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Completion of 35MW Broadlands hydro plant held up due to non-availability of Chinese experts

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by Ifham Nizam

The completion of 35MW Broadlands hydro plant scheduled for December is expected to be further delayed due to the non-availability of top Chinese experts in Sri Lanka, officials said.

The delay will further add to the debt burden of the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB), which is projected to be between Rs. 55 and Rs. 60 billion as against Rs. 85 billion in 2019, they asserted.

With the proposed commissioning of the plant, the CEB would save more than Rs. 10 million per day, the officials said.

CEB Chairman Eng. Vijitha Herath told The Sunday Island that despite coranavirus fear worldwide in May, the tunnel was completed in two stages. However, the Power House installation has to be handled by the Chinese experts.

He said that 45 Chinese experts were expected here and the delay was due to corona pandemic. However, plans are underway to get them down at the earliest.

He also said that it would take about three months to complete the 35 MW Hydro Power Plant, which will generate 125 million units or 125 GWh annually, which works out to a saving Rs. 3.75 billion.

The CEB senior management recently visited the 3.5km tunnel of the proposed Broadlands Project on the instructions of the Presidential Task Force led by Senior President’s Advisor Basil Rajapaksa.

The 35 MW plant over the Kelani River at Kitulgala is being constructed by the Chinese government-owned China National Electric Equipment Corporation, while its consultancy and monitoring is by the Central Engineering Consultancy Bureau of Sri Lanka.

The total estimated cost of the project is USD 82 million, which was partially financed by a USD 69.7 million loan from the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China. The balance is funded by the Hatton National Bank of Sri Lanka.

The Broadlands project is the last plant in the Lakshapana cascade power station complex on the Kelani River system, which was started 50 years ago.

The construction of the Plant would prevent some 88,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year. A unique feature that the project is that it is Sri Lanka’s first large-scale hydropower plant associated with the Clean Development Mechanism established under the International Kyoto Protocol.

After the completion of the project, plans have been prepared to construct an energy park, including a hydropower museum in the area expecting the area as a tourist attraction.

Senior engineers of the CEB said that sidelining two important hydro power projects, which were scheduled to go into operation from 2015, were among some controversial proposals included in the Board’s Least Cost Generation Plan.

A senior engineer said that the plan to sideline crucial and inexpensive hydro generation projects had cost the CEB at least Rs. 5 billion rupees annually as it had to rely on costly thermal power to fill the void. “In other words, it is between Rs. 20 and Rs. 25 billion of public funds,” he said

Broadlands 35MW and Uma Oya 120MW hydro plants were scheduled to commence operations by the beginning of 2015, as per the 2011 plan. However, in the 2011 plan addendum and 2013 plan, they were put off due to some unknown reason to commence in 2016, but further delays have held up their commissioning, an official said.

The delays should be investigated, senior engineers said, while pointing out that holding back the construction of the hydro plants had an adverse cost implications on the CEB and the country at large.

It also added to the worsening air pollution situation through the use of thermal plants, he said.

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Covid-19 vaccination programme: MPs not in priority group; President, armed forces chiefs in ‘third category’ 

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

State Minister for Primary Health Care, Epidemics and COVID Disease Control, Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle yesterday (25) said that members of Parliament were not among those categorised as priority groups expected to be vaccinated against the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dr. Fernandopulle said so in response to The Island query whether parliamentarians would receive the vaccine scheduled to be delivered by India this week. Asked to explain, Dr. Fernandopulle said that health workers, armed forces and law enforcement personnel engaged in Covid-19 prevention operations would be given priority.

“Lawmakers haven’t been listed under priority groups. However, some members may get the vaccine if they are accommodated in the over 60 years category and those suffering from diabetes, heart disease, cancer et al,” the State minister said.

In addition to State Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera, several lawmakers, representing both the government and the Opposition had been afflicted over the past several weeks. SLPP lawmaker Wasantha Yapa Bandara (Kandy district) is the latest victim. Health minister Pavitradevi Wanniarachchi was among over half a dozen lawmakers tested positive.

Army Commander General Shavendra Silva told Derana yesterday morning Sri Lanka would receive approximately 500,000 to 600,000 doses from India. Responding to a spate of questions from Derana anchor Sanka Amarjith, Gen. Silva explained the measures taken by the government to ensure a smooth vaccination programme. The Army Chief who also functions as the Chief of Defence Staff revealed India had paid for the consignment obtained from the UK.

Later in the day, The Island sought an explanation from the Army Chief regarding the President, Service Commanders, Secretary Defence given the vaccination along with frontline health workers et al, the celebrated battlefield commander said: “Will be in third priority group.”

Asked whether the student population would be accommodated at an early stage of the vaccination programme, Dr. Fernandopulle said that those under 18 years of age, pregnant and lactating mothers wouldn’t be included at all as such groups hadn’t been subjected to trials. Education Secretary Prof. Kapila Perera wasn’t available for comment.

Dr. Fernandopulle emphasized the pivotal importance of following health guidelines strictly in spite of the launch of the vaccination programme. “We shouldn’t lower our guard under any circumstances,” Dr. Fernandopulle said, urging the population to be mindful of those unable to receive the vaccination due to no fault of theirs. As those under 18 years of age had been left out of the vaccination programme, a substantial section of the population would be denied the protection, the State Minister said.

Sri Lanka is also expected to procure vaccines from China and Russia in addition to the doses from India. Health Secretary Maj. Gen. Sanjeewa Munasinghe wasn’t available for comment.

Sri Lanka launches the vaccination programme with the total number of positive cases nearing 60,000 with nearly 50,000 recoveries. The government recently re-opened the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) following a pilot programme that brought over 1,200 Ukrainians in dozen flights through the Mattala International Airport.

Dr. Fernandopulle said that the government was ready to launch the vaccination programme as soon as the first consignment arrived from India.

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Tennis balls filled with drugs thrown into Kandakadu Covid-19 treatment centre

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By Norman Palihawadane

Two tennis balls filled with drugs had been thrown into the Covid-19 treatment centre at Kandakadu, Police Spokesperson DIG Ajith Rohana said.

The contraband was found on Saturday by the Army officers attached to the facility.

DIG Rohana said the two tennis balls containing cannabis, heroin and tobacco, had been handed over to the Welikanda Police.

A special investigation has been launched into the incident, the Police Spokesperson said. Such incidents had been previously reported from Welikada, Negombo and other prisons, but it was the first time contraband containing narcotics had been thrown into a Covid-19 treatment centre, he added.

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All cargo clearances at Colombo port now through electronic payments

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The Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) has introduced a system where payment for imports could be made via the Internet. This allows port users to make payments from their homes or offices to clear goods from the Port of Colombo.

The SLPA has said in a media statement that the new special facility will enable port users to make their port payments easily without hassle.

At present, all terminals of the Port of Colombo are run according to a strategic crisis management plan.

 

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