Krabi villagers upset over coal-fired power plant plans

Krabi villagers upset over coal-fired power plant plans

Environmentalists and Krabi villagers are upset over plans of the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) to build an 870-megawatt coal-fired power plant in Krabi, across Phang Nga Bay. The local fishermen object to the coal pier for fear it could have a negative environmental impact on their livelihood. About 300 households in the area depend on fishing to make a living.

In April of 2014, villagers of the Laem Hin fishing village in southern Krabi staged a protest and blocked the construction site. After the fishermen called off their protest, they promised they would stage another protest if the EGAT resumed construction. At that time, EGAT officials stated construction would be put on hold until the villagers gave their approval for the project.

Protests first began in February 12, 2013 when Krabi villagers protested against the plans, saying it would damage their health as a previous one had done.

In October 2014, the Koh Lanta Tourism Association lashed out against EGAT’s plans, claiming the company had been less than honest with locals about their plans.

Some 100 fishing boats anchored at a pier in Krabi’s Nua Klong district in November of 2014 to protest EGAT’s plant to construct a coal pier the area. Angry villagers waved signs that read, “Protect Krabi from coal-power plant”, and green flags with dugongs (related to manatees) saying, “No coal”.

Alee Channam, the leader of the Krabi Kon Rak Lay (Krabi Sea Lovers) was quoted as saying that “…about 102.12 square kilometers in this area are wetlands which are protected under the Ramsar Convention…It is possible that the area would be removed from the wetlands preservation list. We cannot allow the power plant to be built. Using coal as a power source will affect the environment and our way of life.”

It appears that EGAT is continuing with their plans to have the plant built by 2019, despite the public outcry.

EGAT Director of of Environmental Projects, Anuchart Palakawongse na Ayudhya, stated in December that the country desperately needs energy security. In May of 2013, all 14 provinces of Southern Thailand were plunged into darkness for up to four hours. He fears that unless the coal plant is constructed, Thailand will have to consider more expensive options, like liquefied natural gas or the country may have to buy energy from other countries. He believes health-related issues from pollution in older plants can be avoided by building a modern and “clean coal” plant based on the latest technology.

According to an article recently published by the Phuket Gazette, Mr. Anuchart said that dust particles from the plant’s emissions would be 30 milligrams per cubic meter of air, which is lower than the current standard of 80 milligram per cubic meter of air, and that sulphur dioxide emissions would also fall below the current standard regulations.

Mr. Anuchart further said they would spend up to 800 million baht to construct a coal transportation tunnel to protect a mangrove forest along the planned route. This has been one of the issues strongly contested by locals. He also stated that boats used for coal transport would not travel near the coral reefs of Phi Phi and Lanta Islands.

EGAT’s consulting firm is still polling the public for their opinions, and if the Cabinet approves the plan, construction would begin in 2016.