THE COAL-FIRED power plant and coal transport pier planned for Krabi province will have only a small environmental impact on the area, according to some researchers.
A study of possible effects from the power plant and Klong Rua coal transport pier was funded by the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat). The findings were disclosed at a press conference hosted by the Institute for Population and Social Research and Egat at Mahidol University on Monday.
Sarawut Jehsoh, a researcher from the Prince of Songkla University Faculty of Science and Technology, insisted the coal-fired power plant would have little effect on Krabi's environment and ecology.
"From our study … we can assume that impact to the environment, ecology and people's livelihood [will be] limited, as Egat will adopt modern technology, widely used and acceptable in Europe and Japan, to limit pollution emissions," Sarawut said.
He said a soil test in 12 sites around Krabi power plant area indicated heavy metal, such as mercury and arsenic, was lower than the Pollution Control Department (PCD) standard - except for a site near the coal ash disposal pond, holding-pond area and mangrove forest behind the power plant. There they found arsenic level a little higher than the PCD standard.
Sarawut said that tests to find heavy metals in water of a nearby river revealed that arsenic and copper levels in Pakasai Canal and seawater in Krabi's Nuea Khlong district were just above the PCD's standard.
"The result indicates that pollution from the power plant had only limited impact on the decrease of aquatic animals in the area. Pollution from residential areas, fertiliser and pesticide run-off from the farms upstream - and polluted water from shrimp farms - are the bigger factors [responsible] for the ecological degradation in the area," he said.
Faculty of Fisheries Kasetsart University researcher Piyawat Phromraksa claimed coal transport would have no direct effect on the marine ecology along the route to and around the Klong Rua coal transport pier.
"Because the coal will be transported in closed barges, that will run at a low speed and the coal unloading process will be done carefully to reduce dust and diffuse the negative impact to coral and seagrass nearby," Piyawit said.
Egat Project Environmental Division director Anuchart Palakawong Na Ayudhaya also assured that pollution containment technology to be used in the Krabi coal-fired power plant would keep emissions to a minimum level. He insisted that the Krabi coal plant was "clean".
However, locals still question the transparency and do not trust the environment and health impact assessment (EHIA) report.
Somsak Nobnorb, village chief in Tambon Pakasai, said the research team did not collect information in Tambon Pakasai, which is situated
next to the power plant and will get direct impacts from the plant.
"As I am a local, I can tell that they (the researchers) did not gather any information here. Egat hosted the forum to convince us to approve the project, [presenting] only the good side of the story, he said.
"They also performed many Corporate Social Responsibility projects in the nearby communities," Somsak said.
"The committee of EHIA experts also disapproved of this EHIA report and sent it back to Egat for improvement, saying the report was not inclusive. The researchers are also hired by Egat, which paid a total of Bt32 million for the report," he added.
Meanwhile, Anuchart disclosed that the tripartite panel, which the prime minister approved to review the project in July, was still not set up because of delay caused by the abolition of the National Reform Council and the EHIA consideration process was still unfinished.
Krabi coal-fired power plant is due to operate in December 2019. It will use coal from Indonesia and Australia and have the capacity to generate 780 megawatts of power.