By Jayashika Padmasiri
It is a universally acknowledged fact that in a country where the main source behind power and energy is water, droughts and lack of rain can create a huge crisis in the nation’s power and energy system which distributes electricity. Sri Lanka has been serving as a witness to this fact for a very long time now: the citizenry of this nation has been paying for this through power cuts regularly. Nevertheless, last week the Power and Energy Ministry of Sri Lanka as an alternative pathway to solve this problem initiated three wind power plants in Puttalam. Though the ministry initiated this project as a positive step which would provide 30 megawatts capacity to the national power and energy system in the country, there are mixed reactions in the community about this new project. Some people applaud it, while some people disapprove of it. The Daily Mirror visited Puttalam and went to see these wind plants that half of the country are talking about.
The windmills stood like tall white winter statues from a distance. Some of the windmills were situated on the beach, while some were situated inside farms: cultivation grounds that the private companies in charge of this project have bought from the local community of the area. The sound of machinery could also be heard after the switches of the machines were switched on by the Power and Energy Minister Champika Ranawaka. During the inaugural speech Minister Ranawaka stated, “Today the consumption of electricity has increased three times the amount of what was earlier. And buying electricity under short term foundations has created major issues for our country. However we hope that at least by next year, October this situation would change. Today the resources such as oil, gas and coal are fast deteriorating. So by the year 2030 if the world does not shut down the coal power plants, there would be drastic issues. Besides the natural source of energy that humankind can attain from the sun and the wind is economically more beneficial to us.”
Speaking further Ranawaka added that in the future wind power plants would be constructed at places such as Mannar and Pooneryn as well. However, before concluding his speech the Minister further stated, “Today there are a lot of issues concerning the electricity generating process, drinking water and thermal power plants. So the answer to this cannot be found by temporary solutions such as cutting power for six months. Those efforts are like literarily covering up a serious wound with temporary bandages. So that is why we are implementing such projects as this, which will benefit the future generations.”
The three wind power plants are situated in Daluwa (a village in Nirmalapura), Puttalam and in Sethapola. From these three power plants 90 hours of gigawatts would be provided to the national power and energy system. This project targets to increase the capacity of power by 15% by the year 2015 and by 20% by year 2020, by providing 400 megawatts to the national power and energy system. These wind power plants have been built at the cost of Rs 7200 million. This is a megaproject, which would hopefully benefit the nation in the future. Yet unfortunately some of the residents in the area are against the building of the wind power plants.
The Daily Mirror spoke with a resident of the area named Patsulin Warnakulasuriya. Her first reaction to the inquiry regarding the wind power plants were that, “we are not very much informed about this matter”. However on further inquiries she said, “We will admit that the roads were developed because of the wind power plants. So development-wise, there are some advantages that the villages have received due to this project. But the machines are very noisy. Some people claim that the lack of rain (drought) is due to the fact that the windmills have blown the clouds away. During the past, we used to have rain during this season usually. However our plantations are paying the price because of the drought and we do not know what outcomes would take place in the future due to these wind power plants,” she said.
However when questioned whether she was against this project or not, this mother of four children who is also the breadwinner of their family said, “Whether we like it or not, it doesn’t matter. We were never informed about this project or neither were our sentiments ever regarded in this matter.”
Most of the people who live in cities and believe in science may dismiss the statement Warnakulasuriya made regarding the lack of rain (drought) being due to the wind mills. It is impossible; most people would say and laugh that statement off. Yet some of the innocent villagers who live in Nilmarpura believe this, as a result of the authorities failing to inform these people regarding the wind power plants they have built in their village, on the grounds that they have been bought from the locals.
The wind power plant situated in Daluwa (in the Nirmalapura village) have windmills constructed on the Nirmalapura beach area within three kilometres. The Nirmarapura Wind Power (Pvt) Ltd has invested Rs 2400 million for this. The second power plant which is situated near the Lakvijaya coal power plant has been constructed by the Daily Life Renewable (Pvt) Ltd at a cost of Rs 2400 million. It is reported that eight windmills are in this power plant. The third power plant which consists of 10 megawatts is situated on the beach at Sethapola. The Power Gen Lanka (PVT) Ltd invested for the construction of this power plant a sum of Rs 2400 million. This power plant consists of seven windmills situated within three kilometres of the beach.
Apart from the windmills situated on the beaches, the other windmills have been constructed on farming lands that these private companies have bought by paying immense compensation. To some of the villagers this is not an issue, as they themselves have agreed to take the money and sell the farming lands to build the power plants. But to those farmers who did not sell their lands and are willing to continue farming, these wind power projects are a major issue as they are situated right in the middle of their farms. The Parish Priest of Manampuri speaking to the Daily Mirror explained the situation, “The only reason we are against the wind power plants are because the private companies involved in the project bought the farming grounds from the farmers for higher prices by paying amounts such as Rs 25-30 lacks per acre. So because of this, the grounds that are left to cultivate are limited. And this will be a problem for us in the future. However we do not have a problem with the wind power plants situated on the beaches. It is only due to the increasing scarcity of the farming grounds that this problem has occurred. The authorities promised us that they would not take the farming lands of the people which are situated in the middle of the village for their project. But they failed to keep their promise and built wind power plants in the middle of the village on farming lands. And then there is a minor complaint about the sounds of the machinery, as the residents complain that their children cannot study due to the sound, while sometimes televisions and telephones also stop working in the area after the construction of the power plants,” he said.
At a time when there is a huge power crisis in the world, and when water is becoming unpredictable, and coal is becoming too expensive to afford, it is definitely an advantage and a blessing for Sri Lanka to have an alternative method to create electricity, such as wind power plants. Nevertheless, mixed reactions are existing in the society regarding the establishment of the windmills, at present. How long it will take to erase the negative thoughts about the windmills from the minds of the locals, is only a question that time could answer, just as how effective these wind power plants would prove to be, is only a test that time could answer.
Mr. B Wijeyasingha Sunday, 12 August 2012 08:08 PM
Good ad for Wind power but take a second look at nations who have adopted it. like Hydro power, wind power is susceptible to no or low winds. The best alternative is geothermal plants where the energy comes directly from the earth. Basically they work like nuclear powered plants where water is heated to steam which runs the turbines. but unlike Nuclear plans, geothermal plants have no toxic waste and the energy sources in inexhaustible. Secondly Sri Lanka needs to do away with the electric pole and bury her lines as seen in more advanced nations. This would cut power blackouts when these poles are destroyed due to bad weather.
CHANDRAPALA Monday, 13 August 2012 03:27 PM
Time has come to rethink about the nuclear power.
lioen Jayatunge Tuesday, 14 August 2012 05:30 AM
This is a very good solution. Sri Lankans complaint for anything. That is in their blood.
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