March 07, 2014 00:00
By Pongphon Sarnsamak
Coal seaport, power plant will ruin largest seagrass area, fossilised shells
Fossilised shells at a beach dating back 75 million years and over 10,000 rai of the country’s second-largest seagrass area in Krabi would be destroyed if the coal seaport and coal-fired power-plant project go ahead, an environmental watch agency warned yesterday.
Adding to the concerns over the project, the local tourism association in Koh Lanta is worried that the project would jeopardise the area’s tourism, with the industry generating between Bt1.4 billion and Bt1.5 billion annually for the local economy.
In response to the backlash, a consultancy company hired by the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat), which would construct the plant, will on Sunday listen to public concerns about the project in Krabi.
“We fear that the public scoping for the Ban Klong Ruo Coal Seaport project will not be different to the one organised earlier for the coal plant,” said Chariya Senpong, a campaigner for Greenpeace Southeast Asia’s Climate Change and Energy division.
“Both assessments only identify the impacts that they are able to mitigate, and play down the environmental, societal and economic harm the project will cause.”
The 700MW power plant would be fuelled by bituminous and sub-bituminous coal, which would likely be imported from Indonesia, Australia and Africa.
Construction of the Bt30-billion facility is scheduled to be completed in 2019. Egat is conducting an environmental and health-impact assessment of the project, which is expected to be completed soon.
“The report will just be procedural compliance for Egat to carry on with the project,” Chariya said.
A Greenpeace report states that the marine life surrounding the proposed project and the sea route to transport coal to the port includes the seagrass area, which covers 17,725 rai, dugongs, nursing grounds for aquatic species, a mangrove forest and over 21 species of wild birds.
The mouth of Krabi River is also recognised under the Ramsar Convention, an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable utilisation of wetlands.
Koh Lanta Tourism Association chairman Therapot Kasirawat said he was worried that hundreds of thousands of tourists, especially from Sweden, would shun the area if the project went ahead. Therapot said about 150,000 Swedish tourists annually visited Koh Lanta, staying on average 19 days, while about 95,000 visited Koh Phi Phi.
“We learnt that they [tourists] will go to other places once they see the first coal ship pass the island,” he said.