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Colombo: The crisis-hit Sri Lankan government is planning to undertake a feasibility study on oil exploration in the Mannar Basin, a shallow bay part of the Laccadive Sea in the Indian Ocean, which has about 5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, enough to meet the energy needs of the island nation for the next six decades, a media report has said.

A natural gas field was reportedly discovered for the first time here in 2011, but the country has not yet capitalised on this treasure trove, which could potentially solve Sri Lanka’s energy requirements, news portal Ada Derana has reported.

During a media briefing on Tuesday after a cabinet meeting, Sri Lanka’s Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera said that the government is planning to advertise plots for studies on oil exploration in the Mannar Basin following research conducted in the area last year.

According to the findings of the Committee on Public Accounts held in 2016, the Chief Accounting Officer said there were about 5 billion barrels of fuel and about 5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in the Mannar Basin, which is enough to meet the needs of about 60 years, the report said.

The Ada Derana report said that deposits could be used to increase the country’s power supply to 1,130 kilowatts and the natural gas supply could bring approximately USD 200 billion to the country over the next 25 years.

Officials stated that difficulty in finding reliable investors and the lack of staff at the Sri Lanka Petroleum Development Authority were the reasons for the delay in chalking out a formal programme to explore this resource-rich area, it said.

So dire has been Sri Lanka’s current situation that the country has been witnessing power cuts for up to 12 hours a day due to lack of adequate supply of fuel.

The Sri Lankan Cabinet on Tuesday has approved seeking a USD 500 million loan from the Exim Bank of India for the purchase of petroleum products amid a severe foreign exchange crisis that has crippled the island nation.

The country is grappling with an unprecedented economic turmoil, the worst since its independence from Britain in 1948.

It is struggling with a shortage of almost all essentials, due to the lack of dollars to pay for the imports.

The economic crisis has also triggered a political crisis in Sri Lanka and a demand for the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

The crisis has already forced prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, the elder brother of the president, to resign on May 9.

An inflation rate spiralling towards 40 per cent, shortages of food, fuel, medicines and rolling power blackouts have led to nationwide protests and a plunging currency, with the government short of the foreign currency reserves it needed to pay for imports.

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