Many residents of Krabi, a popular tourism province in southern Thailand, are opposing the government's plan to build a coal plant close to their homes.
The Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT), an electric power transmission and generation authority owned by the Thai Ministry of Energy, proposed in early 2014 to build a coal-fired power plant with a capacity of 870 megawatts in Krabi.
Furthermore, it recommended the construction of a coal seaport in Nuea Khlong, which is also located in Krabi.
The construction is part of the government's energy plan called Power Development Plan 2010 to boost the country's power supply. Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha warned that if the plan has not been realised and that Thai citizens might therefore have to bear higher electricity costs.
Krabi residents have immediately expressed concern about the possible detrimental impact of the plant to the local environment. They pointed out that the shipment of a large amount of coal and the construction of a massive port could harm the coastal area of Krabi, which is a protected RAMSAR site.
RAMSAR is an international convention which identifies wetlands that needed to be conserved to sustain global biodiversity.
Residents are also worried that the coal plant could also harm the health of the local population. Groups opposed to the project have claimed that the public hearing conducted by the project's backers covered only a small number of people.
A local villager said that the community was not properly consulted about the project:
We did not know that there was even a public hearing though the power plant was to be constructed behind my backyard, we thought it was an elephant show. For the second public hearing, they just cancelled the event when more and more people came. During the third public hearing, there were as many as 500 police officers there, the event was postponed, but the community still has doubts.
According to the regulations of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, any power plant project slated for more than 100 megawatts of capacity must first be subjected to an Environmental and Health Impact Assessment (EHIA) before it is granted a government license.
Last August 5, a letter was signed by 42 organizations and 52 individuals asking the government to scrap the project. They reminded authorities that the region's energy security is stable and it even registered a surplus in power supply. The letter has three demands:
- The government should conduct more public consultations about the country's energy policies, specifically the use of coal in building power plants;
- The government should suspend the bidding for the Krabi coal plant pending the issuance of the EHIA; and
- The government should nullify the results of previous consultations. The next round of public hearings must be done in a transparent manner.
Local electricity producers also asserted that there are other options than coal like the use of renewable energy. They also wanted the government to address the lack of connectivity grids which is a major obstacle in delivering electricity across the country.
Akradej Chakjinda, a campaigner from Save Andaman from Coal wrote on his Facebook page about the struggle of Krabi residents to protect the integrity of their local environment:
Why does the Thai government want to destroy Krabi with a coal [burning] power plant?
Krabi has a vision and mission to be a green city. The people of Krabi also want to protect Krabi nature and the environment for the sustainability of local communities.
Krabi has a choice! We can sustain ourselves with renewable energy. Why choose coal? Thus, we would like to ask all of you — Krabi lover, to help us shout out #krabinocoal and #protectkrabi. Let our voices be heard by the Thai government!