19 February 2019
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Northern Power Co not responsible for Jaffna water contamination issue

oil confe 1All available scientific evidence shows that the powerhouse of North Sri Lanka- 'Northern Power Co (Pvt) Ltd' is not any way linked to the issue of ground water contamination in Jaffna, and that such baseless allegations have been fueled by parties with vested interests, its parent company - the renowned MTD Walkers PLC announced.  

 “Our main objective is to serve the electricity needs of the North in general and Jaffna in particular. As 'Northern Power Company (Pvt) Ltd', we deny outright these baseless charges raised by parties with vested interests and not a single allegation has been so far accepted by Courts or by any government authority. As all evidence presented to Court points directly to another location as being the source of contamination; the Company is not in anyway liable for the said situation,” MTD Walkers PLC Director/ CEO Lal Perera said.  

Perera pointed out that baseless allegations have been raised with the ulterior motive to mislead the people of Jaffna against the Northern Power Company (Pvt) Ltd, falsely claiming that the power plant located at Chunnakkam (Jaffna) is causing pollution of several wells located 2 to 3 kms away from the plant.  

Northern Power Co commenced the construction work of the Power plant in 2007 amidst the height of the conflict situation when no company or individual was willing to even venture into the North, let alone build a power plant; taking all risks to provide the much needed power to the people of Jaffna.
“In fact one Company even backed out as the risks associated in building the power plant in Jaffna were so high. But, as it was the need of the hour we opted to come forward and built this power plant having the goal of serving not only the people in the North, but also businesses, schools, hospitals, etc.” he added.

Generation commenced around May 2009 and a larger population which had suffered severe hardships for over 15 years had electricity in their homes.

“We were the company at that time that contributed the major amount of power as there was no other source and Jaffna was not connected to the national grid till almost 2012. The Company went through many hardships especially with no road transport facility being available and having to transport all material and personnel by air or sea at a very high cost. But we did it because serving the people is in the DNA of  MTD  Walkers,” he added.

The power plant is operated with all necessary environmental licenses and approvals in place which is issued on an annual basis with quarterly checks carried out based out on the conditions required by the licensing authority/ies.

“Unfortunately, the allegation is that the waste oil from the plant is being discharged to the ground and that this was causing the pollution of wells that are located so many kilo meters away. We wish to state clearly that all our waste oil is collected in overhead tanks, sold and taken away by third parties and absolutely nothing is discharged to the ground. Waste oil fetches a good price as it is used for firing furnaces as the Company makes revenue from its sale and will not be deprived of the revenue by discharging it to the ground.  If we can earn extra profits by selling waste oil, why would a commercial venture such as ours throw away valuable oil?”

The system and procedure adopted for the discharge of the waste oil by the power plant can be viewed by anyone and the Mallakkam Magistrate has personally visited the plant ascertaining for himself that there is no discharge of waste oil to the ground as alleged.

“Unfortunately the Medical Officer of Health (MOH) and the Public Health Inspector (PHI) who are not specialists in this field of engineering are making this ludicrous allegation that oil is being discharged by us with absolutely no form of evidence to support their claim. They are basically making this claims based purely on hearsay and without any scientific methodology being employed to identify the root cause of the contamination and by whom,” he said.

It was also highlighted that due to the simple fact that Jaffna has been connected to the national grid,  the power plant is being used mostly during the peak loading times and as such, with the power plant operating only for few hours, there will not be waste oil volumes significant enough to affect wells 3 kilo meters away.

“However, we wish to highlight that a large oil lake (Oil kulam) existed within the previous State-run power plant premises before Northern Power commenced operations. This ‘lake’ contained a large amount of oil as indicated even in the Google maps taken over a period of time and has been presented to Courts as well. Subsequently in and around 2012 the area was filled with earth and compacted as a new substation was built on this premises. Unfortunately, to date no one has questioned or researched in to finding out what happened to this large quantity of oil that was contained in this ‘oil lake’.”

“We are strongly of the opinion that there is an unseen hand that is misleading the public of the area with some ulterior motive unknown to us to hinder our operation that is being carried out meeting all the procedural and statutory requirements mandated by the laws of Sri Lanka. People of Jaffna have benefited tremendously from the Chunnakkam Power Plant and they must think wisely that any hindrance to the smooth operation of the power plant will affect the electricity supply and adversely impact the activities of the North. People should not be misled by these baseless allegations.”

The Company hailed the government for appointing a committee comprised of academics of two renowned institutions – the University of Peradeniya and the University of Jaffna who have already inspected the premises of the Power Plant and so far had found no credibility in the allegations raised.
“We wish to reassert that Northern Power Company (Pvt) Ltd along with its parent company – MTD Walkers PLC is always committed towards working in the interest of all stakeholders while maintaining the highest standards of corporate ethics and good governance,” he added.

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