Sampur power plant: Top CEB engineer calls for a radical rethink

A Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) big shot has cautioned against the government rushing ahead with the controversial Sampur coal power plant just to please India as the Memorandum of Understanding signed at the outset on Dec 29, 2006 is highly disadvantageous to Sri Lanka.

The senior engineers who spoke to The Island yesterday wished to remain anonymous.

The proposed 500 MW joint venture plant between the National Thermal Power Corporation of India and the CEB though outwardly a 50-50 concern, under the MOU, the contract and even the consultancy is awarded to the NTPC.

The engineers has warned the government that it would lead to the Indians milking the joint venture (JV) company, the Trincomalee Power Company Ltd as there is a clear-cut conflict of interest as ‘for the first time in the world construction and consultancy have been awarded to the same company’. "NTPC as part owner of the JV Company AND providing consultancy services is a conflict of interest and raises serious concerns about the independence of the Consultancy Report and possible malpractices during the selection of critical equipment such as turbines, boilers and other high voltage switchgear.

"Clearly the chances of unbiased independent reporting on this project will not take place and the assignment of responsibility will be severely compromised in the event of a failure, if NTPC or any other Indian consultant is chosen for this project."

The top engineer has pointed out that while India is exerting pressure on the Ministry of Power to appoint the consultant, it has already started manipulating the process by dispatching representatives of Baharat Heavy Electrical Ltd. and Sumitomo Japan last December to the CEB apparently to ensure that the equipment conformed to their specifications. But, the NTPC has not even bothered to carry out a comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment as yet as was required to do under the MOU among other things.

He has told the government: "NTPC being a 50 per cent shareholder as well as the consultant will end up outvoting or manipulating the process to achieve its objectives. If this was not true, why have the representatives from Sumitomo and BHEL India visited the CEB? The answer is that they have already started manipulating the process and it will only get worse as the project progresses."

The senior engineer has also pointed out how the Indians have delayed the project for about two years by dragging their feet on minor issues to have everything their way with their sole objective of having a foot hold in the Eastern Province rather than helping Sri Lanka with its power requirements.

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