The Sitawaka Hydro Power Project
Posted on August 11th, 2019

By Garvin Karunaratne

In the Eighties, we sacrificed the verdant Kotmale Valley for a mere 200 MW of Power. The Kotmale Dam does not provide any water for irrigation. That 200MW of power at that time when there were wind turbines that produced an easy 3 MW, could have been produced by 70 wind turbines scattered around Ramboda and the verdant Kotmale valley with its thriving agriculture and a pleasant people would have yet been there. Now there are wind turbines that produce an easy 5 MW. Fifty wind turbines could have been built with a fraction of the money spent on the Kotmale Dam. Imagine the amount of money we wasted in addition to the verdant land and the productive peasantry that was lost forever.

Then it was the Kitulgala Project which is yet being built all to make a mere 35 MW of power That power could be obtained from building ten wind turbines and it would have cost a fraction of what is being spent today.

Today it is the Sitawaka Hydro Power Project to get some 30 MW of power. It will cause immense damage at Dehiowita where land will be inundated. I do not know more of this project but this amount of power can easily be produced by building eight to ten wind turbines within the hilly areas- not at Sitawaka or Dehiowita.

It has so happened that I have lived years in the coastal towns of Hambantota and Matara as well as the hilly districts of Nuwara Eliya and Kandy and have traversed the entire island on endless circuits for over six years. I have been to Mannar and Kalpitiya, the areas that seem to have mesmerized our specialists in the Power Ministry. There is no need to get foreigners down to gauge the power of the wind that we administrators have had to contend with every day.

Why are we yet building wind turbines on the coast ignoring what all authorities in the USA, France, and Spain have been doing for several decades? They build in the mountains, never on the coast. The engineer that did the construction of the wind turbines at Hambantota had commented on one of my Papers detailing that in Sri Lanka building wind turbines is allowed only on the coast and not in the mountains! What a lot of silly people we are cannot be even imagined.

Building wind turbines is not something that cannot be done. The other day I was at Avukana and saw the hood that had been built by our engineers of the State Engineering Department. The hood is supported by long concrete beams. Get those engineers that did that and they will be able to design the structures and blades for a wind turbine in a week. Get a few 5 MW turbines airflow- that too can be done in days. Finding the sites and the construction can be done easily within three months. That was the speed at which my colleagues in the Land Development Department worked in the Fifties and Sixties. I too was involved in building very large stores and we got it done in record time. That was in the Agrarian Services

The Power Ministry need not find electricity from barges for long. Building power lines to get it from India is a far more costly and a long term plan than constructing a few hundred wind turbines. In my travels in the USA, France, and Spain I have seen wind turbines being transported and erected.  We can do it very soon at a fraction of the cost of building unnecessary projects.

My ideas in a Compendium of my Papers on Wind Power is due to be published soon.

For the moment let me quote more details from a Paper written by me last year.

Instead of developing the Kandyan Areas we are destroying existing development.
Posted on September 6th, 2018 in Lanka Web 

by Garvin Karunaratne

The Kotmale Valley was a thriving  area full of production when I worked in Nuwara Eliya in the Sixties. This valley, its luxurious vegetation and  a vibrant community that lived in plenty was sacrificed to get  200 MW of power.    The Kotmale dam does not provide any water for irrigation. Fifty Wind Turbines could have achieved that target of power, and Kotmale, its people and luxurious economy would have been spared extintion.

As I write, action in being taken to destroy miles of verdant jungle, luxurious home gardens  and a  developed tourist attraction- the rapids of the Maskeliya Oya at Kitulgala.

It is a mini Hydro Project-the Broadlands Dam, sited  about a milei above the Kitulgala Rest House. The water will be taken down in a 3 kilometer tunnel and enter a Power House that will  produce 35 MW of power. There will be two small weirs(tanks) of water.

The tunneling of the river water will change the eco system for at least 34 to 5  kilometers. Already the tunneling has caused damage to many homes and land.

Further the Maskeliya Oya at Kitulgala has 18 rapids and already it is a highly treasured tourist attraction, world wide, attracting some 100,000 tourists a year. The tunneling of water will make 13 rapids defunct. In short the tourists will not come. White water rafting is a developed , highly sought for sport and the only site for this is Kitulgala in Sri Lanka.

Compensation has been offered but the fact remains that the verdant Kitulgala Valley will be ruined- its eco sysytem will be damaged and the untold damage  in an unexpected manner like at Uma Oya in Welimada Bandarawela cannot be ruled out.. 

I know the Kitulgala area well having worked  as the Additional Government Agent at Kegalla and earlier as an Assistant Commissioner in Agrarian Services. I have walked through the area and can imagine the damage..  I can state that the Kitulgala Valley is having verdant forest and home gardens that will be sacrificed. White water rafting was not developed as a tourist attraction when I worked there in  the Sixties. The people have developed tourism and it is a shame to sacrifice the tourism  that has already been built up. I am certain that we attract youngsters world wide- even from the USA to Kitulgala for Water rafting..

 As far as the production of electricity is concerned i can state without any reservation that  that the proposed 35 MW of power can easily be produced by constructing 10 wind turbines. The wind turbines can be sited in Kitulgala itself and constructing 10 wind turbines can be done at a fraction of the cost of  $ 85 million. 

It is perhaps a travesty of our fate that our Power Ministry does not believe in wind power that can easily be harnessed . Costs of wind power are only 5 US cents a kilowatt in the USA. At most our cost will be Rs 10 a kw  which is a third of today’s cost.

There is said to be a loan from China. No foreign funds are required for wind turbines. It is only  the turbine mechanism that has  to be imported. The rest is built locally. The turbine mechanism  is not that costly.

Perhaps it is our fate that makes us destroy what development  we do have, specially in the Kandyan Areas. Then it was Kotmale. Now it is Kitulgala.

Let Kitulgala be spared the devastation that happened to Kotmale

Garvin Karunaratme


One Response to “The Sitawaka Hydro Power Project”

  1. Ananda-USA Says:


    Those 3MW and 5MW wind turbine ratings are the maximum generation capacities of those wind turbines. The so-called capacity factor, typically of the order of 25% depending on the wind resource availability at the site, reduce those capacities drastically.

    Therefore, to develop 200MW of power, the installed capacity must be 200/0.25 = 800 MW, which requires 160 massive 5MW wind turbines to be installed. Moreover, wind power generation fluctuates, so the grid to which it is connected must have the capability to accomodate that fluctuation (daily and seasonal), ofyten by incorporating energy storage systems (pumped hydro, battery storage, energy conversion to storable forms such as hydrogen etc).

    So, although I agree with you about the adverse environmental and societal impacts of submerging land, the issues are not so clear cut. Even the reservpoirs that are created can be used for multiple purposes such as energy storage, flood water control, fish cultivation, water supply for irrigation and drinking, reduction of fossil energy use, and even have POSITIVE IMPACTS on flora and fauna of the environment. All of these different impacts must be considered and balanced together with the issues of loss of land to residents and production of electrical energy.

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