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Waste-fired power plants draw fire for turning one form of pollution into others

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By Ifham Nizam

Asolid waste-fired thermal power station is currently under construction at Muthurajawela by the Urban Development Authority. It is expected to use about 630 MT of waste from Colombo and Gampaha suburbs to generate 10MW a day.

Another such plant is under construction in Karadiyana, which will receive 500MT of municipal solid waste a day from the Western Province Waste Management Authority (WPWMA). Most of the plastic waste will be burned at these two plants in the near future, The Island learns.

The public is however unaware that both plants will emit toxic fumes harmful to all living beings especially as a result of both of them burning plastic waste.

Sri Lankans dispose 5.1 kilos of waste each daily and seven per cent of trash is plastic, an ongoing survey by the Centre for Environmental Studies (CEJ) has revealed.

CEJ scientists say there is no proper strategy to tackle the problem of waste plastic. They say burning is not a solution. “It only turns one form of pollution into others, including air emissions, toxic ash and wastewater,” said CEJ Executive Director Hemantha Withanage.

Burning waste is a health as well as an environment hazard. Even the most advanced technologies cannot avoid the release of vast amounts of pollutants that contaminate air, soil and water, and end up entering the food chain.

Mercury, dioxins, lead, and other pollutants come from burning waste. Plastic and metals are the major source of the calorific value of the waste. The combustion of plastics, like polyvinyl chloride (PVC) gives rise to these highly toxic pollutants, he says.

According to CEJ, the National Environmental (Prohibition of open burning of refuse and other combustible matters inclusive of plastics) Regulations No. 1 of 2017 orders No person shall burn openly or cause to, allow or permit the open burning of refuse or other combustible matters inclusive of plastics and any person who fails to comply with the regulations above shall be liable to an offence and punishable under Section 31 of the National Environmental Act, No. 47 of 1980.

It is time to implement this law for the sake of our future generation to come, say environmentalists.



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Domestic debt restructuring will cripple EPF, ETF – JVP

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By Sirimatha Rathnasekera

The Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) and Employees’ Trust Fund (ETF) will lose about 600 billion rupees during the proposed domestic debt structuring, Co-Convener of the JVP affiliated National Trade Union Centre (NTUC) Wasantha Samarasinghe claimed.

Samarasinghe is of the opinion that the government is planning not to pay 20 to 25 percent of the loans it has taken from domestic sources. Successive governments have borrowed significantly from the EPF and ETF, he said.

Samarasinghe said that due to the depreciation of the rupee, the real value of EPF and ETF funds had decreased by half. “In such a context, can these institutions take a 20 percent haircut? This might be a big problem to the workers,” he said.

The NTUC Co-Convener said that a number of domestic banks, too, had lent to the government and domestic debt restructuring might lead to a collapse in the banking system.

However, Central Bank Governor Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe says that they are confident of reaching debt sustainability without re-structuring domestic debt, which would lead to problems in the banking sector.

“There have been concerns among domestic bond investors about rupee debt/internal debt to be restructured following comments made by President Ranil Wickremesinghe to the effect that financial advisors were looking at domestic debt. However, there has been no request to restructure domestic debt. We are confident that we can make debt sustainable without restructuring domestic debt,” Dr. Weerasinghe told the media at the CBSL’s 6th Review of the Monetary Policy stance for this year, at the CBSL head office auditorium, in Colombo, on Thursday.

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Powerful CEBEU says yes to restructuring but on its terms

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Sri Lanka will experience periodic power cuts until 2027 if the government did not take steps to increase electricity production, the Ceylon Electricity Board Engineers Union (CEBEU) said yesterday.Due to electricity shortages, the Norochcholai Power Plant had been operational non-stop, sometimes even without scheduled maintenance, CEBEU President, Saumya Kumarawadu said.

“A generator is down. We will get it back online within 14 days. We had started maintenance on another plant in June and it was to be back online in September. But it has been delayed till November,” he said.

Kumarawadu said there would be 10-hour power cuts without Norochcholai. However, the power cuts could be reduced in two weeks when the generator was restored, he said.

He added that while they support restructuring of the CEB, they oppose de-bundling and selling the CEB to various private actors.

“Power cuts might have to go on till 2026 or 2027 unless new plants come up. A proposal to build an LNG power plant is still languishing in the Cabinet,” he said.

The CEBEU President also said that the electricity tariff was last increased in 2012. In 2014, the tariff was reduced. Without increasing electricity tariffs, the CEB will have to get increasing amounts of money from the treasury.

“The government should have increased the tariff at regular intervals. We haven’t increased in a decade and suddenly we have increased by a large amount.That’s why it has come as a shock to people,” he said.

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SJB opposes blanket privatisations

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… questions logic of selling cash cows like Telecom and Insurance

The SJB was opposed to the privatisation of profit-making government entities, Chief Opposition Whip, MP Lakshman Kiriella, said yesterday, in Colombo.Kiriella said that President Ranil Wickremesinghe had told The Economist magazine that they are thinking of privatising Sri Lanka Telecom and Sri Lanka Insurance.

“These are two institutions that make a profit. What is the point in privatising these?” he asked.

MP Kiriella said that they are not opposed to privatizing SriLankan Airlines, which has been making losses for years.

“We can talk about these things in Parliament. Even when we privatize loss making entities we have to take a number of things into consideration. What will happen to the workers? How will we compensate them? How will we re-skill them? We have to talk about these things openly before doing anything,” he said.

The Chief Opposition Whip said that one of the main reasons why people oppose privatization is because everything is done in secrecy.

“People wonder why things are hidden from them. We need to be open and transparent when we restructure,” he said.

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