Friday, March 4, 2016

Over 4,000 Sign Petition Against Cement Factory’s Coal Use

March 4, 2016 Written by IMNA
Local residents sign a petition against MCL cement factory's use of coal. (Photo: Sandar Non’s Facebook)
Over 4,000 residents have signed a petition against the use of coal to power a cement factory owned by Mawlamyine Cement Limited (MCL) in the Pyar Taung area of Kyaikmaraw Township, Mon State.

Public talks to discuss the cement factory’s use of coal as a power source were held on 29 February and 1 March in the villages of Neeton, Kawpanaw and Kawdon, which are nearby to the cement factory.

Mi Sandar Non, an activist opposed to the use of coal-fired power spoke to the Mon News Agency.

She said: “The local residents don’t accept the use of coal-fired power, we will object so that they [the cement factory] won’t be able to use it. The local residents were not informed about the use of coal-fired power, they [MCL] planned this systematically and have deceived the residents. The monks haven’t accepted it either, the monks led [the public talks] by inviting experts and having them explain [the consequences of using coal-fired power] to the public.”

She also added: “In recent days about 500,000 tons of coal, which is to be used this year, has been transported in small boats [to the cement factory] from Kyaikkami at the mouth of the [Thanlyin] River.”

Public talk in Kawpanaw Village on MCL cement factory's use of coal power. (Photo – Mon Htaw)

Prominent local Mon monks led the collection of signatures for the petition protesting against the cement factory’s use of coal. Later, they will submit the petition and views of local residents to the government.

Residents from villages in the Pyar Taung area, including Neeton, Kawdon, Kawpanaw, Pauktaw, Kwanngan, and Ahlite, have already signed the petition. The monks will also invite Karen and Burmese villagers from the area to join them in their protests.

At a public talk in Kawpanaw Village, Vedana Thumana, the abbot of a monastery in Kawdon Village said: “We are one step behind because we have only just found out that the company was secretly working on coal-fired power. Even though we are late, the monks and the local residents have a duty to protect against this threat.”

MCL began constructing the cement factory in 2014 and it is set to begin cement production in July of this year, but local residents only found out that it would be coal powered in 2015.

Dr Khin Maung Nyo, U Sein Myint, a retired deputy director of the Ministry of Mines, and Dr Dewi Thant Sin from the Myanmar Green Network were also invited to explain the dangers posed by coal fired power to the public.

U Sein Myint said: “Other countries have been reducing their use of coal-fired power due to its negative effects, we shouldn’t try to use coal-fired power in our country. There are 13 types of waste produced from coal. Generations will suffer from these waste [products].”

He said that the 13 waste products produced by burning coal are: carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen, carbon monoxide, dust particles, hydrocarbon, mercury, arsenic, lead, cadmium, fly ash, bottom ash, and uranium.

He explained that the longer the factory operates the further the negative effects will spread.

He said: “When the factory starts operating, its surroundings will suffer the first negative effects [and] after a few years the negative effects will become more widespread.”

Local residents have called on MCL to use other fuels such as natural gas rather than coal to power the cement factory.

Nai Shwe a resident of Maekaro Village said: “Even though we have voiced our disagreement the company [MCL] has been doing what it wants. We are prepared to discuss what will be the best [solution]. It’s not that we don’t want the company, we just don’t want them to use coal power.”

He also added: “We are still collecting signatures [for the petition]. Then, we will submit them to respective government departments. We will never allow the use of coal-fired power. If we cannot negotiate, we will have to protest on the street,”

The MCL cement factory will consume 49 megawatts per day, 40 megawatts of which will be produced by burning coal and the remaining 9 megawatts will come from a generator burning bio-waste.

MCL is a subsidiary of the Thai company Siam Cement Group (SCG).

Previously the Mon News Agency reported that MCL in collaboration with Resource and Environment Myanmar, an environmental advisory group, had held public meetings in villages local to the cement factory to discuss environmental monitoring of the factory’s construction.