Dirty Coal Plant Project in Krabi Pushed Back

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Under Thailand’s Power Development Plan (PDP 2010 Revised 3), a 870 mega-watt coal plant is proposed to be built in 2015 at the location of the existing thermal power plant owned by Electricity Authority of Thailand (EGAT) in Nuea Khlong district of Krabi province, Thailand. This coal plant proposal has become one of the key battle grounds of Thailand’s future energy choices ; dirty coal and clean renewable energy.

Krabi as a Global Marine Biodiversity Hotspot

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Krabi (mean “sword” in Thai) is located on the Andaman Seacoast and is noted for its outstanding natural beauty. There are solitary limestone peaks, both on the land and in the sea. Rock climbers from all over travel to Ton Sai and Railay Beach. Of the 154 islands in the province, Ko Phi Phi Leh is the most famous, since it was used in the movie The Beach. The coast was badly damaged by the Tsumami in December 2004.

The limestone hills in Krabi contain prehistoric rock-painting depicting humans, animals and geometrical shapes in the cave. Its cave is one of the oldest traces of human occupation in South-East Asia.

The natural landscape of Krabi includes “Shell Cemetery” which was once a large freshwater swamp, the habitat of diverse mollusks of about 2 cm in size, it features a slab formed from a huge number of embedded various types of mollusks which can be dated to approximately 40 million years ago.

In 2001 the estuary of the Krabi river was listed as a wetland of international importance among other 10 Ramsar sites in Thailand. The Krabi River estuary covers an area of 21,300 hectares that comprise mudflats, sandy beaches and canals in front of Krabi Town, as well as mangrove forests, and extensive seagrass beds in Koh Sri Boya. It is formed where a complex of several rivers discharge into southern Thailand’s Phang-Nga Bay, and is dominated by more than of 10,000 hectares of mangrove forest. At low tides, an additional 1,200 hectares of tidal mudflats are revealed. The Krabi River estuary is a fine example of co-existence between urban and natural areas. The mangrove forests, sea-grass beds and coral reefs provide important sources of food for fishes, spawning grounds and nurseries.

A planned coal power project in Krabi will destroy Krabi’s sea life and unique wetlands. Greenpeace releases infographic map demonstrating the extent of potential damage by dirty coal development. Krabi province is home to at least half a million Thais who rely directly on a thriving fishing industry as well tourism from Krabi’s world famous beaches.

Local community in Krabi has sent the open letter to Ramsar Secretariat to express their grave concerns on the irreversible impacts to Krabi Estuary as the proposed coal power project is set to be constructed in 2015 at  Tambol Pakasai, Nhua Khlong district, one of Krabi’s important estuaries. Aside from the known negative effects of coal plant emissions, the power plant that will be built in the area adjacent to Thailand’s second largest seagrass ecosystem, part of the Krabi Estuary categorized as Wetlands of International Importance under Ramsar Convention. Once built, this important wetland area will be the transport zone for toxic coal shipments.

This coal transshipment would add to the massive dredging, dumping and shipping which is turning our fishing grounds, sea grass beds and mangroves into a coal superhighway

Environmental and Health Impact Assessment (EHIA) and the government’s dirty plan

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A proposed new coal-fired power plant at Krabi, currently the subject of public hearings, would start supplying electricity in 2019.  The 60 MW decommissioned old Krabi power plant was comprised of three 20 MW generating units, and it operated for 31 years, from 1964 until 30 September 1995. From 1995 till now, the Krabi power plant was converted and has been housing a 340 MW generating unit, combining gas and oil.

New ministerial regulations under Ministry of Natural Resource and Environment has indicated that new coal plant proposal with capacity more than 100 MW is considered as the project which has a possible serious impacts on social, environment and health to the host communities and that need to take a full process of environmental and health assessment (EHIA) including public hearing into consideration.

EGAT hired the consulting firms “Air Save Co. Ltd.” to conduct EHIA Study including facilitating public hearing involved all stakeholders. The company aimed to finalize and pass the EHIA report to The Office of Natural Resource and Environment Policy and Planning (ONEP) for approval by July 2013. Unfortunately, the last round of public hearing of the proposed coal plant project has been pushed back as there is no sufficient consultations with stakeholders, such as local residents. The current form of public hearing has been repeatedly criticized as an ineffective tool having failed to resolve disputes between local communities and proponents of controversial projects.

According to reports, at least 2.3 million tonnes of coal would be imported from Indonesia, Australia and/or South Africa every year. Shipment of imported coal to the planned Krabi coal plant would require transshipment at sea. A 50,000-100,000 DWT Coal Carrier would have to anchor at sea 79 kilometers from the location of proposed coal plant, and then unload coal into a smaller coal barge. It would need a huge inland wharf to accommodate two coal barges to come along side at the same time to unload coal to the coal yard.

Thailand Coal Network’s Demands

Coal is the world’s dirtiest fossil fuel. Air pollution from coal combustion contains methane, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide, as well as chemicals such as arsenic and mercury which can disrupt human mental and physical development and which contaminates soil and water supplies. The result is destroyed livelihoods, reduced crop yields and fish catch, aside from impairing human health. Burning coal also accelerates global climate change which is now affecting Thailand and Southeast Asia with impacts such as extreme weather.

Coal a curse for communities living in the shadow of coal-fired power plants. Coal emissions, coal ash and coal dust are toxic and choke healthy ecosystems. Greenpeace demands that

  1. EGAT and the Thai government should immediately stop pursuing this ill-advised and destructive coal power project at Krabi to preserve Thailand’s fragile wetlands and rich marine environment on which millions of Thais depend
  2. The Thai government should focus its efforts in developing clean and safe renewable energy at a massive scale. Krabi province has one of the biggest renewable energy potentials in Thailand. The province can achieve a 100% renewable energy target if the government is serious about the energy efficiency development plan (2011-2030) and the alternative energy development plan (2012-2021). These in turn should be supported by well-designed mechanisms like the renewable energy law. A dirty coal plant has no place in Krabi.

Reference :

1) Thailand’s Power Development Plan (PDP), prepared periodically by the state-owned Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT), is the master investment plan for power system development. It determines what kind and what quantity of power plant get built, where and when. The PDP has wide-reaching implications, shaping not just the future of Thailand’s Electricity sector and tis social and environmental landscape, but also that of Thailand’s neighboring countries (Chuenchom Sangarasri Greacen and Chris Creacen, Proposed Power Development Plan (PDP) 2012 and a Framework for Improving Accountability and Performance of Power Sector Planning, April 2012.)

2) In Lang Rong Rien cave of Krabi province in 1986 archaeologists found 40,000-year-old human artifacts – stone tools, pottery and bones.

3) Study on “Assessing the value of Krabi River Estuary Ramsar Site” in 2010, the estimated annual use value of the site was $9.7 million for recreation and tourism. The economic value of mangrove forest was $758/ha. The net present value of mangrove forest was $73.1 million based on 7% discount rate and 15 year timeline. The result imply that a development project that causes the same rate of mangrove destruction must generate a least an income of $2.3 million per year to be considered as an economically feasible project (Janekarnkij, P. 2010. “ Assessing the Value of Krabi River Estuary Ramsar Site : Conservation and Development.” ARE Working Paper No.2553/4. Department of Agricultural and Economics, Faculty of Economics, Kasetsart University, Bangkok.)

4) http://thailandcoalnetwork.org/2013/10/22/letter-to-ramsar-secretariat/

5) http://www.egat.co.th/en/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=38&Itemid=117

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