Fukushima, Mae Moh offer lessons

By Pana Janviroj, The Nation President

<From the Nations Green Report. June 28, 2013>

The job of newspapers is to separate myths from reality. This includes such assumptions sold by industrialists that nuclear and coal are safe and cheap. They are at best mere half-truths. For instance the nuclear lobby likes to tell people it is the cheapest form of energy. Tell that to the thousands of unfortunate Japanese who have lost their homes after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant meltdown two years ago. For them, evacuated within a 30-kilometre radius from the fall-out, it was not cheap. Going home again for them is impossible. Imagine not being able to return for the next 1,000 years. Honestly, can anyone call that cheap? Or when politicians supporting coal merchants try to convince you that it is the cheapest form of energy.

Tell that to the folks in Mae Moh, Lampang, who had for years suffered from respiratory diseases brought on by the burning of lignite. In 2009, the Chiang Mai Administrative Court ordered the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand to pay compensation to villagers affected by the pollution.

Mae Moh began operating on a small scale in the 1960s and was significantly expanded in the 1980s. Sulphur dioxide emissions from the power plant had a severe impact on the health of people, damage to crops and useable land in the 16 villages. Based on the Pollution Control Department’s air quality reports from November 1992 to August 1998, the level of ambient sulphur dioxide in the Mae Moh area was beyond the legal limit at 780 micrograms per cubic metro.

Under the court ruling, EGAT will need to pay each resident compensation and cover relocation costs for families and find each of them new farmland at least 5 kilometres away from the plant. It also has to rehabilitate the environment at the coal mine.

Cheap? Not for the sick and dying. The answer to our future energy needs lies in clean, risk-free energy. It may cost more in the short term, but it’s cheaper over the long run. Investments in several renewable projects over the past few years reflect the overwhelming endorsement by state and business leaders as well as the Thai public. This switch in attitude has now put Thailand on the forefront of sustainable energy production in Asia. In part, its success has been significantly blessed by His Majesty the King’s wish for the Kingdom to be self-sufficient, to produce its own energy resources as well as protecting the environment. The only cheap thing is talk. Nuclear and coal lobbyists can blah blah all they want. You know the facts. You know the figures. Stick with them.

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