CSOs Oppose Karen State Coal-fired Power Plant

By Hintharnee 22 June 2017

MAWLAMYINE, Mon State — Nearly 150 civil society organizations (CSOs) across the country denounced a coal-fired power plant project in Karen State’s Hpa-an Township as a state minister confirmed plans for 11 new plants with an aim to source 33 percent of Myanmar’s energy consumption from coal by 2030.

“According to the energy ministry, the country’s electricity consumption is increasing by 14 percent per year,” said U Soe Hlaing, electricity and industry minister of Karen State, confirming plans for new plants in Yangon and Irrawaddy regions and Karen State.

“So, if there is no new production, there will be a shortage of electricity, and people will be in trouble,” he said.

Thirty-three CSOs based in Karen State prepared a statement denouncing the use of coal to generate power when there are renewable energy options available. Another 114 national CSOs signed in support.

The Karen State government allowed Thailand-based Toyo-Thai Corporation to establish a 1280-megawatt coal-fired power plant in Karen State’s Hpa-an.

The initial survey will be conducted until December this year and will include a feasibility study, an environmental impact assessment, and consultations with locals, according to a manager of the power plant project U Htet Aung Mon.

“We don’t know when the project will begin, we are still in the stage of conducting feasibility studies,” he told The Irrawaddy. The project is planned for outside Hpa-an, but the location has not been decided yet, he added.

Toyo-Thai will use coal from Indonesia and apply “ultra-supercritical clean coal technology” to minimize environmental impact, he said.

“It is about the technology and environmentally friendly facilities that remove sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide particles,” he said.

Environmental activists are not convinced.

“The company [officials] said in a meeting with locals that they guarantee the plant does not affect the environment—it is a lie,” said coordinator of Karen River Watch Saw Tha Bo, one of the statement’s signatories.

“Clean coal is just a technical term—the plant still has an impact on the environment,” he added.

Company officials met locals of two villages on Monday and Tuesday, and Hpa-an town residents on Wednesday, to discuss the project.

According to minister U Soe Hlaing, Toyo-Thai plans to start construction in early 2018, and the power generated will go to the national grid.

Toyo-Thai also attempted to establish a 1280-megawatt coal-fired power plant in the village of Inn Din in Mon State’s Ye Township in 2014, but the project was suspended after of opposition from locals.

The government’s energy plan from 2012-2030 aims to generate more electricity from coal power plants—up to 30 percent—and solar power—up to five percent—while trying to reduce reliance on hydropower and gas.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.