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Norochcholai environmental impact affects entire country – COPE

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Chairman of the COPE (Committee on Public Enterprises), Prof Charitha Herath, on Tuesday, said the entire country was affected by the Norochcholai Lakvijaya coal power plant complex and thus the Central Environmental Authority (CEA) had a pivotal role to play in the supervision of the power plant complex.

COPE studied the coal power plant complex and its environmental impact, during a meeting on Tuesday in Parliament.

The environmental assessment of the Norochcholai Lakvijaya Power Plant should not be left to the Environmental Authority of the North Western Provincial Council alone. The Central Environmental Authority (CEA) must also be involved as issues created by the power plant, for example air pollution, had an impact on the entire country, the COPE Chairman said.

Prof. Herath added that given the Lakvijaya Power Plant had ambitious expansion plans; the Central Environmental Authority and the Provincial Environmental Authority should carry out those assessments jointly.

It was also revealed that the Ceylon Electricity Board had suffered a loss of Rs. 85 billion last year because no new power plants had been constructed since 2015 and the emergency power purchases at high prices.

These facts were revealed by the CEB officials summoned before the COPE on Tuesday to give evidence on a probe conducted on the Norochcholai Lakvijaya coal power plant complex and its environmental impact.

Ministers Susil Premajayantha, Mahindananda Aluthgamage, Nalaka Godahewa, Sarath Weerasekara, Ajith Nivard Cabraal, MPs Patali Champika Ranawaka, Eran Wickramaratne, Jagath Pushpakumara, Premanath C. Dolawatta, S. M. Marikkar, Nalin Bandara and Ranjan Ramanayake were also present at the meeting presided by COPE Chairman Prof. Herath.

Herath said that according to the long-term plan of the Lakvijaya coal power plant, a 300 megawatt plant was to be added to the complex by 2023 and further 300 megawatts by 2026.

CEB officials were asked by MP Patali Champika Ranawaka whether the Lakvijaya power complex could facilitate the increased capacity as stated. The officials said that they were still looking ar the issue and that the expansions would be carried out only if the relevant requirements could be met.

The committee also focused on the management of fly-ash collected at the plant. There are large piles of fly-ash in the yard, and Herath said that Rs. 26 million was spent each year to spray water on the fly-ash. The Chairman asked what the CEB was being done about the 6,580,000 tons of fly-ash stored in the premises. The officials said that they were trying to manufacture bricks using it.

The COPE noticed that the first of the three units operating at the Lakvijaya Power Plant did not operate at full capacity and that there had been several breakdowns.

Ranawaka said that immediate action needed to be taken as the Lakvijaya Power Plant contributed to most of the country’s electricity generation.

Streamlining of the cooling water disposal method at the complex, the impact of the ground water in the area, the quality of coal, and the capacity of unloading coal were also discussed at the COPE meeting.



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UNDP: Rs 600 bn tax cut a huge mistake

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Director of the Sustainable Finance Hub of the UNDP Marcos Neto has called the decision to do away with a range of taxes here a fundamental mistake committed by Sri Lanka.The comment was made at the Parliament complex during an interactive dialogue on ‘Revenue Generation as a Pathway to Sri Lanka’s Economic Recovery’ on Tuesday (09). It was organised on a request by Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, former Chairman of the Committee on Public Finance to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The Opposition as well as several other parties alleged that the government had lost as much as Rs 600 bn due to the controversial decision to do away with a range of taxes including PAYE, NBT (Nation Building Tax), Withholding tax, Capital Gain tax imposed on the Colombo Stock Exchange, Bank Debit tax and unprecedented reduction of VAT (Value Added Tax). The 15% VAT and the 2% NBT which amounted to 17% imposed on all goods and services were unified and reduced to 8%, effective from the first of December 2019.

The decision was taken at the first Cabinet meeting of the Gotabaya Rajapaksa government on 27 Nov. 2019.Governor of the Central Bank Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe is on record as having said that the powers that be ignored the IMF warning not to do so and also the immediate need to restructure Sri Lanka’s debt (SF)

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Debate on power tariff hike on 29 Aug.

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Party leaders have decided to debate the electricity tariff hikes in parliament on 29 August.The date was fixed for the debate following a request by the main opposition SJB.The debate will be held from 9.30 am to 4.30 pm on 29 August.

Chief Opposition Whip Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella told Parliament on Wednesday (10) that as per the proposed tariff hike the monthly electricity bill of domestic consumers would increase by 75 percent to 125 percent. “This is unbearable. This is like sending the people to an electric chair while they are struggling to make ends meet amidst a massive increase in cost of living.

How does this government expect people would be able to pay such an exorbitant price for electricity? We demand a debate in parliament before this proposed tariff hike is implemented,” Kiriella said.

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British national to be deported

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Department of Immigration and Emigration has ordered Kayleigh Fraser, a British national whose passport has been taken into custody after she posted on social media anti-government protests, for violating her visa conditions, to leave the country by 15 August. The Department has already cancelled her visa.

Earlier this month Immigration and Emigration officials visited Fraser at her home and took her passport into custody. The Department said Fraser had been in Sri Lanka for medical reasons since 2019. She had returned home several times, it said.

The Immigration and Emigration officers told her to visit them within the next seven days.Fraser on 02 August said that a group of immigration officers had visited her and asked for her travel document. She said that officials told her that they would return her passport when she visited the Department of Immigration and Emigration.

Fraser added that she had received an anonymous call asking her to leave Sri Lanka as soon as possible before facing ‘big problems.’ Immigration officials visited her house a few days after the call.

Fraser has shared a number of photographs and videos from the ‘Gota Go Gama’ site. Human Rights groups and activists have accused the Sri Lankan government of using Emergency regulations to harass and arbitrarily detain activists seeking political reform and accountability for the country’s economic crisis.

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