While highly questionable opposition by certain groups against the proposed Norochcholai coal power plant continues, nine oil burning plants in the country are grossly violating the Central Environment Authority's (CEA) stack emission standards by emitting large quantities of sulphur dioxide.
Energy expert Dr.Tilak Siyambalapitiya disclosed to the Weekend Standard that seven of these power plants were privately owned while the remaining two belonged to the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) situated at Sapugaskanda.
"The emissions from these nine power plants are four times more than what was authorized by the Central Environment Authority in the event the Norochcholai coal power plant begins operation in the country," he noted.
A future coal power plant in the country cannot emit more than 0.65% in stack emission, but at present these nine thermal power plants emit harmful gasses (sulphur dioxide) in the range of 2.7% to 3.5%.
The majority of these plants generate electricity from furnace oil, even though they got approval to generate power from diesel. Sources claimed that the change of oil to generate electricity maybe due to the high cost of diesel. The price of Furnace Oil is nearly 50% less than that of diesel.
Two of the private power plants are also situated at Sapugaskanda, one at the Colombo Port, and one each at Matara, Horana, Ambilipitiya and Puttalam.
However, Dr. Siyambalapitiya notes that the CEA reviews the operation of these power plants on a regular basis, if not on a monthly basis more often on an annual basis. "Some plants have to report to the Authority every three months. But not all emission parameters are measured in all power plants" he noted.
Sulphur dioxide in the air is caused due to the rise in combustion of fossil fuels. Its negative impacts on the human being includes the aggravation of existing lung diseases, especially bronchitis, it can also constrict breathing in asthmatic people. It also causes wheezing, shortness of breath, and coughing.
A total of 530 MW is generated from these nine power plants, the CEB operates 160 MW in each of its two oil fired plants, while the seven privately owned power projects have a total capacity of 370 MW