EARTH Thailand

Coal-fired power plant project in Hpa-An faces wall of protests

Myanmar Times 11 January 2018 | Su Phyo Win

Hpa-An locals are objecting against the construction of coal-fired power plant project in Thone Eain village. Su Phyo Win/The Myanmar Times

Objections against a multi-billion dollar coal-fired power plant project in Hpa-An township, Kayin State, are mounting despite assurances of reliability from experts. 

The $3 billion plant is to be constructed by Toyo Thai Power Myanmar Co Ltd in Thone Eain village of Wutt Kyi Ward, Hpa-An township. The plant was originally slated for construction in Ye township, Mon State, but the project was cancelled amid protests from the local community. 

The 1,280-megawatt power plant will operate for 30 years with an option to extend for another 10 years, subject to approval.

The plant, which is a joint venture between Thailand-based TTCL Public Co. Ltd and the Kayin State government, is awaiting parliamentary approval. Under the agreement, the company would have a 95 percent stake in the project while the state government would hold the remaining 5pc stake. 

“We are waiting for central government approval at the moment. After that we will start the Environmental and Social Impact assessment and feasibility study within four years from 2018,” said U Htet Aung Mon, project manager in charge of TTCL.

Mounting objections

Still, objections over the construction are mounting among locals concerned about the ill effects the plant will have on the environment and their livelihoods. This is despite assurances from a local team of experts who compared the TTCL plant with three other coal-fired plants in Japan.  

“The technology [in Japan] is quite reliable. So we just need to have government accountability for the potential challenges that may occur as a result of the new power plant,” said Sayardaw U Ku Tha La.

In fact, the study group was accused by the rest of the community for changing their minds on the plant after returning from their visit. Last June, 33 civil societies supported by 114 social organisations in Kayin State had made a statement to the government rejecting the project. 

The public have already boycotted two public seminars held by the team sharing their experiences during the visit. The seminars were conducted by the study tour upon their return from Japan and involved community members, Karen National Union representatives and government officials in Thone Eain village and Hpa-An.

“We are not going to the seminars because this project is going on without transparency. We don’t know how we will benefit from this project. Even the selection of people for the study tour was not transparent. We have heard a lot about the impact of coal and we don’t want to lose our area because of this project,” said Saw Nay Lin Tun, resident farmer of Thone Eain village.

One of the chief concerns from the locals is that power generated from the plant will be sold back to the Thais.

When contacted by The Myanmar Times, Daw Nan Khin Htwe Myint, Chief Minister of Kayin State confirmed that all the power generated at the plant will be channeled to the national grid for domestic consumption.

Daw Nan Khin Htwe Myint insisted electricity generation is the state’s top priority and that the power plant would cover all the electricity needed in the state. 

“Only three townships out of seven are getting electricity in Kayin State. Our state really needs the power to attract more investments. The people have to understand that technology is much more advanced now. They need to escape the trap of absorbing only bad knowledge about coal,” she said.

U Htet Aung Mon said the cost of selling the power to the national grid is still in the calculation stage.