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Sri Lanka's state energy provider looks to Bodhi tree to solve crisis

Responding to on-going nationwide power cuts Sri Lanka’s state energy provider, the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB), has said it would offer alms to the Sri Maha Bodi, a tree in Anuradhapura revered by the Buddhist population.

A CEB official said on Thursday that “there will be several offerings at the bodi today and lunch will be offered to monks tomorrow after overnight religious ceremonies”.

Saumya Kumarawadu, head of the CEB Engineers Union, told reporters “the main reason for the power cut is the government’s failure in implementing the planned power plants”.

Sri Lanka is currently suffering from a devastating drought during its monsoon season causing power shortages across the country. Sri Lanka is heavily reliant on hydropower generation, which accounts for 30% of the nation’s total electricity production, due to the droughts this has dropped by half.

The nation currently has a total electricity generating capacity of 40 GWH, relying mostly on thermal power, including a Chinese built coal power plant, which accounts for 45 per cent of its supply.

In response to the power shortage, the nation’s power firm imposed daily cuts for the first time in over two years. On Friday power was cut between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 10 p.m. without notice. A schedule of planned cuts was released on Monday. Reuters reported that four hour daily cuts hit different places at different times.

Officials from the Health Ministry have reassured people key hospitals will be safe as they have emergency power backups.

On Friday, officials told reporters the government would try to produce artificial rain with the help of Thailand’s Department of Royal Rainmaking and Agricultural Aviation through cloud seeding but abandoned the project as their attempts failed.

These power cuts come after delays in power plant projects.

A 300 MW liquified natural gas plant was planned to begin operating in January of this year but had been delayed by over two years due to a court battle between the local firm Lakdhanavi and a joint venture between Chinese investors and a Sri Lankan firm.

In 2016, Sri Lanka cancelled proposals to build a 500 MW coal power plant through a joint venture between CEB and India’s National Thermal Power Corporation in the eastern port district of Trincomalee due to environmental concerns. It was planned to have been operating later this year.

The Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka said it would seek legal action against the state-owned Ceylon Electricity Board after receiving complaints about unscheduled power cuts being imposed across the country.

Economists are concerned that if these power cuts continue it could harm the nation’s already weak economy. In 2018 Sri Lanka GDP growth slowed to just 3.2 per cent, its lowest in 17 years.

Read more here and here