May 16, 2014

Mega coal-power plants planned in Myeik, Bokepyin

Two large-scale 2,000 and 900 megawatt coal-fired power plants are being planned in Myeik and Bokepyin townships, Taninthayi Region, posing environmental threats to the area, according to local residents.

The authorities from Myeik Township and company officials met with the local residents on May 10 to explain their plan to set up a power plant at Hmwe Shaung Village in Tonebyaw Village Tract.

"The meeting took place at Tonebyaw Village School. Than Myint, who introduced himself as the company representative of Vintage Company, and township authorities attended it. They plan to build a big coal-fired power station to supply electricity to Hmwe Shaung Village. They also promised to build schools and hospitals and to compensate us three times the market value of the land that will be seized for the project," said a local from Tonebyaw village tract who attended the meeting.

Environmental activists also reported that the projects will use the water from the Taninthayi River, a precious resource for local communities who rely on fishing and farming. Some have suggested that the coal-fuelled electricity will be exported to neighbouring Thailand.

“Thailand is also buying electricity from here. So more such harmful power plants will be built to take out electricity. They don't build such harmful things in their country!” Said Ein Po from the 88 Generation Group.

"Besides, the location of the project is on the bank of the Taninthayi River. Local people say that they will protest this coal-fired power plant," he added.

Myanmar has a number of operational coal-fired power plants including an eight megawatt plant in Kawthaung Township, Taninthayi Region, a 120 megawatt plant in Pinlong Township in Shan State and a 15 megawatt plant in Naungcho.

The government plans to build a 2,000 megawatt coal power plant in Hmwe Shaung Village in Tonebyaw, Myeik and a 900 megawatt coal plant in Bokepyin Township, Kawthoung District. Another 50 megawatt plant is currently under construction in Lawtlawt Village.

According to Thein Lwin, the regional minister for planning and economic development, coal-fired power stations are being built because Myeik and Kawthoung districts do not have access to the national power grid.

Only townships in Dawei district are to be supplied with electricity produced from natural gas in the area.

"In Dawei, electricity produced from natural gas is going to be accessible at a cheap rate starting from coming October. But the electricity rate in Myeik and Kawthaung is still very high at Ks 470 (US$0.47) per unit,” said another member of 88 Generation Group.

The group pledged to launch a signature campaign to encourage the use of natural gas powered electricity.

In 2012, local residents protested against a seafood factory which was disposing waste in the neighbourhood, as well as the 50 megawatt coal plant in Lawtlawt Villlage.

The protestors continued their protest in January 2014, launching a signature campaign to substitute coal plants for natural gas-fired power plants in Myeik and Kawthoung.

President Thein Sein and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi supported these demands saying in March that electricity in the area should come from Myanmar’s abundant supplies of natural gas. Protestors marched with signboards displaying the president’s written remarks.

Plans to build coal-fired power plants in Kungyangone Township in Yangon Region were scuttled when Saw Moe Myint, from the Ministry of Mines, said that use of coal in Myanmar was very slight and that Myanmar had run into difficulty with technology. Therefore, there was a need for transparency in the plans of constructing the coal-fired power plants.

“When the coal-fired power plant has finished construction, ash coming from it will fall over a wide area. The ash is mixed with carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide. These gases need to be removed from the ash. It is required to make the technologies known to the public,” said one environmentalist.

The use of millions of tonnes of coal to generate power across the world emits sulphur dioxide causing acid rain, as well as carbon dioxide that causes damage to the ozone layer and global warming.

Greenhouse gas coming from the use of coal is two times greater than that from the natural gas.

Source: Eleven Weekly Media