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Sri Lanka president inaugurates 150-MW Upper Kotmale

Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapakse inaugurated the 150-MW Upper Kotmale hydroelectric project in ceremonies July 14 at Talawakele.

Kotmale (also spelled Kothmale) was first proposed for the Kothmala Oya River in 1968 but was stalled for decades due to concerns about its environmental impact. A favorable court ruling and a US$270 million loan from the Japan Bank for International Cooperation in 2006 allowed construction to begin.

Rajapakse launched construction of the US$450 million project four months after he took office in 2006. He told the audience at the commissioning that previous governments refrained from starting the project because they thought it would be politically disadvantageous.

"It is more important to provide welfare to the people than safeguarding political power," a government statement quoted the president saying.

Rajapakse said the government also is committed to safeguarding the environment in implementing the project. He added that 495 families displaced by the project were provided new homes with modern facilities and that animals in the area were transported to safe areas. The government said schools, places of worship, administrative buildings, and upgraded roads also were built.

One of Upper Kotmale's two 75-MW turbine-generators went into operation in March, while the other began operation in June. They are to supply 409 gigawatt-hours to the grid annually.

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