The newly elected government of Sri Lanka is reactivating the controversial Upper Kotmale Hydro Power Project in central Sri Lanka.

Due to strong opposition from environmental groups, the project had been shelved by the previous administration, despite a severe shortage of power in the country.

The new government is hoping that power cuts that have plagued the country for several years would have mellowed the opposition to enable the project to go ahead.

The project, which is now scheduled to commence construction in June 2002, is expected to provide 150MW of power to the national grid, from 2006.

To be constructed on the western slopes of the Nuwara Eliya mountain range, the project will be served by water diverted from the upper reaches of the Kotamale Oya. According to engineering feasibility studies, the proposed hydro power project will utilise water from a regulated upper pond across the Kotamale Oya at Talawakelle.

The pond will be fed by eight water streams, Devon Oya, St. Andrew’s stream, Kudu Oya, Kotmale Oya, Pundula Oya, Puna Oya, Ramboda Oya and Dusiane Oya. The accumulated water will be transported to the power station by a 13km long tunnel to an underground powerhouse that will operate two turbines, 75MW each.

Reacting to the Ceylon Electricity Board’s (CEB) recent announcement about re-activating the project, environmentalists have warned of dire consequences to the Talawakelle town ranging from earth slides to flooding, and a total devastation of the area.