Wind Turbines Cause Noise Nuisance, Drive Away Tourists
A group of wind turbines near a Sri Lankan village are so loud locals cannot sleep and tourists are driven away. Officials say they can’t do a thing about it.
“This is the devil,” says Nelly Thisera, a mother-of-three living in the village of Ilanthadiya in north-western Sri Lanka. Oddly enough the 45-year-old is gesturing at a dozen wind turbines behind her.
It is not the structures that annoy the people living here. It is the noise. “Are you finding it hard to deal with the noise, even now?” Thisera asks. “There are 12 poles in the centre of the village. Three hundred families live around them. How can we tolerate this noise?”
The wind turbines are part of one of several sustainable energy projects run by the Ceylon Electricity Board and are supposed to produce about 10 megawatts of power. The Board sees the Kalpitiya peninsula as a particularly suitable place for wind turbines.
“Shouldn’t we have been consulted when the turbines were being erected?” Thisera argues. Never in my life have I seen turbines like this. But until the blades started rotating we didn’t realise what sort of a noise they would make. If we had known we would have protested,” she says.
Ilanthadiya’s villagers say they even have problems sleeping because of the noise from the wind turbines.
“We tried so hard to help my daughter study for her advanced school exams,” says W. Nilanthi, 36. “But due to these terrible wind turbines, she couldn’t study properly and was under so much stress.”
“I am pregnant and the doctor says all this noise must have an impact on the child,” says another local, T. Subhadra Priyadarshini Fernando, 33.
“Even wild animals need to sleep,” Thisera says. “My two-year-old granddaughter cannot sleep. It’s causing much hardship.”
The tourist industry has also been badly impacted, adds W. Keerthi Sampath Peiris of the Tourist Hotels Association of Kalpitiya. Many of the guest houses in Ilanthadiya have lost custom.
“The noise has stopped tourists from coming here anymore,” Peiris said. “And even if they do come, they usually leave again after just one night.”
Former local council member W. Nalin Thisera said that the villagers felt that proper standards had not been kept to and that locals were not properly consulted.
“When the construction was started neither the villagers or the council officials were made aware of it,” Thisera said. “Nobody has conducted a study about the environmental or social issues that might arise because of this project. We have written letters to the Prime Minister’s office,” he continued. “We have requested they remove the poles and take them somewhere else.”
The head of renewable energy at the Sri Lanka Sustainable Energy Authority, Wimal Nadeera, denies this. He says research was conducted, the appropriate processes were undergone and environmental approvals were granted to go ahead with the wind power project.
The planning and development director at the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority, U. Rathnayake, confirms that local hotel owners have told him about the problems with the wind turbines. He said that they were trying to find a solution to the problem.
Kalpitiya Divisional Secretary, H. M. Sunanda Prasanna Herath, also said that the local council has sought advice with the power board and that further research is being conducted.
It appears that all the officials involved say a version of the same thing: That they are researching the issue and that there’s nothing they can do. The bitter truth for the people of Ilanthadiya village is that while the authorities are able to sleep before they do their research, the villagers must go without rest.
They have only one more challenge they can put to the officials responsible for erecting the wind turbines in their area: “Come and stay in Ilanthadiya for a night yourselves – and sleep if you can”.