RANGOON — Plans to build the first coal-fired power plant in Mon State have come under fire by local residents, who say they worry about pollution and potential health ramifications.
The Thai-based Toyo-Thai Group held a consultation meeting on Friday with local residents to explain plans to build a 1,280 MW power plant in Inn Din village, Ye Township, at a cost of US$2.7 billion.
Mi Myint Than, a member of Parliament from Ye Township, said the company suspended planning for the project due to public opposition expressed last week.
“Some groups objected. They said charcoal is poisonous,” the lawmaker told The Irrawaddy, adding that Toyo-Thai plans to call another meeting with local residents in the future.
“We won’t encourage the plan if it’s dangerous. But our area also needs electricity. From a development standpoint, the project should proceed.”
Ye Township is off the grid of the government’s power supply, with most residents accessing electricity from large private generators at a cost of about 500 kyats to 1,000 kyats ($0.50 to $1) per unit.
If plans proceed, Toyo-Thai will sell electricity from the coal-fired plant to the Burmese government. The plant will be built on 500 acres of land and will become operational in 2017. The coal will be imported from Australia, South Africa and Indonesia.
Thant Zin, an activist who has led campaigns against coal-fired power plants elsewhere in Burma, warned of the project’s potential environmental consequences. Pollution from a coal-fired plant in Kaw Thaung, a border town in the activist’s native Tenasserim Division, has killed off fish species in the area and led to respiratory related diseases and other health problems among local residents, he said.
“Some people suffer from itchy skin, some have rashes. The dust particles from the power plant reach the houses,” he said.
Ni Mar Oo, a resident and NGO worker in Inn Din village, said that despite public opposition to the proposed project in Mon State, some land owners were eager to sell their land to Toyo-Thai.
“Some people are scared after learning about the effects of coal. They are worried,” she said. “We will try to object and find concrete proof that it is dangerous.”
Mi Myint Than, the lawmaker, said she hoped Toyo-Thai would take steps to reduce the environmental and health impacts and proceed with the project in Mon State.
“If they cannot do it here, they will build it somewhere else. Maybe in Dawei or somewhere else in Tenasserim,” she said. “Since the government cannot invest in this kind of [billion] dollar project, we want it to go forward in our areas, if not here [in Inn Din]. But we need to make sure there are reduced side effects or no side effects.”
Toyo-Thai Corporation Public Company Limited (TTCL) was incorporated in 1985 by a joint venture of Italian-Thai Development, one of the biggest contractors in Thailand, and Toyo Engineering Corporation, an international engineering company in Japan.
TTCL signed a memorandum of understanding with Burma’s Ministry of Electric Power in 2012 and opened a joint-venture gas-fired power plant in Rangoon the following year.