Groups from south and northeast angry at move allow power plants
ANTI-COAL groups from around the country are rising up against the National Council for Peace and Order’s move to allow power plants to be constructed in defiance of a city’s master plan. Last Wednesday, the NCPO used power under Article 44 of the interim constitution to order an exemption to the city plan law for power plants, gas plants, water treatment facilities, garbage incinerators, landfills and recycling plants, which had been restricted to areas zoned for them on the city plan.
The Protect Andaman from Coal Network rallied yesterday in front of the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry against the order and urged the ministry to renew the Krabi Environment Protection Zone without any legal gap that would permit the building of a coal-fired plant in Krabi.
The Krabi plant is one of the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat)’s key projects in the South. It is expected to be located in Nua Klong district, which is part of the Krabi Environment Protection Zone.
“We’re really worried that the NCPO’s order will allow the construction of the Krabi coal-fired power plant because it opened the way for power plant construction in any zone,” Akradej Chakjinda, a leading activist from the network said. “This order directly supports the construction of the Krabi plant, which will affect the lives of local people very severely,” he said.
Prasitchai Nu-nuan, another anti-coal activist, said the ministry also let the Krabi Environment Protection Zone expire in 2012 without renewing it.
They would continue to stage protests until the ministry reinstated the zone and ensured that there would be no legal loophole for a coal-fired power plant to go up in the area.
Dr Supat Hasuwannakit, director of Chana Hospital, said the order would it easier to get a power plant approved and would bring more conflict to and worsen the insurgency in the deep South.
Egat has proposed building a 2.2 gigawatt coal-fired power plant in Songkhla’s Thepa district.
Supat, who opposes the Thepa plant, said it would be sited in a green area restricted for agriculture and located only seven kilometres from Pattani province.
However, the plant’s environmental and health impact assessment only covered Thepa district, so people in Pattani thought it was unfair to them and that it would stir conflict in an area already suffering from a prolonged insurgency.
“We are preparing to launch a big protest in Bangkok against the effort to build the Thepa coal-fired power plant, but we can’t say exactly when we will go to Bangkok,” he said.
On Monday, an anti-coal group from Bamnet Narong district in Chaiyaphum also protested at the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning over a coal-fired power plant for a potash mine in their locality.
Raweewan Bhuridej, secretary-general of the office, revealed in talks with the Protect Andaman from Coal Network that the order does not completely free up power plant construction. There was still an Environmental Impact Assessment/ Environmental Health Impact Assessmentment requirement to judge if it is safe for proposed projects to be developed in various areas.