Saturday, June 11, 2016


Hemantha Withanage
Centre for Environmental Justice/FoE Sri Lanka

If you want to kill your river, asked  the Sustainable Energy Authority. They will send a river killers with a  permit to build a dam across the river. It will add few more megawatts to the  National electricity grid to make happy energy hungry people.

To enable this Minister John Senevirathne has issues a gazette notification 1538/22 on 26th February 2008 earmarking 500 meters of the river banks for mini hydro development.

Sri Lanka  is a proud island nation with 103 rivers and tributaries  with over 5000 km length. These rivers flourish the country with 65,610 sq kilometers which is home to thousands of life forms. 

These rivers also meets the water needs of 21 million people. River  floods make the soil fertile. Over 30,000  functioning tanks in Sri Lanka plays a major role in this life support system. These rivers produced over 500 waterfalls which are one of the tourist attractions and plays a major role of the aesthetic beauty of the island.

Rivers can produce energy too. Sri Lanka has 14 major dams  with 1400 MW installed capacity. On the Non-conventional hydro i.e small scale, grid-connected hydro resources developed in the past 15 years with capacity additions surpassing 180 MW of grid power, generating about 4% of the total capacity.  Some studies have estimated the total potential to be around 500MW.
But they are deadly for the rivers.

So- called Sustainable Energy Authority  is responsible for killing more than 200 kilometers of the Sri Lankan rivers so far. One hundred and forty three(143) micro dams have already build across river tributaries.  Over 50  dams are under construction.  They have already destroyed more than 65 waterfalls in Sri Lanka. Seven water falls, Handagiriya Ella, Anda Dola, Pandi Dola, Athwelthota Ella, Broadlands,  Alupotha and many other waterfalls  are in the edge of destruction.

Mini hydro was started and village hydro about 15 years ago with no grid connections. It serves people who are living away from the electricity grid. Once the mini hydro become connecting to the national grid and pay high tariff, it became a big business of the corporate sector and started tapping all tributaries under the so-called vision to generate non-convensional  hydro. 

We are not anymore living in an era to make business as usual. Climate change is already showing why we need to protect the water bodies.

It also has resulted alternative energy generation which includes Solar, Wind, Tidal, Geo thermal. It is unfortunate Sri Lanka still not promoting such technologies adequately. Sri Lanka has a very high potential for producing energy from wind, solar and wave power. However, we still have  little more than 100 MW installed capacity of renewable sources. Solar is less than 2 MW.

According to an study carried out by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) of USA the potential for wind power in Sri Lanka is 20,740 MW’s. Similarly solar capacity  has the range from  4.5 to 6.0 kWh/m2/day for Sri Lanka.

This means right policies can make Sri Lanka energy secure while saving our pristine rivers and environment.( Haritha Esa[ Green Eye] Issue 2)

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