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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2555

India’s position on Sri Lanka's second coal-fired power plant in Sampur – Sri Lanka’s Minister clarifies

Minister Rohitha Bogollagama said that Sampur is located at the mouth of Trincomalee harbour and any danger of pollution would be minimized, if not eliminated, by siting the coal-fired plant there.Minister Rohitha Bogollagama said that Sampur is located at the mouth of Trincomalee harbour and any danger of pollution would be minimized, if not eliminated, by siting the coal-fired plant there.Neville de Silva - Diplomatic Editor Asian Tribune

London, 15 January, (Asiantribune.com): Has India formally objected to building Sri Lanka's second coal-fired power plant in the island republic's Sampur area in the troubled northeastern Trincomalee district?

No says Sri Lanka's minister for enterprise development and investment promotion who is due to launch the Indo-Sri Lanka Partnership Summit in Bangalore tomorrow.

Enterprise Development Minister Rohitha Bogollagama who was in London last week to attend the internationally-known Wilton Park Conference on "Investing in Peace" told this correspondent that officially there has been no negative communication from New Delhi.

The question of India's position on this is bound to come up during the Bangalore summit following media speculation that India had asked for the site to be shifted away from Sampur, the area captured by Sri Lankan troops from the rebel LTTE known as the Tamil Tigers, last September.

The LTTE's proxy in the Sri Lanka parliament, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) had raised political and environmental concerns over locating the plant in Sampur, claiming it is an attempt by the Sri Lankan Government to drive the Tamils from the Sampur area that lies strategically across the Kodiyar Bay in the famous natural harbour in Trincomalee.

Sri Lanka maintains an important naval base in Trincomalee from where it also ferries men and materiel to the northern Jaffna peninsula parts of which are occupied by the Tigers.

The navy at Trincomalee provides coastal security and is often employed against the LTTE's own Sea Tiger boats and attempts to smuggle arms into Tiger held areas.

Minister Bogollagama said that Sampur is located at the mouth of Trincomalee harbour and any danger of pollution would be minimized, if not eliminated, by siting the coal-fired plant there.

The speculation is that India had bowed to political pressure from the pro-LTTE Tamil lobby in Sri Lanka and India's southern Tamil Nadu state and indicated it would prefer another site in Trincomalee.

However none of the media reports from Colombo during Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukerjee's visit to Colombo this month or after his return to New Delhi have mentioned any objections raised by India about locating the plant in Sampur.

An agreement on setting up this joint venture was signed in Colombo in late December between the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC, an Indian Government undertaking) and Sri Lanka's Electricity Board for a 500 MW coal-based thermal power plant in Trincomalee district.

While Sri Lanka wants to see it built in Sampur, a decision is expected to be taken after a feasibility study by experts including those from the NTPC.

The study which would look at the environmental, the technological and economic aspects is expected to be completed in three months or so.
Some believe that India might wish to stay out of any political-ethnic dispute by opting to locate the plant near the Indian Oil Corporation oil project in Trincomalee.

Shortly after the agreement was signed Sri Lanka's Sunday Times newspaper reported that it had learnt the Indian government had written to Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse before the pact was inked that New Delhi was "not in favour of the plant coming up in Sampur."

The newspaper said the main reason cited by India was the distance between Sampur and the jetty in Trincomalee.

Enterprise Development minister Bogollagama who has invited some 200 captains of Indian industry for lunch in Bangalore on January 17 is expected to be asked by potential investors or the media about the speculation surrounding the coal-fired plant project and about security in the area for foreign investors.

The minister who is expecting to attract US$1 billion in foreign direct investment this year hopes to get 40 per cent of that from Indian investors particularly in the oil sector both for oil exploration and for refining.

- Asian Tribune -

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