By PRATCH RUJIVANAROM
THE OFFICE of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning (ONEP) has defended the planned coal-fired power plant in Thepa, saying the project will not cause problems for local residents, and insisting that the Environmental and Health Impact Assessment (EHIA) study was properly conducted.
This follows a pledge by a group opposed to the 2,200-megawatt coal-fired power plant in Songkhla’s Thepa district to organise a massive rally against the project next month.
ONEP’s committee of experts has approved the controversial EHIA report on the project, and yesterday ONEP and the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) called a press conference to answer the concerns of the opposition group and stress that the project will be environmental friendly and respect the traditions of the local Muslim population.
The opposition group responded that it was not a duty of ONEP to defend the project for Egat, and stressed that unless experts on Muslim traditions were involved in the panel reviewing the project, a dispute on religious matters would be inevitable.
ONEP secretary-general Raweewan Bhuridej said she understood people’s concerns about the coal-fired power plant project, because of coal’s bad reputation for pollution. However, she said the project had been cautiously considered and ONEP respected the voices of all stakeholders.
“The stability of the power supply in the South is at stake,” she said. “We could face power shortages in this region unless there is a new power plant. I understand that no development will emit zero pollution, as our daily activities such as driving also generate pollution, but we can limit the pollution emission to an acceptable level.”
She said that the EHIA had answered all questions regarding environmental and health impacts. The power plant could operate with tolerable emission levels through the installation of modern pollution-detector systems and other measures.
Raweewan said that the plant would meet stricter pollution emission levels than the international standard.
She added that the plant would have Activated Carbon Injection (ACI) technology to reduce lead levels from coal burning. The technology, which cost more than Bt1 billion, would make the power plant safer to operate and would be better for the health of local people and the environment.
Egat deputy governor Saharat Boonpotipukdee, meanwhile, guaranteed that the Muslim traditions of the local people would be respected. The mosques and graveyards on the construction site would be preserved, and people would be allowed to practise their religious ceremonies as normal.
However, the Network of Community Rights and Environment Safeguards for Peace coordinator, Direk Hemnakorn hit at ONEP members, asking whether they served the people or Egat.
“It is not the position for ONEP to clarify the worries on the coal-fired power plant for Egat.
“I am also curious about the standards of ONEP, since they approved the EHIA report that lacks proper public participation and contains a lot of inaccurate information about the environment in the area,” Direk said.
He said his group has sent a complaint about ONEP’s stance to the National Human Rights Commission.
Direk also commented that Egat’s “simple solution” to spare the mosques and cemeteries on the construction site showed a lack of understanding of Islamic principles.
“An expert on Islam should be involved on the consideration panel,” he said