By THE NATION
OPPOSITION GROUPS have said they are happy with the prime minister’s clear order to restart the Environment and Health Impact Assessment (EHIA) for the Krabi coal-fired power plant project, despite some disagreements on details and the lack of an official written statement.
The group opposing the coal-fired power plant stated yesterday they were relieved after hearing Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha’s decision to revisit the EHIA for the controversial 870-megawatt coal-fired power plant in Krabi’s Nuea Khlong district. However, they added that they wanted to see an official statement from the government as they did not trust verbal promises anymore.
A clear instruction and official order on the EHIA study was expected to be issued by the government after the Cabinet meeting yesterday. However, while the prime minister addressed guidelines and a preferred timetable of at least one year for the revisited EHIA study, the Cabinet did not issue a written order.
Prasitchai Nu-nuan, a prominent opposition group leader from Save Andaman from Coal Network, said the prime minister’s promise aligned with the group’s demands that the EHIA of the coal-fired power plant project be restarted and that the project would be cancelled if it does not pass EHIA consideration.
“Nevertheless, we do not believe the verbal promise. We will wait for the official statement, because we are concerned that there may be unacceptable terms within the official written order,” Prasitchai said.
He said a one-year timetable for the EHIA study was unacceptable for the opposition group because they wanted to ensure that the revisited study would answer all the questions and concerns surrounding the project.
Prasitchai added that they wanted the EHIA study to be conducted by a neutral group of academics and supervised by a new neutral committee to ensure that the EHIA report would not be biased.
According to Prayut’s comments after the Cabinet meeting, the EHIA study will have to restart from the beginning and an existing tripartite committee will be in charge of reviewing its progress.
“The EHIA consideration of the project was halted, but now it has to start the process again and if the EHIA consideration is not passed, the power plant will be unable to be built,” Prayut said.
“Please don’t be worry that the government is going backward. This project is only delayed to let the tripartite committee find a mutual understanding on this process. If the project can go ahead then it can go ahead, but if it cannot, let it be and we have to find other options [for power generation].”
He also expressed concerns that the EHIA study process could take a long time causing power shortages for the country.
“The process will take at least one year and it will delay the project completion to at least 2023 and by that time it could be too late to ensure enough electricity for the growing economy in the South,” Prayut said.
The Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) Project Environmental Division director Anuchart Palakawong Na Ayudhaya said it was too early to discuss implementation of the EHIA study because a written order had not been issued.
He said a one-year period was too short a time for the entire EHIA study because the bidding process to find a consultant company to study the EHIA would take about three months.
Permanent secretary of the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry Vijarn Simachaya also said the ministry would discuss the EHIA process with relevant agencies after a clear statement on the issue was publicised.
The previous EHIA study of Krabi coal-fired power plant project was criticised as being incomplete regarding the power plant’s impacts on the environment and people’s health, and the public participation process was also condemned for excluding the opposition group.
The Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning also said the earlier EHIA report had 17 main and 143 minor incomplete points.