Government decides to shelve Upper Kotmale Power Project

June 23 (IL) With Cabinet approval on the Upper Kotmale Hydro Power (UKHP) Project still pending, sources claim that the Government has taken an ‘unofficial’ decision to postpone the project, or at least until they succeed in obtaining the support of the Ceylon Workers Congress (CWC), which has eight seats in Parliament.

However, Power and Energy Minister Susil Premajayantha said that a new ‘compromised plan’ has been drawn up. “We have also addressed the necessary issues raised by politicians in the new UKHP plan,” the Minister noted.

He also denied reports that the project has been postponed. “I have submitted the paper to the Cabinet, and it is pending,” he said.

He noted that until Cabinet approval was granted, it would not be possible to set a date for groundwork on the project to begin. Even though groundwork was to begin during the last United National Front regime, the project was again ‘unofficially stalled’ after the CWC threatened to pull out of the Government, if the project went ahead. The party cited environmental concerns as the reason for their disapproval.

CWC Leader Arumugam Thondaman was also reported to have said that the commencement of the project would result in an alarming number of landslides in the Nuwara-Eliya district.

According to sources, the Government is rethinking the demands put forward by the CWC in their bid to reach an agreement, so that they would have a majority in Parliament. “The Government may have decided to unofficially stall the project, because this is one of the demands put forward by the CWC,” sources claimed.

However, the CWC claim that they were concern about the environment was shot down by senior officials of the Ceylon Electricity Board who alleged that the CWC was opposing the UKHP merely because of a ‘deal gone wrong’.

The CEB officials alleged that some of the CWC members had been trying to clinch a deal with the Ministry of Power and Energy concerning the construction of the power project. However this has not been possible, as the Ministry wanted the project to be a transparent one, and no favourism to some. However, this allegation was denied by the CWC earlier.