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Fights at hearings over coal plans

Villagers in the southern province of Krabi have come out in strong opposition to a coal-fired power plant and coal seaport, saying the planned project would cause pollution and damage eco-tourism industries which generate billions in baht for local people each year.

Other villagers, however, support the project and fights have broken out at public forums held in Krabi to collect opinions and concerns from local people toward the projects.

Initiated by the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT), the projects are aimed at supplying power of some 870 megawatts to the southern region.

In a bid to get approval from the state agency, EGAT is required to conduct an Environmental and Health Impact Assessment (EHIA) and a public hearing before going ahead with the plans.

At the beginning of the forum, EGAT explained the construction plans and impact expected from the projects.

Greenpeace Southeast Asia’s media campaigner Somrudee Panasudtha, who observed the forum, said a fight broke out during the meeting between those who opposed and those who supported the project.

She said most villagers expressed concern over pollution that could be caused from the coal activities and the potential damage to precious marine resources and tourism industries which attract thousands of visitors around the world to see coral reefs under the Andaman Sea.

The 870-megawatt coal-fired power plant is planned for Krabi’s Nua Khlong district, while the coal seaport project would be established at Ban Klong Ruo.

According to the Greenpeace report, the Ban Klong Ruo coal seaport project is a new plan by EGAT to find ways of transporting imported coal from Indonesia, Australia and Africa to its coal-fired power plant. The environmental watch agency said that the port would lie in Taling-chan sub-district, Klong Kanan district, which is the part of an area listed as wetlands of international importance.

Throughout the year, including the monsoon season, the unloading of coal from larger ships to smaller ones would take place at sea around Koh Lanta. The coal will be unloaded again at Ban Klong Ruo coal seaport to an 8.4 kilometre-long conveyer belt to deliver coal to the power plant.

Greenpeace feared this activity would pose severe damage to Krabi, causing impacts on coral reefs, sea grass, mangroves and nursing gro-unds for agnatic species and plants.


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