Colombo: The toxic acids evaporated from the Norochcholai Coal Power Plant may pose a threat to the Sri Maha Bodhi tree, the oldest living tree of the world with a written history, reported Ilankai Tamil Sangam (Sangam.org), an association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the US.
The Lakvijaya Power Plant, also known as the Norochcholai Power plant, is situated in Norochcholai, Puttalam in the Northwestern province of Sri Lanka, at the southern end of the Kalpitiya peninsula. It is the largest thermal power plant in Sri Lanka.
Sri Maha Bodhi Tree is a sacred and historical Bo tree (Fig tree) that is located in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka. It is believed that this tree is grown from a branch of the sacred Bodhi tree in Gaya, India, under which Siddhartha Gautama (Lord Buddha) attained enlightenment. It holds significant importance for Buddhists who visit and pay homage to the sacred tree, which has a direct link to Lord Buddha himself.
According to ecologists, there is a chance that clouds carrying dangerous acid deposits will move in the direction of Anuradhapura, where the revered Sri Maha Bodhi tree is located, reported Sangam.org.
Closer to the power plant, trees have already started showing symptoms of damage. The leaves of taller trees have started turning yellowish due to the emission of these gases. It won’t be too long before the effect of toxic emissions start appearing on the sacred tree.
Moreover, the acidic condition is also spreading towards the sea areas as a result. Therefore, rebuilding such harmful coal power plants in future is a threat to the eco-system, reported Sangam.org.
Sri Lanka’s first coal-fired thermal power plant and the largest power station is implemented as a venture of the Ceylon Electricity Board with the aid of EXIM Bank of the Republic of China. Located 100m inland from the shoreline, the construction was undertaken by the CMEC (China Machinery Engineering Corporation) and the total estimated cost of the project was USD 1.35 billion.
The Lakvijaya Power Station which is also known as the Noracholai Power Station generates a significant amount of Sri Lanka’s total electricity production.
Emissions from the 900MW coal power plant in the Kalpitiya peninsula are much above permissible standards possibly due to frequent breakdown, intermitted operations and unexpected storage of fly ash in open pits.
The power plant also gives rise to a large amount of solid waste, heat waste and water pollution due to the release of heated water. This will have long-term environmental impacts, reported Sangam.org.
The emissions from the Lak Vijaya power plant have produced significant negative impacts on the environment as well as on resident society.
The main source of energy at the Lakvijaya power plant is coal which is also the most depleted resource. Coal depletion is a global externality which is felt by all countries relying on fossil fuels for energy needs. Groundwater is drawn up for the coal yard and yard operations at this facility in huge amounts. However, it is not replenished again as it usually gets evaporated, reported Sangam.org.
For various operations such as boiler feed water, condenser cooling water etc, the power plant uses seawater. This may lead to the destruction of marine life, such as benthic organisms, microorganisms, eggs and larvae of marine animals due to the high water withdrawal rate.
Local villagers have stated that marine life especially sea turtles is not found near the area surrounding the power plant. It is to be noted that out of a total of seven living species of sea turtles, five are reported to nest along the beaches of the Puttalam-Kalpitiya coastal belt, reported Sangam.org.
The main issues with the plant are related to fly ash and bottom ash produced during the power generation process. Fly ash and bottom ash are by-products of the coal combustion process, where fly ash is fine particles that escape combustion chambers with exhaust gases, while bottom ash is a non-combustible residue that collects at the bottom of the broiler.
Fly ash open dumping is also of significant concern as the yard is open to wind erosion and leaching. As it is smaller than 10 microns, it is easily lifted by the winds and carried away, disrupting agriculture, polluting water supplies and causing various diseases.
It has been reported that several children in the areas surrounding the Norochcholai power plant have contracted skin diseases. Patches, that look like rashes have appeared on the skin of several children. Not even newborns are safe from this, who are born with these patches, reported Sangam.org.
The children and the elderly in the region are more vulnerable to skin and respiratory diseases like asthma. Inhaling coal dust can cause bronchitis, pneumonia, asthma, emphysema, and heart disease, among other things, reported Sangam.org.