Bangkok Post ฉบับวันที่ 25 ตุลาคม พ.ศ. 2557
State agency ignores objections, locals say
The Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) has insisted on going ahead with its controversial coal-fired power plant project in Krabi province, despite strong opposition from local residents.
Egat assistant governor Paopong Tamsumrit said the state-owned agency has already completed the public hearing process for the project.
The Egat expects an environment and health impact assessment (EHIA) study – for both the 1,800-megawatt coal-fired power plant and a deep-sea port – to be ready to forward to experts for consideration next month.
“We expect to be able to operate the coal-fired power plant in December 2019 as scheduled. We are certain that all concerns raised by locals will be addressed. We have the same concerns as locals, including those about the impact on tourism and the environment. But we will be improving their quality of life,” he said.
It is very important to have the coal-fired power plant in the province, Mr Paopong said, as it is a strategic location for boosting the power supply to the South.
If the South’s economy did not grow, he said, there would be no need for a new power plant; however, it grows every year.
Without the coal-fired power plant, the cost of electricity will increase to five or six baht per unit, which will hamper local development as investors need to keep operating costs low to compete with rivals in Asean, he said.
Mr Paopong said the South’s long wet season means investment in renewable energy is not viable.
The Egat will continue to focus on investing in renewable energy elsewhere in the country, with the intention of increasing the total generation of this kind of electricity to 13,000 megawatts in 10 years, he said.
Locals in Krabi have voiced disappointment with the Egat’s public hearing process. They said the agency provided little information about the project and failed to invite opponents to the hearing.
The power plant and the deep-sea port would adversely affect the province’s marine life, they said. Big ships cannot dock at the port, which will be constructed at the mouth of the Krabi River. The unloading of coal from big ships onto smaller ones for transfer to the deep-sea port risks contaminating the seabed and poses a threat to famous diving locations at several nearby marine parks.
Koh Lanta Tourism Association chairman Teerapoch Kasirawat said the Egat has pushed for the project by claiming that coal is a cheap way to generate electricity. However, the agency failed to mention the costs that would arise from damage to human health and the environment. The province’s loss in tourism income would also be enormous, Mr Teerapoch said.
“The Egat has not included the impact on tourism in its EHIA report, claiming that tourists would not see the port or the coal-fired power plant, when, in fact, the ships which will transport coal to Krabi will pass all the significant tourist spots in the province. This fact has not been included in the report because of the high costs that would be incurred by damage to the tourism industry,” he said.
Mr Teerapoch said there is no need for the Egat to build the coal-fired power plant in Krabi because the province already has the capacity to generate 3,800 megawatts of electricity in the South, while peak power demand for the region is just 2,400 megawatts.
At its current capacity Krabi is capable of meeting its electricity needs. The Egat’s only reason for the new power plant is to support the petrochemical industry in the South, Mr Teerapoch alleged.
Kasemsun Chinnawaso, secretary-general of the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning, said he has invited the Egat and local representatives to a meeting to listen to their opinions about the project.
Koh Lanta Tourism Association chairman Teerapoch Kasirawat voices his concerns with the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning after energy authorities insisted on building a coal-fired power plant in Krabi. APICHIT JINAKUL