Residents protest Kawthaung coal-fired power plant



Residents living near a coal-fired thermal power plant project in southernmost Burma are growing more concerned over health issues associated with the power plant, which could begin operations in April.

The power plant, north of Kawthaung about 800 kilometres from Rangoon, is located 50 feet from residential areas and its chimney is about 40-foot high, residents said.

A reservoir that provides drinking water to Kawthaung is about 450 yards from the plant and local people fear the water will be polluted by the plant’s emissions.

“Our ward is very close to this plant. We’re concerned over our health because coal emissions are hazardous to health,” said Aye Yeik Nyein, a local resident.

The Than Phyo Thu mining company started work on the thermal power plant in mid-2011 after getting permission from the Tanintharyi Region government. The project is about 95 per cent completed, said local residents. Operation of the power plant is expected to start in early April.

The coal will be supplied from the Bokpyin Township coal mine in Kawthaung District. Water needed to operate the power plant will be pumped from the Pachan River, near the Thailand-Burma border.

Sources said power plant manager, Hla Maw, invited local residents to discuss the project last week at his office. The discussion ended after Than Tun, the Democratic Party (Myanmar) Tanintharyi Region party organizer, outlined local concerns about the project.

Than Tun told Mizzima, “He talked only about the advantages of the project, and didn’t say anything about the disadvantages. I pointed out the disadvantages and asked him how they planned to protect us from the bad consequences, how to safeguard and conserve the environment, and how to provide medical help for us. He didn’t answer any of those questions and stopped the discussion.”

Last week, a town meeting was held at the State High School No. 3 in Kawthaung, attended by about 100 people. Democratic Party (Myanmar) officials also met with the manager of the power plant in 2010 to voice their concerns while the plant was under construction.

Than Tun said residents would distribute leaflets to educate local people on the dangers of a coal-fired power plant.

“We will continue our efforts to try to stop this project,” he said.

The government cancelled a 4,000-megawat coal-fired power plant project in the Dawei Special Economic Zone in early January, after protests by local residents, environmentalist and social activists.

A coal-fired thermal power plant can emit carbon dioxide and sulphur dioxide which can cause acid rain, emit tiny particles which can cause respiratory tract cancer and many gases and elements such as carbon monoxide, mercury and arsenic which can pollute drinking water and sea, say environmentalists.