|Sri Lanka||MINISTER PROMISES TO PROTECT CATHOLIC SHRINE FROM POWER PLANT|
Sri Lanka's deputy minister of power and energy has said that the government will not erect a proposed coal-fired thermal power plant if it endangers a nearby Catholic shrine and the environment.
Felix Perera, a Catholic, gave the assurance in Parliament last month, in response to a request made by opposition parliamentarian John Amaratunge, also a Catholic.
Catholics have been opposing the construction of the plant in Norechcholai in northwestern Sri Lanka since 1997.
They said the proposed plant with a deep-sea naval jetty and four-kilometer- long 'conveyor belt' not only endangers St. Anne's shrine, but also threatens the fragile marine ecosystem on which the people's livelihood is based.
In February, Bishop Fernando issued a statement opposing the construction of the plant after newspaper reports said that the government is pushing through with the construction of the plant despite assurances from President Chandrika Kumaratunga that she would do otherwise.
The plant was initially proposed on the eastern and southern coasts of the country in 1983 and 1988 respectively, but plans were suspended due to protests by residents there.