Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Protestors condemn plan for coal-fired power plant

Residents of a Tanintharyi Region village have protested against plans to build a coal-fired power plant near Myeik because of concerns about its impact on the environment.

The Dawei Watch news agency said about 150 people took part in the protest at Myeik Township’s Lo Lo village on January 12 to express concern about the plant, one of several planned in the region, which borders Thailand.

The protest was led by U Bo Win Maung, who said the proposed plant has not been adequately explained to local residents by either the government or Than Phyo Thu Mining Co., the company behind the project.

U Bo Win Maung said the protestors would never accept the project, no matter what technology the plant used or which country would benefit.

Most residents of the area are farmers or fishermen and they worry that smoke, ash and industrial waste from the plant will ruin the environment and affect their livelihoods, another protestor, U Soe Chit, told Dawei Watch.

A representative of the Than Phyo Thu Mining Co. refused to comment on the demonstration, saying only that the protestors were “expressing their wishes democratically, in a democratic era.”

The protest organizers had wanted it to be attended by about 700 people, but were granted permission for it to involve no more than 200, with participation limited to one village.

The protest was addressed by U Aung Naing Oo, of the 88 Generation Peace and Open Society group, who said the smoke and ash produced by coal-fired power plants can cause acid pollution, which would affect farming land.

He said a non-government organization was assessing the impact of the proposed plant on the environment and nearby communities but the Than Phyo Thu Mining Co. was not being transparent with the public about its findings.

Most people in the area do not have electricity, despite natural gas being exported from nearby offshore facilities to Thailand for use in power plants there.

Protestors complained that coal-fired plants were dirty and that the revenue earned by Myanmar from exporting cleaner natural gas was not benefitting the community.

“It is absolutely unacceptable,” said U Aung Naing Oo. “Where has the money from the sale of the gas gone?”

A coal-fired power plant operated by the Than Phyo Thu Mining Co., at Kawthaung, in the far south of Tanintharyi Region, supplies electricity locally for 370 kyats a unit, despite promising to do so for 200 kyats, Dawei Watch said.

It said the cost of electricity in urban areas of Dawei and Myeik is between 450 kyats and 500 kyats a unit.