A top delegation of officials from the NTPC will hold discussions on setting up of a 500- MW coal-based thermal plant in Sampur/Muttur East in Trincomalee district in Sri Lanka. The government has identified Sampur as a possible location though an NTPC team had earlier identified a site close to Trincomalee harbour as the ideal location.

A top delegation of officials from the NTPC is arriving here on Sunday to hold discussions on setting up of a 500- MW coal-based thermal plant in Sampur/Muttur East in Trincomalee district.

The Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) and the government had in December 2006 signed an agreement for the construction of the plant. However, there was no forward movement due to delay in identification of site.

As per the original pact, the site was to be jointly decided by local and NTPC experts. The government has identified Sampur captured in September from the Tamil Tigers, as a possible location though an NTPC team had earlier identified a site near the Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) oil complex, close to Trincomalee harbour, as the ideal location.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa took India by surprise with an announcement on the occasion of Independence Day in February 2007 that the project would be located in Sampur.

Mr. Rajapaksa referred to the venture in the context of the developmental and infrastructural projects envisaged by his government. “The Norochcholai and Upper Kotmale power plants, the Sampur power plant, the Moragahakanda Maha Samudra, the new airport at Weerawila, expanding the port of Colombo to twice its capacity, new railways and expressways are among these decisions. All this will invariably change the future development profile of Sri Lanka.”

Colombo’s move to shift the plant to Sampur had triggered a controversy, with the pro-LTTE Tamil National Alliance (TNA) raising political and environmental objections. At the time of the signing of the agreement, the Indian delegation was at pains to emphasise that New Delhi would not walk into unnecessary problems and would be strictly guided by techno-economic and environmental feasibility studies.

The project, involving an investment of $500 million, is to be implemented by a joint venture company to be formed with a stake of 50 per cent each by the NTPC and the CEB and would be funded with a debt equity ratio of 70:30.

As a follow-up, a joint venture agreement between the CEB and the NTPC, a power purchase agreement between the joint venture company and the CEB and an agreement between the Board of Investment and the joint venture company and an implementation agreement and coal supply agreement are yet to be signed.

The Indian Power Secretary had told The Hindu in December 2006 that the plant would substantially boost economic relations. He said the project was one of the largest ever infrastructure investments for Sri Lanka and would augment its power capacity by 20 per cent.

Commenting on the development, TamilNet said it was taking place amid protests from Tamil parliamentarians who allege a hidden political agenda to permanently evict Tamils from the Muttur east region.

It said around 30,000 Tamils were forced to leave the southern Trincomalee region into Vaharai when Sri Lankan military launched a major offensive and captured Sampur from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in September.

Tamil National Alliance (TNA) parliamentarian from Trincomalee K. Thurairetnasingham in a media release had slammed the government for rushing with the project without consulting the Tamil representatives, while thousands of Tamils are forced to flee the region. The power plant would have a permanent adverse impact on the future livelihood of Tamils in the region, he said.

Regulations

Separately, Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Friday said regulations had been amended during the past three and a half years to cater to the welfare needs of the war heroes who served the nation with dedication.

The Defence Secretary said projects to help these war heroes would be implemented with understanding. In the last 30 years, about 30,000 war heroes lost their lives. Nearly 10,000 were disabled. All these individuals and families should be treated in a similar manner, he noted.

A government statement said he was speaking at the handing over of housing assistance to disabled soldiers and soldiers who died in fighting the Tigers.