coal energy cost is about 40.3 billion rupees. This is a saving of 87 billion rupees compared to the average energy cost of a CEB plant. Assuming the power was bought from private developers at 27.5 rupees a unit including capital costs (capacity charge) the same energy would have cost 140 billion rupees. Coal with capital costs at 11.38 rupees would total only 58 billion rupees, indicating a saving of 82.26 billion rupees or about 541 million dollars. At that rate, in less than three years, the coal plants would have paid for themselves compared to the alternatives available.’

Got it? Well that’s how the unions put the arguments for coal in an arithmetic nutshell and, whilst the world stares at the heavens and views the sun as the answer to provide infinite solar power, tries to justify Lanka digging into the nethermost regions of infinite hell to find, in that underground mine of condemned coal, the solution for its future energy needs.

In the late 1980s, a proposal was first made to establish a coal plant in the island. But the protest raised by the environmentalists and echoed by the nation’s press, soon grounded it. But those in the energy sector remained fixated on coal. And during the second term of Mahinda Rajapaksa, the government stifled all protests and invited the Chinese to set up the now ‘always breakdown’ Norochcholai Coal Plant in Kalpitiya and it was commissioned in 2014 with the Chinese banker, President Xi Jinping in attendance.

But if one coal power plant was bad news for Lanka and her environment, last year President Maithripala Sirisena and his UNP cabinet of ministers planned to introduce not one, not two, but three more coal plants in the country.

In May, last year, the UNP cabinet approved three new coal power plants. Two in Foul Point in Trincomalee of 300Mw each and another near Norochcholai in Puttalam which would also generate 300Mw. Cabinet approval was given despite previous pledges that the government will not seek a return to coal as Lanka’s fuelling agent of the future. This was pledged by President Sirisena when he cancelled a 500Mw Indian sponsored coal plant in Sampur in 2015.

Last year on December 29, Archbishop of Colombo Malcom Cardinal Ranjith addressing a seminar on ‘Is coal the solution to the energy crisis?’ said, ‘there should be no coal fired  power plants and steps should be taken to put an end to the proposed additional 600Mw of coal power projects at Norochcholai. The Cardinal stressed that if possible, the Norochcholai plant, too, should be stopped.

Last Friday, Cardinal Malcom Ranjith along with bishops, residents and environmentalists of Chilaw met President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. The President assured them the Power and Energy Minister would assign a team of engineers to investigate the activities of the Norochcholai Power Plant.

The President’s Office said the Norochcholai Coal Power Plant which is at its third stage generates 900MW of electricity at present and that no decision has been taken yet regarding the fourth stage.

This Wednesday, the cabinet gave approval to the setting up of two coal power plants as an extension to the present Norochcholai plant. This decision is to be regretted. What must be realised is not the cost that cheap coal power will do to this country but the economic damage that will rain upon it in time to come. The burning of fossil fuels causes acid rain. If one coal plant can cause acid rain, imagine what two more plants in this small island can do.

Last June, for example, the North Western Province Environmental Authority asked the Secretary to the Ministry of Power, Suren Batagoda, to shut down and restart Plant One of the Lakvijaya coal power plant in Norochcholai by mid-June so that its flue-gas desulphuriser (FGD) becomes operational.

And why?

According to the report published in the Island on June 3, ‘two plants are operating without FGDs. Flue gas desulfurisation is a set of technologies used to remove sulphur dioxide (SO2) from exhaust flue gases of fossil-fuel power plants and from the emissions of other sulphur oxide emitting processes. This means that harmful acid gas sulphur dioxide (SO2) from the smoke of the power plant goes into the atmosphere which leads to acid rain.’

For what’s the environmental damage that acid rain does?

According to scientists, ecological effects of acid rain are most clearly seen in aquatic environments, such as streams, lakes, and marshes where it can be harmful to fish and other wildlife. As it flows through the soil, acidic rain water can leach aluminium from soil clay particles and then flow into streams and lakes. The more acid that is introduced to the ecosystem, the more aluminium is released. Needless to say, it can have a devastating effect on the tea lands of Lanka.

Furthermore, it is said, dead or dying trees are a common sight in areas effected by acid rain. Acid rain leaches aluminium from the soil.  That aluminium may be harmful to plants as well as animals. Acid rain also removes minerals and nutrients from the soil that trees need to grow. At high elevations, acidic fog and clouds might strip nutrients from trees’ foliage, leaving them with brown or dead leaves and needles. The trees are then less able to absorb sunlight, which makes them weak.

Aye, there’s the rub. For in that fall of acid rain, what destruction may come to the tea that grow in the highlands, none can really say, except to note that the quality of Ceylon Tea may be permanently tarred with the acid that falls from heaven.

But there was light at the end of the power tunnel when the cabinet approved the setting up of an LNG power plant of 300Mw. LNG is regarded as an imperfect improvement on coal and is considered to be the cleanest fossil fuel.

The cabinet also approved solar plants to be built with a 100 million dollar credit from India. That is a step in the right direction. Instead of Lanka burying her head ostrich style in the sand searching for fossil fuels to power her future, she should join the rest of the world and look toward the sun and to the elements for renewable power as the fuel of the future and not remain in retro mode and seek her future needs in the past.

How Meg kissed Prince Harry  and turned him into a frogRoyalty has lost its sparkle for Ms MarkleBritain’s Prince Harry cut off the umbilical cord with the Royal Family this Monday and left the Royal throne of Kings in the sceptred isle of Shakespeare’s England to strike out an independent life along with his wife Meg in search of the fabled El Dorado in the balmy island of Vancouver in Canada.Strike out an independent life to find new riches in some foreign field as if the ones at home he was born to were not enough, eh? Pretty rich, ain’t it, for a bloke who is sixth in line to the British throne to try to become a self-made man with millions of pounds in his royal account?Prince Harry’s decision to turn his back on England and give short shrift to his royal pedigree and start a new life abroad as a poor little rich boy on the make did not leave his grandmother, the Queen amused.After all, it’s not every day a senior member of the Royal Family and his American wife of two years give the impression that they are far too good to be seen with the likes of them and be caught on camera posing on the Buck House balcony and decamp to a logging and fishing island in British Columbia, Canada.

But this was no sudden decision. In fact the question must be asked, why did it take so long to come? When Meghan was first touted by royal watchers as a potential royal bride for Prince Charles’ second son, anyone could see Meg a mile away and predict that she would be a total misfit in the royal family.

OH TO BE IN CANADA: Harry and Meg snub England and find their place on Vancouver Island, Canada

For starters, her independent, uninhibited, carefree lifestyle made it near impossible for her to keep step with the royal family slow but steady march without her wings being clipped by royal protocol.  She was too much of a free bird to have her lifestyle cramped in a gilded cage. Consider her background.

She grew up in Hollywood and she began playing small roles in television series and films. Her break came in 2011 when she was chosen to play Rachel Zane on the American legal drama Suits. She played this role till 2017. She is an outspoken feminist and has addressed issues of gender inequality.  In 2011, she married actor Trevor Engelson. The marriage lasted for only two years and they were divorced in 2013. She had another relationship with celebrity chef Corey Vitiello. She lived with him for two years until May 2016. The following month she met Harry. It was on a blind date that she met the then fifth in line to the British throne. He took her to a completely different world, a world different to hers as chalk is to cheese.

Fitting her into the royal family was like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. Even as her marriage to actor Trevor had lasted only two years, even as her relationship with chef Cory lasted only two years, she was probably feeling the two year itch for change and to savour a new experience that made her demand of Harry to take the radical decision to leave home and country and his royal privileges and abandon his royal duties to make the missus happy.

In a farewell speech to the nation he is leaving behind, he says, ‘I want you to hear the truth from me, as much as I can share. Not as a prince or a duke but as Harry, the same person that many of you have watched grow up over the last 35 years.’ Poor Harry. It hasn’t still sunk to him that his countrymen followed his progress breathless only because he was a prince born to the royal family and that without that accident of birth, he would not have been worth a second glance to the Great British Public.

In a flush of patriotism to mother country, he says, ‘UK is my home and a place that I love. That will never change.’ That may well be so. But after enjoying without murmur all the privileges an indulging British Public have heaped on him, his father and mother, not to mention his grandmother, the Queen, who held the fort singlehanded and kept true to the royal motto Dieu et mon droit or King by the Grace of God, it is clear that gratitude is not his strong point.

Repaying the nation by performing the role expected of him and discharging the duties that are attendant to it for which he is paid handsomely, mean not a farthing; and neither does he give a toss for the royal motto baloney that he is a prince by the grace of God. At least he doesn’t believe in the divine right to rule tripe, for which his forefather Charles the II got his head chopped off by Cromwell’s forces.

His immediate concern seems to be how not to lose his at Meghan’s hands.

And then he talks of her: ‘I’ve grown up feeling supported from so many of you and I watched as you welcomed Meghan with open arms as you saw me find the love and the happiness that I hoped for all my life. Finally the second son of Diana got hitched. Hooray. I also know that you’ve come to know me well enough over all these years to trust that I would chose as my wife upholds the same values as I do, and she does. And she is the same woman I fell in love with.’

He might well know the values she upholds as do the rest of the world but does he know of her radical views? Apart from being a staunch feminist – no harm in that – and burning the bra and appearing in some serious risqué sex scenes in her TV show ‘Suit’, she is an ardent left-winger by her recommendation of Noam Chomsky’s book  Who Rules the World. It’s a point of view Royals are banned from expressing, in public. The public do not dish out huge sums of money to keep the royals in frankincense and myrrh to hear their political opinions. They can get that free at Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park where anyone can get on a soap box and say anything they please without anyone giving a toss about it.

And as for him telling the whole world ‘She is the same woman I fell in love with,’ that is the sort of heart breaking line husbands reserve to speak of their wives on their silver or golden anniversary, not when they are just two years into the marriage and it is presumed the flame burns with ardour and passion.

Harry goes on to say, ‘We both do everything we can to fly the flag and carry out our roles for this country with pride.’

But whose flag will they be flying for profit? Theirs or Britain’s?  It is reported that during the ‘’Megxit’ talk, Harry and Meg had wanted to enjoy both worlds. Half a year in Canada with them promoting their merchandise using the royal image as the selling puff and half a year in England attending functions to qualify for their allowance from the Civil List from which the Royals are paid. But the Queen would have none of that. You can’t be a royal freelancer, a royal moonlighter, they were tersely told.

Wrapping up his last farewell, the man who was turned to a frog with Meg’s kiss, Harry said: ‘Once Meghan and I were married we were excited, we were hopeful and we were here to serve. For those reasons it brings me great sadness that it has come to this.’ The decision that I have made for my wife and I to step back is not one I made lightly. It was so many months of talks, after so many years of challenges and I know I haven’t always gotten it right but as far as it goes there really was no other option. What I want to make clear is we’re not walking away and we certainly aren’t walking away from you. Our hope was to continue serving the Queen, the Commonwealth and my military associations but without public funding. But unfortunately that wasn’t possible.’

Poor Harry. Poor, poor Harry. Greater love hath no man whose willingness to leave the   kingdom he loves so much and of which he is a prince, sixth in line to the throne, when Meg whistles him to do so. Not even the Queen’s corgis have shown so much ready obedience.

The only consolation they have is that it was self-inflicted and that no one asked them to get lost in Canada.  What it actually boils down to is the incredulous story of a massively wealthy couple trying to attempt the amazing achievement to see whether they can be financially independent while having millions of pounds in their bank accounts and a luxurious cottage in the gardens of Balmoral Castle, the recent renovation cost of which came to 2.4 million pounds. That will be their home in Britain when they care to visit it. The couple have said that they will repay this money back to the taxpayer but no time frame has been given. Is that also their ‘by the grace of God’ payment.

An argument put forward by pro-Harry supporters is that he didn’t ask to be born to the Royal family. Neither did hundreds of people chose to be born in Syria’s hellholes to be shell shocked day in and night out. Instead of moaning that he was denied the right to choose his own family at birth, he should thank his lucky stars and count his blessings that he was born to be pampered for life.

And as for American divorcee Meg, it may be her failure to realise the position the Royal family occupies in Britain. It is deeply ingrained in the collective heart of the British people and is rooted in the legal and social foundations of the land. It is not a mere family. It is a living institution.

So what does the future hold for them? No need to read the tea leaves in the morning cup. Suffice to know the fate of his great grand uncle, King Edward VII, who had to abdicate the throne and find exile in France with his wife, the American divorcee Wallis.


Share This Post


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked.
Comments should be within 80 words. *


Post Comment

Advertising Rates

Please contact the advertising office on 011 - 2479521 for the advertising rates.