CEB pays additional Rs. 500 mn  due to fishermen’s agitation

By Ifham Nizam

The Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) has had to pay more than Rs. 500 million to expedite the country’s first coal fired power complex’s third plant to add 300 MW more to the national grid.

 CEB engineers told The Island yesterday that Rs. 450 was being spent on four pylons construction firms apart from other costs amounting to Rs. 50 and 100 million, for the new high tension line.

 "We engineers strongly feel that the Board should not go all out to spend exorbitant amounts for the construction, when the country does not need it in such a hurry," a senior engineer said.

CEB Media Spokesman, Business and Operations Strategy Deputy General Manager, Senajith Dassanayake said that Project Director Transmission had informed him that though the CEB would pay the amount they would deduct it from the contractor, China Machinery Engineering Corporation (CMEC).

 Though, he didn’t give the exact amount spent as additional cost, Dassanayake said that the contract was given to four parties.

 Other sources, however, said any additional expenditure was worth it as once the third plant was commissioned the CEB would be able to drastically cut down on costly purchases from private thermal power producers who were currently paid as much as Rs. 60 per unit of electricity.

They alleged that it was the ‘Power Mafia’ that had been blocking coal power projects.

 Meanwhile, officials said despite CMEC being a very understanding partner, they doubted whether they would bear additional costs due to the folly of local politicians who postponed giving clearance for the construction due to fishermen’s protests.     

 The third phase of the Norochcholai Coal Power Plant, which is to be completed by mid-July, needs the new transmission line connecting it to Anuradhapura to dispatch electricity as the existing grid is not equipped to carry the additional load.

  An official said: "This has been dragging on for one and a half years now and we are already six months behind the schedule and if we do not go ahead with the project the daily loss will amount to Rs 50 million. Out of the 232 towers stretching across 76 km, 226 towers have already been built and only six towers remain to be constructed in the Puttalam Lagoon."

Power and Energy Ministry, Secretary, M. M. C. Ferdinando said that a CEB team was working hard to make sure that power from third phase of the project would be added to the grid in September.

  Meanwhile, fishermen in Puttalam backed by local politicians who continued to object to the construction of the new high tension power line finally relented only recently.

 A senior engineer told The Island that the issue should have been settled by the CEB or the Ministry of Power and Energy without allowing the matter to drag on for so long.

Recently a high-level team comprising officials of the Power and Energy Ministry and the CEB held crucial talks with the fishers on the controversial Puttalam lagoon stretch.

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