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Matters ‘COPE’ overlooked

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Browsing the internet, before commenting on Dr. Janaka Ratnasiri’s above captioned article, to update myself on what the future holds on coal power generation, as a preamble or a prelude, I came across the following:

“While the amount of electricity generation from coal has declined in recent years, in part due to the rising accessibility of renewable sources of energy, the coal power industry has continued to build new coal-fired generation plants at a rapid pace. The global installed coal power generation capacity is projected to be on the rise over the next decades and predicted to reach a capacity of over 2.2 terawatts in 2050. As of 2019, China had the highest installed capacity from its Coal Power Plants amounting to about 1,005 gigawatts in total. The United States comes distant second with over 246 gigawatts of coal power plant capacity, followed by India at about 229 gigawatts.”

At the same time, there is encouraging news that China has carried out extensive research in converting coal to ‘Clean Coal’, to facilitate the use of coal in an environmentally satisfactory and economically viable way, with clean coal technologies. China has made remarkable progress in this and Clean Coal technologies have now entered into commercialization in stages.

It should also be admitted that 100 percent reliance cannot be kept in renewable sources, specially the major components being Solar and Wind due to vagaries of climate. Developed countries such as Germany have standby Coal plants to meet any short-fall in energy.

Coming to Dr. Janaka Ratnasiri’s reference to Fly Ash, Fishing and diseases, it is considered appropriate to quote what the internationally famed consultants on Coal Power Plants – Ramboll of Denmark, appointed on Norochcholai Coal Plant-had said in their report, for the information of those who have had no access to this document.

 

Impact from Fly Ash

To the extent at all possible will be recycled and reused in, for example the cement production and brick production just as fly ash under the right conditions can be reused in road construction or similar. However, the bottom ash and possibly part of the fly ash from the electrostatic precipitators as well can be reused. Therefore, an ash disposal site will be constructed inside the coal power plant. The design includes a low permeability bottom liner sloped towards sump pits. The leachate is collected in a sedimentation pond. The clarified water can be used for dust control. The design of the fly ash deposit lives up to modern recommendations for design of similar waste deposits. The consultant is, therefore, convinced that these measures will provide the necessary prevention of the ground water resource.

The environmental viability of ash recycling in the construction industry is given by the prevailing practice in numerous countries of the world, where ash from coal-fired coal plants is recycled in the industry. Trace elements are not considered an issue that valuable fly ash shall not be used for such applications. In these countries, very often demand for such fly ash exceeds the supply. The small amounts of [ignition oil] contaminated ash will not be recycled, but dumped into the ash landfill. It would be unwise not to recycle a maximum of non-contaminated and reusable fly ash.

 

Sulphur Emission and Particulate Emission

Based on combustion calculations for the selected boiler design and a range of possible coal types, the limiting coal type with respect to sulphur content has been selected. This will have a maximum sulphur content of 0.65 % and a sulphur/HHV ratio of less than 0.11% per kcal/kg. When coal of this type or with less sulphur is burned, the smoke emission from the stack should be according to the national standards, and no flue gas desulphurisation plant [FGD] is required.

As regards NO2 the plant design ensures emission below the required levels and the dispersion simulations show low concentrations of 15 to 30% of the maximum levels for all operational scenarios.

As for Particulate Emission the report says, “The concentration levels in the air at the areas surrounding the plant have been obtained through atmospheric dispersion simulation. The outcome was that the resulting concentrations will be only a small fraction [3-4%] of the allowable maximum. As such, the smoke emitted will be almost without dust, which is often seen from a modern power plant, where the smoke escapes from the stack with a little content of water vapour. The vapour spreads in the air within a short distance from the stack, and hereafter the emission is completely invisible’

 

Impact on Fishing

The cooling water system will be dosed with hydrochlorite [to a final concentration of 3-4 ppm] for 20 to 30 minutes every six hours. The dosing is required to avoid microbial growth within the cooling system. The hypochlorite treated water is diluted at the same rate as the heat. This means that the dilution will be about five times within the near vicinity of the outlet [Equal to temperature decreasing from 7 o to 1.5 o C]. It is also demonstrated that significant dilution will occur further down-stream of the plant. Any chloro-amines formed by the action of hypochlorite and ammonia, will similarly be diluted to an immeasurable concentration. It is concluded in the EIA that the small area affected by the discharged cooling water will have no adverse effect on the coastal fish population and the coastal fishing economy.

 

Diseases

In the preparation of this report on Norochcholai Coal-fired Plant, the Consultants have met the people of the area and to a question posed, the consultants had replied ‘The planned coal fired power plant will meet the ambient air quality standards which were set so as not to harm people, animals and environment. Consequently, there will be no fear of tuberculosis, cancer or any other disease induced by the coal fired power plant’.

In conclusion it should be said that the efficient working of the Coal Plant is left in the hands of the operators to adhere meticulously, to the recommendations made by the consultants, else sporadic outbursts may crop up from the inhabitants of the area, mostly comprising of fishermen, and those small scale farmers.

 

G. A. D. SIRIMAL

Boralesgamuwa



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Opinion

Geneva Debacle: Forging a Way Forward

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By DHARSHAN WEERASEKERA

Attorney-at-Law

Alisdair Pal of Reuters says of the recent UNHRC resolution on Sri Lanka, “the resolution allows the U.N. to “collect, consolidate, analyze and preserve information and evidence and develop possible strategies for future accountability….[it] is a “huge blow” to the Sri Lankan Government including President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.” (“What does the U.N. resolution mean for Sri Lanka, 24th March 2021, www.reuters.com)

To my knowledge, much of the commentary on the resolution follows a similar pattern, i.e. the focus is on what the resolution entails for Sri Lanka, but not the Council. It is vital to focus on this latter aspect in order to facilitate a future defence of Sri Lanka at the Council, and related international forums. In my opinion, the “Core Group” and the other nations that joined them in voting for the resolution, have destroyed the credibility of the UNHRC and thus the institution.

In this article, I focus on the “Core Group’ consisting of the U.K., Canada, Germany, North Macedonia and Montenegro that brought the resolution. I argue that the existence of such a group within the UNHRC makes a mockery of the principles and purposes behind the Council’s founding statutes, U.N. General Assembly resolution 60/251 and UNHRC resolution 5/1 (“Institution-building in the Human Rights Council”).

The UNHRC and the “Core Group”

The U.N. General Assembly created the Human Rights Council in March 2006 as a replacement for the U.N. Commission on Human Rights that had been functioning since 1993. Many people accused the Commission of having become too politicised and biased. Therefore, the “Charter” of the Council was formulated to ensure that the new institution would not follow its predecessor. Paragraph 4 of UNGA res. 60/251 states inter alia:

“The work of the Council shall be guided by the principles of universality, impartiality, objectivity and non-selectivity, constructive international dialogue and cooperation.”

Meanwhile, para 5 (e) states:

“[The Council shall] undertake a universal periodic review, based on objective and reliable information, of the fulfillment by each State of its human rights obligations and commitments in a manner which ensures universality of coverage and equal treatment with respect to all States; the review shall be a cooperative mechanism.”

To my knowledge, there is no other mention of a specific mechanism through which the Council should carry out its work. Therefore, it is reasonable to suppose that the framers envisioned that the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) was the best means through which the institution could carry out its work while conforming to the principles enunciated in para 4.

To turn to the Council’s other founding statute—UNHRC resolution 5/1 of June 2007—Annex 1 of the resolution sets out detailed instructions in regard to the Universal Periodic Review. Para 1 of the annex states that the basis of the review shall be: a) the U.N. Charter, b) the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, c) Human Rights instruments to which a State is a party and d) voluntary pledges and commitments by States.

Meanwhile, Para 2 states: “In addition to the above and given the complementary and mutually interrelated nature of human rights law and international humanitarian law, the review shall take into account applicable international humanitarian law.”

The fact that the instructions for the UPR include a mandate to look into humanitarian law issues, means that the framers envisioned that if a particular country is accused of violating humanitarian law, such matters could also be reviewed through the UPR mechanism. Therefore, the following question arises: If, as alleged by Sri Lanka’s critics there are rampant human rights abuses going on in this country or humanitarian law issues that remain unaddressed, then why could not these issues be taken up through the UPR process rather than through country-specific resolutions?

Neither UNGA res. 60/251 nor UNHRC res. 1/5 prohibit the Council from resorting to country-specific resolutions. However, reason and common sense suggest that where recourse to a country-specific resolution is made, it should be for an occasion or crisis of a magnitude or urgency that cannot normally be dealt with under the UPR. Otherwise, it makes no sense to have the UPR.

It necessarily follows that, if the Council determines that a crisis of a magnitude or urgency that cannot be addressed through the UPR exists in a particular country, such determination must also be made through an open, objective and impartial process of assessing and evaluating the relevant evidence, including by giving the accused country adequate time and opportunity to speak in its defence.

Now, let us turn to the “Core Group.” In this regard, one must consider three points. First, the “Core Group” is a self-appointed group and does not have a mandate either from the Government of Sri Lanka or any U.N. organ, including the UNHRC, to monitor the human rights situation in Sri Lanka.

Second, some members of the group, notably the U.K. and Canada, have domestic political reasons to involve themselves in Sri Lanka’s internal affairs. In regard to this, the following matters are relevant. First, there is a 2009 Wikileaks cable by an American diplomat to his bosses in Washington, detailing his conversations with the head of the Sri Lanka Desk at the British Foreign Office. He says inter alia:

“Waite said that much of HMG and ministerial attention to Sri Lanka is due to the “very vocal” Tamil Diaspora in the U.K., numbering over 300,000 … .He said that with elections in the horizon the Government is paying particular attention to Sri Lanka with [David] Miliband recently remarking to Waite that he was spending 60 percent of his time on at the moment on Sri Lanka.” (“Wikileaks: David Miliband championed aid to Sri Lanka to win votes of Tamils in U.K.” The Telegraph, 22nd January 2012)

Some people might object that the above happened when the Labour Party was in power, and now that the Conservatives have taken over things are different. However, the Conservatives are under just as much pressure to win Tamil votes, and this is proved among other things by the conduct of former PM David Cameron on his visit to Sri Lanka in November 2013 for the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting. No sooner had he landed, he gave a speech scolding then President Mahinda Rajapaksa for his treatment of the Tamils and was whisked off to Jaffna to commiserate with the folks there. This behaviour shocked even some English people. The well-known columnist Rod Liddel wrote derisively:

“Normally, when one is a guest in someone else’s country, it is incumbent to be polite, even deferential. But the prime minister is aware that this does not apply to Sri Lanka …. So, it is to David Cameron’s immense credit that he struck the right tone when addressing his Ceylonese jonny. It is the tone of a member of the Eton upper sixth addressing some errant fag who has failed to buff his shoes to the correct level of shine, through either incompetence or negligence.” Rod Liddel, “That is the President of Sri Lanka, PM, not one of your fags,” Times of London, 17-11-2013, www.thetimes.co.uk)

Meanwhile, in the recent past, the Conservative Party in its manifesto for the 2019 Parliamentary elections, had a clause calling for a “two-State solution” in Sri Lanka, and that clause was corrected only after stringent protest from the Sri Lankan Government. To repeat, the Conservative Party has just as much reason as Labour to court the Tamil vote, and it is reasonable to suppose that with the present action at the UNHRC, PM Boris Johnson and his cohorts have achieved a veritable “coup” in that regard.

To turn to Canada, Martin Collacott, a former Canadian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, writing in The National Post in 2005, says, “LTTE-friendly community leaders are willing to ensure that liberal candidates win votes in Tamil-heavy urban constituencies provided the Federal Government turns a blind eye to fundraising” (Martin Collacott, “Canada’s role in Tamil terror,” The National Post, 26-1-2005). In sum, the U.K and Canada have ulterior motives to be interested in Sri Lanka, and this makes the motives of the Core Group as such suspect.

Finally, to my knowledge, the “Core Group” has not submitted to the Council any report explaining that the purported human rights problems they see in Sri Lanka cannot be pursued through the Universal Periodic Review, and must instead be addressed through country-specific resolutions.

Conclusion

To accept what the Core Group has done is to accept that rich and powerful nations joined by poorer nations that they can coerce, cajole or influence, can decide by themselves that a particular country has a human rights “problem”, and proceed to take action against such nation at the UNHRC, without ever establishing before the Council that the “problem” of which they complain actually exists, and all the while violating the purposes and principles of the Council as well as the right to a fair hearing of the targeted nation. Sri Lankans must do everything in their power to hold the Core Group accountable for their actions.

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Opinion

Regulate sports in popular schools ahead of big matches

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The Big Matches between popular schools in Colombo and main outstation cities are round the corner. In the past school sports was in the hands of former sportsmen and sportswomen who loved the game as well as their school. They devoted their time and money to coach the budding youth without any monetary gain for themselves.

But, see what has happened today. Sports coaches selected by the schools demand millions of rupees to coach the students. And this is readily agreed and paid by the school authorities. In the good old days the members of School teams were provided free meals during match days and also Sports equipment. But it is not so now. The school earn millions of rupees from big matches played for a duration of two, or three days in some cases, and this money could be utilised to buy the required cricket gear such as bats, pads gloves, boots, etc,. I understand a pair of cricket boots is in the region of Rs.18,000 to 25,000. Can a poor village lad who is enrolled to an affluent schools in Colombo, based on his performance in Education and Cricket afford this? These lads should be given all the support to continue in their respective sports rather than drop out due to financial constraints

Coaches in some schools are in the payroll of big-time businessmen whose children are, in the so called pools. Parents of children engaged in a particular sport should not be permitted to come in as sponsors as this would be rather unethical.

The Big Matches between popular boys schools are around the corner and I suggest that the Sports Ministry ensures performance based selections rather than on other criteria.

 

D.C.Atukorala

Colombo

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Opinion

‘Post turtle’ revisited

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I have written about this amusingly thought-provoking creature, the ‘post turtle’ to ‘The Island’ around three years ago (appeared in the opinion column of The Island newspaper on the 19th of June 2018, titled ‘The post turtle era’). The story, which I am sure most of you have heard/read already, is obviously not a creation of mine and I happened to come across it somewhere, sometime ago. 

And for the benefit of those, who haven’t heard the story, it goes like this:

“While surturing a cut on the hand of an old Texas rancher, the doctor struck up a conversation with the old man. Eventually, the topic got around to politics and then they discussed some new guy, who was far too big for his shoes, as a politician.

The old rancher said, ‘Well, ya know he is a post turtle’. Not being familiar with the term, the doctor asked him what a ‘post turtle was’.

The old rancher said, ‘When you are driving down a country road and you come across a fence post with a turtle balanced on top, well, that’s your ‘post turtle’.

The rancher saw a puzzled look on the doctor’s face, so he went on to explain. ‘You know, he didn’t get up there by himself, he doesn’t belong up there, he doesn’t know what to do while he is up there, and you just wonder what kind of a dumb ass put him up there in the first place’.”

Now I was having this nice, little siesta, the other day and suddenly there appeared ‘the turtle’ in front of me, sitting on a fence post, seemingly doing a precarious balancing act as the post itself was too high for it to give it a try to jump down to the ground. Not that it probably wanted to do it anyway for it looked quite contended and happy sitting there doing absolutely nothing. And no doubt some loyal and dumb all rolled into one, must have put him up there and been feeding it well too, for it looked quite contended and fat showing a thick head that kept turning to the left and then to the right, while its tongue kept on lolling out as if it was saying something, which must have been absolute gibberish and rubbish anyway.

What a fitting and symbolic representation, 

I mean this ‘post turtle’, of the lot, or the majority of it sitting across ‘the oya’, I mused on after I woke up from my snooze.

Many of them get there thanks to the gullible voter, who while ticking the boxes, thinks: he/she will surely deliver the goods this time as promised! 

And those two-legged post turtles inside the edifice, bordering the Diyawanna, like the one in the story, keep uttering sheer rubbish and spitting out incomprehensible mumbo jumbo, all in return with thanks to those, who tick the boxes in their favour.

Their statements such as ‘what is oxygen for, to eat?’, is just one among many such stupendously stupid utterances of theirs and I don’t want to tire you with the rest, for they are well known and far too many.

Now I have only one question for you before I end this:

When are we going stop being ‘those dumb asses’, once and for all?

Laksiri  Warnakula  

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