SC (FR) 282/16
The Lakvijaya Coal Power Plant, more commonly known as the Norochcholai Coal Power Plant (CPP) is located in the village of Narakkalli and Penaiyadi near Norochcholai, within Puttalam District, on the West Coast of the Kalpitiya Peninsula. The power plant was proposed by the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) in 1995 and the construction of the facility began in 2007. It was constructed in 3 phases and completed by September 2014 with a total power generation of 900 MW.
For a power plant of this magnitude, environmental clearance was mandatory. With reference to part IVC of the National Environmental Act (NEA), the construction of a thermal power plant exceeding 25 MW requires conducting an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and submission of an EIA Report. Hence, the Project Proponent of the power plant submitted an application to the Coast Conservation Department (CCD) in 1995 when the project was first proposed, for the Project Approving Agency (PAA) along with Terms of Reference (TOR) to conduct the EIA study.
Due to the inconsiderate action/omission taken by the authorised officers carrying out operations of the coal-based power plant, the employees have already begun to face severe health hazards due to air and noise pollution and by exposure to coal all day long. Furthermore, the operations of the plant have affected not only the communities residing in Narakkalli and Illanthadiya villages adjacent to the Norochcholai CPP, but also the environment by causing irreparable and irreplaceable damage continuously such as releasing toxic emissions causing air pollution, adding waste such as fly and bottom ash to sea water that’s detrimental to marine biodiversity.
Environmental Foundation Limited (EFL), together with three other villagers from Norochcholai, invoked jurisdiction of the Supreme Court under a Fundamental Rights application on the 22nd of August 2016, regarding the failure of the Norochcholai Power Plant. The CPP was asked to adhere to the conditions of the Environmental Clearance and/or Approvals and/or Environmental Protection License issued by the Project Proponent to the power plant and the failure of the relevant institutions to overlook the compliance of such conditions.
More importantly, in relation to the issue, EFL with few other parties signed an implementation action plan for mitigation of environmental impacts on the 01st of February 2018, to be carried out by the power plant. The primary purpose of the action plan is to alleviate the environmental pollution and social risks caused by the Norochcholai power plant and to hold them accountable.
The application was reviewed several times by Court until it gave a directive on the 24th of March 2017, stating that EFL should partake in the discussion along with an independent Technical Review Committee (TRC) appointed by the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL). The purpose is to review operations of all major power plants monitoring their environmental and social impacts. The CEB, Central Environmental Authority (CEA) and community representatives from Norochcholai were other parties to this discussion. However, the TRC made a decision to investigate on issues pertaining to the Lakwijaya Coal Power Plant (LCPP) first, since it had the worst environment pollution caused yet. Subsequently, several meetings were held with the participation of the above committees, organisations and individuals to assess the current operations and the environmental impacts by LCPP to formulate an Impact Mitigation Action Plan followed by a site visit to the power plant.
The report was submitted again by the TRC in December 2017 to PUCSL. EFL and CEB reviewed the report further and a final environmental Impact Mitigation Agreement Plan incorporating feedback from all parties was formulated by PUCSL. Several discussions were hosted later by PUCSL with the CEB, North Western Provincial Environmental Authority (NWPEA) and EFL on the issue before finalising the report.
Subsequently, the final agreement report was signed by EFL and other petitioners, PUCSL, CEB and NWPEA on the 01st of February 2018. A detailed action plan based on the above, is to be formulated and submitted to Court. This action plan with timelines is currently being discussed by all parties concerned.
The case was taken again on the 4th of May 2018 for Mention, in which EFL submitted its latest progress report. The report comprised details of site visits, analysis derived from discussions carried out by EFL with the community surrounding the power plant, PUCSL and CEB, assessing the destructive and escalating environmental and social hazards caused by the power plant.
The next date for mention will be on the 25th of July in which the final settlement will be submitted to Courts incorporating analysis of the power plant submitted by all parties involved.