Norocholai Power Station is a coal-fired power station in Norocholai, Puttalam, Sri Lanka. The plant, also known as Lakvijaya Power Station, is the Sri Lanka’s largest coal-fired power station.
After several criticism (President Chandrika Kumaratunga stopped the construction of the Norochcholai Coal Power plant in 2000 due to unresolved social, environmental as well as technical issues), the construction of the I part of the facility began on 11 May 2006, and concluded with the commissioning on 22 March 2011.
In September 2014 President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Chinese President Xi Jinping together commissioned the last phase of the plant (totally there are three phases). The government - owned utility, the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) is responsible for the project, but the funding for the construction of the Power Station was provided by the Chinese Government on a long term low interest rate to the Sri Lankan Government. The Construction works have been carried out by CMEC (China Machinery Engineering Corporation) while the funding was provided by the EXIM Bank of the Republic of China.
The total capacity of the plant is 900 MW. Since Sri Lanka doesn’t have any coal mine the fuel is imported, especially from Indonesia.
The coal for the plant is supplied through Lanka Coal (Pvt) Ltd, a government-owned company. However, Lanka Coal put the supply of coal for the power plant out to tender and received two bids: one from Holcim, which operates cement plants that already imports coal, and another from Nobel Resources, a company owned by casino businessman Ravi Wijeratne. Initially Holcim Trading awarded the contract but then this was overturned in favour of Nobel Resources. However newspapers report that Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) Chairman W. B. Ganegala, Lanka Coal Company Chairman Menaka Liyanage and some other top officials flew to China on September 2014 to purchase a vessel to bring coal to the country because the contractor was not able to supply the needed amount of coal.
From the beginning the Central faced many problems, several incidents occurred: • A large fire broke out on 24 October 2010 • On 22 July 2012, the power station ceased operations due to a leak in one of the thousands of tubes carrying water between the boiler.
• On 8 August 2012, a tripping of the powerline from Lakvijaya caused the power station to cease operations.
• The generation capacity of the power station exceeded its designed levels of 300MW on 29 January 2013, causing a complete shutdown. The plant was reactivated a day later.
In December 2013 the National Electricity Consumers Movement, unions and opposition political parties called for a Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) to investigate into the recurrent breakdowns with the first phase of the Norochcholai coal power plant. It was reported that since the plant was commissioned in December 2011 the plant has experienced more than 20 breakdowns. As a result the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) has incurred significant financial loss.
Since the firsts steps of the project there have been resistance by the local community (fishermen, farmers, religious groups) due to environmental and social issues.
Environmental Foundation filed a lawsuit in 1999 against the proposal. The agencies agreed to look for alternatives and alternative locations. However, in 2005 the government started this power plant without following the agreement. In 2005 Centre for Environmental Justice filed a law suit but withdrawn it after the construction completed in 2012. Norochcholai Coal Power Plant-Court issued notice to Ceylon Electricity Board and others-C.A.Writ Application No. 1112/2006. On 25th July 2006 Court of Appeal issued notice to the Ceylon Electricity Board and eight other respondents to appear before Court in respect of the proposed Norochcholai Coal Power Plant in Sri Lanka. S. M. Mubarak and seven others have filed a writ application in the Court of Appeal of Sri Lanka seeking a writ of mandamus against the Ceylon Electricity Board [CEB] and eight other Respondents to conduct an Environment Impact Assessment [EIA] in respect of the Puttalam Coal Power Project at Norochcholai (900MW) and to obtain approval for the same from the Central Environmental Authority [CEA] in the performance of the statutory duty in compliance with the provisions of the National Environmental Act No.47 of 1980, as amended. The application was supported by Counsel Dr. Mangala Wijesinghe appearing with Attorneys Mr. Ravindranath Dabare and Miss. Nilmal Wickramasinghe before a bench comprising Justices K. Sripavan and Sisira De Arbrew. The Petitioners have stated that because of the adverse impacts on the environment, abiotic, biotic and human, real and potential, an Environmental Impact Assessment [EIA] is essential to proceed with project. In C.A. Application 318/98 an Order had been given directing Respondents including the Ceylon Electricity Board to conduct an EIA under the provisions of the National Environmental Act. They have failed to do so up to date. In view of the above situation the Petitioners have filed this application in the Court of Appeal. After hearing Counsel for the Petitioners the Court issued notice on the Respondents to appear before Court on 25 August2006. Centre for Environmental Justice provided legal assistance for the Petitioners.
In March 3, 2007 the Sri Lankan government took over 300 acres at Narakkaliya and Paniadiya, displacing 68 families. While the displaced families were given houses in the Daluwa Manpuriya Nirmalapura housing scheme, they complained the new houses were poorly built. During its pre-development stages, a number of protests were launched by residents living at the project site, claiming that they were deceived by the government.
As we sad, President Chandrika Kumaratunga stopped the construction of the Norochcholai Coal Power Plant in 2001 after studying the various protests by the people and the Rev. Bishop of Chilaw and after discussion with the Bishop on the threat to the Holy Shrine in Talawila. The Rev. Bishop and number of others are of the opinion that the construction would have negative impacts to the Talawila shrine.
According to analysis conducted by the Center for Environmental Justice before the construction of the power plant, using 2640 tons of coal a day would result in nearly 180 tons of fly ash and 40 tons of bottom ash daily which will be major environmental and health problems. Dumping of ash is a major activity in this power plant where the land is very fertile, but the fresh water layer only about 5 feet deep. Removal of the dunes to raise the ground level of the plant will affect agricultural activity due to the depletion of fresh water.
Moreover, due to the cooling system millions of gallons will be sucked in and returned to the sea at a higher temperature chasing the marine life away while harming the breeding. Nearly 5000 families engaged in the fishing industry will be deprived of their livelihood.
The initial fears have become reality today. Following the statement of local community, residents in the surrounding of the power plant are facing several problems due to the exposition to the ash-filled air (discomfort in the eyes, asthma, breath disease, coughs) and the area’s small cash crops – vegetables, fruit, chillies, onions and tobacco – are suffering. Ash produced from burning of powdered coal, has covered the area and severely affecting crops in the area. Added to that is blow-off from the heaps of ground ash. Fly ash, which is scooped up by filtration equipment during the combustion of coal, is composed of tiny particles of silica and, depending on the type of coal being burned, can contain amounts of arsenic, lead, mercury, chromium, dioxides and other substances.
More recently (June 2014) an organization made up of villagers and fisherman of the area, the Puttalam People's Voice (PPV), the All Island General Fisheries Federation and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna staged a demonstration against a project to lay a new electric line from the Norochcholai Power Plant across the estuary. Protesters state that the over 5,000 fishing families and the 50,000 odd family members living and working in Puttalam would face difficulties in conducting their work activities as the nets could get entangled with tower columns and the boats would come in harm's way.
In June 2014, filing a writ application before Court of Appeal, fishermen of Puttalam sought an order to prevent the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) from installing a power transmission line across the Puttalam lagoon. The petitioners representing the Valarpirai Fisheries Co-operative Society of Puttalam have requested the Court of Appeal to revise the decision taken by the CEB to extend the power transmission line from the Lakvijaya Coal Power Plant at Norochcholai across the Puttalam lagoon without following the procedure laid down by the National Environmental Act.
Protesters state that people in the area are helpless as authorities have not responded to their pleas nor have arrived in the area and conduct tests. This is confirmed by the fact that there are no recent environment impact assessments available on the net.