Civil society organizations and locals launched a campaign on Thursday calling for the complete shutdown of the Tigyit coal-fired power plant following a test-run of the plant after two years of closure.
The plant is located in Naung Ta Yar sub-township of Panglong Township in the Pa-O Self-Administered Zone in southern Shan State.
“Locals are not happy with the test-run of this power plant. There was no transparency in conducting the environmental impact assessment. We have suffered from a lot of health risks and environmental damage during the ten-year period when the plant was in operation,” said U Win Shein Myat, chairman of Shan State Farmers and Farmland Workers Union.
Despite the grassroots opposition, the Shan State government allowed the test-run of the plant, prompting locals to take to the streets against the decision.
Members of the farmers union, the Pa-O Youth Organization, the Pa-O Women’s Union and locals joined the protest, distributing stickers, pamphlets and video CDs highlighting the negative impacts of the coal-fired power plant.
Demonstrators alleged that the fumes and ash produced by the plant between 2004 and 2014 have contaminated water sources, damaged crops and soil, and caused air pollution.
In October 2015, former President Thein Sein’s government granted a 22-year lease to tender winner Chinese company Wuxi Huaguang Electric Power Engineering Co. Ltd. for operation of the power plant.
Locals’ demonstrations have coincided with the company’s test-run of the power plant which began on October 21 this year.
“Water scarcity has become worse year by year because of fumes and ash from the power plant. Now we can hardly find fish in the creeks. And it has also affected our health, besides our crops. We demand a complete shutdown of the plant,” U Sein Pan, a local in San Ywa Village, Naung Ta Yar sub-township, told The Irrawaddy.
According to the Ministry of Energy and Electricity, there are two other coal-fired power plants in Burma which are smaller than Tigyit. One is in Tenasserim Division’s Kawthaung Township and another in Shan State’s Nawng Khio Township. Neither are connected to the national grid, but are under the management of concerned state and divisional governments, according to the ministry.
Several other proposed coal-fired power plants elsewhere in the country have also been suspended in the face of opposition from locals.
Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko