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Mahinda's remark puts India in a fix

India is dilly-dallying with the project as the Sampur site does not fulfil some terms, reports PK Balachandran.

india Updated: Feb 04, 2007 20:31 IST

Sri Lanka President, Mahinda Rajapaksa announced on Sunday that the 500 MW power coal fired power project to be set up in collaboration with the National Thermal Power Project (NTPC) of India would be located in Sampur, an area in eastern Sri Lanka captured by the Sri Lankan forces from the LTTE in September last.
 
Rajapaksa referred to this venture in his Independence Day speech. 
 
"The Norochcholai and Upper Kotmale Power Plants, the Sampur Coal Power Plant, the Moragahakanda Maha Samudra, the New Airport at Weerawila, expanding the Port of Colombo to twice its capacity, new railways and expressways are among these decisions. All this will invariably change the future development profile of Sri Lanka", he said.
 
The reference to Sampur is likely to put India in a fix because it is not too keen on putting up the plant there for technical and political reasons. 
 
In fact, India has not taken any decision on the exact location of the project. As a follow up to the December agreement between the NTPC, Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) and Sri Lanka Government on the plant, a team of experts from India were here a few days ago. However, they could not complete the job, as they were unable to visit all the potential sites.
 
As per the agreement the 500 MW coal-based thermal plant is to be located in Trincomalee district. The exact site for the location of the plant is to be decided by a team of experts from both sides.
 
The Sri Lanka Government has identified Sampur as the  location, but an NTPC team had earlier identified a site near the Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) oil complex, close to Trincomalee harbour, as the ideal location for the plant. 
 
The move by the Sri Lanka Government to set up the proposed power plant to Sampur is opposed by the pro-LTTE Tamil National Alliance (TNA) because it would lead to the area being occupied by the Sinhala community by displacing the indigenous Tamils. 
 
Till date, the displaced Tamil population has not been allowed to come back to Sampur.
 
India would like the location of the plant to have a settled population and to have easy access to a harbour. Sampur has no settled population to date and has no infrastructure. The Trincomalee harbour is also too far away from Sampur.