Mannar Catholic Bishop and Three Prominent Environmentalists Petition Supreme Court in the Public Interest against the proposed 250 MW Mannar Wind Power Project by Adani Green Energy.

The Bishop of the Diocese of Mannar and three prominent environmentalists this week petitioned the Supreme Court in the public interest against the proposed 250 MW Mannar Wind Power Project by Adani Green Energy.

Rev. Dr. Fidelis Lionel Emmanuel Fernando along with Rohan Pethiyagoda, Prof. Nimal Gunatilleke and Prof. Sarath Kotagama have challenged the procurement process and proposed construction of the project by Adani Green Energy PTE Ltd and/or Adani Green Energy S L Limited.

The case names 67 respondents including the Cabinet of Ministers, the Sri Lanka Sustainable Energy Authority (SLSEA), the Central Environmental Authority (CEA), the Board of Investment, the Ceylon Electricity Board, the Public Utilities Commission Sri Lanka and the Attorney General, among others.

It raises concerns regarding the credibility of the project’s environmental impact assessment (EIA) and the role played by the SLSEA. It flags certain procedural issues in the awarding of the purported contract and questions the characterisation of the project as a government-to-government deal.

It questions the basis for the negotiated tariff to be fixed at USD 8.26 cents per kilowatt-hour for a period of 20 years when the EIA conducts its assessment based on a cost of USD 4.6 cents, potentially causing considerable financial loss to the country and a burden on consumers.

The petition also states that, notwithstanding the intensely public nature of the project, its vital importance to the general public and public resources, including the natural environment, as well as the paramountcy of transparency and openness in good governance, “there is a paucity of available data and information”.

It requests Court to compel the release of the entire files and records including the call for bids for (if any) and responses to both the Mannar and proposed 234MW Pooneryn plants; records of deliberations and negotiations; Cabinet memoranda and decisions; unit price discussions including formulae related to the computation of the price per kilowatt hour; the criteria and benchmarks or any other basis for assessments of the project; and other relevant information.

The petition holds that the EIA commissioned by the SLSEA “appears to be a formality, conducted with a premeditated intention/decision to award the construction and operation of the project to predetermined contractors”.

Despite the CEA being the designated body, it appears from publicly disseminated information that the Power and Energy Minister was de facto acting in the capacity of the project approving authority, it states.

There is no transparency surrounding the purported leasing of 202 hectares acquired on Mannar Island for the project; and no information on compensation payable to affected landowners, the cost of which should be recovered from the investor.

The EIA has also not adequately evaluated alternative sites—Ambewela, the South East coast, Kalpitiya and Jaffna—or expressed “any acceptable rationale” for why Mannar Island was chosen.
“The promotion of Mannar when compared to other sites is made even more confounding given that it is the focal point of the Central Asian Flyway for over five million [5,000,000] migratory birds travelling to, and through, Mannar island on an annual basis, making it a crucial area for conservation and tourism which aspects are not as markedly evident in the other sites considered,” the petition states.

In seeking their relief, the petitioners pray that the Supreme Court declares a violation of their fundamental rights and that of the citizenry at large and the decisions made to award the project to Adani as wrongful; and calls for any consequential actions undertaken to be declared illegal.

The petition states that the case has been filed to further the national interest, to preserve and protect public property, including the environment, flora and fauna, public finances and to safeguard the rights and freedoms of the general public of Sri Lanka and its future generations.

Courtesy:Sunday Times