Controversial Thailand power plant gets go ahead from board

Construction News

The National Environment Board yesterday approved the Environmental Impact Assessment for the planned construction of a power plant in Songkhla’s Chana district amid concerns of problems for nearby residents.

Even though the 860 megawatt-natural gas power plant received EIA approval from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment last year, ministerial regulations require that state-run mega projects must first obtain NEB approval before being forwarded to the cabinet for final approval. The project would be the second gas power plant to be constructed in the Chana district.

“We’re surprised at the immediate approval of the project,” said Kittipob Sithisawang, secretary-general of the non-governmental organisation Coordinating Committee on Development- South.

“We are again being cheated by the government which promised us that any mega projects concerning southern seaboard development would not be constructed until a clear study on the [health and environment impacts] is completed”.

Mr Kittipob said the EIA study of the second project was done without acknowledgement or participation of project opponents.

This, he contended, was not in accordance with the law.

“We’re suffering from the first power plant. The second one will make us live in worse conditions [if it is constructed].

“We are ready to protect our right to live in a healthy environment as guaranteed by the present constitution,” Mr Kittipob said.

Mr Kittipob cited the construction of the first 700 megawatt natural gas power plant in Chana by the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) as a megaproject that resulted in environmental problems and health issues for residents in the area.

The cabinet, as it was then, approved the project in 2005 despite strong protests from local residents who said the natural gas power plant was a significant source of air pollution.

Furthermore, they said the construction had blocked a local waterway, causing flooding across the district.

Meanwhile, Nisakorn Kositratna, a NEB member, argued that the board did not move quickly in approving the EIA for the second gas power plant.

In fact, the board took great care in making its decision, according to Mr Nisakorn.

“Actually, the board considered the project last year, however it did not approve it at that time due to problems,” she said.

“Today, everything is ready. So there is no reason not to approve it.”

Next, the Energy Ministry will submit the project to the cabinet for final approval, she said.

Ms Nisakorn also said that the public hearing procedures for the EIA were conducted in accordance with the law.

The natural gas power plant in Chana is included in the national power development plan.

The Energy Ministry expressed its concern that any delays in the construction of this power plant would lead to an energy shortage in the near future.

The Chana gas power plant is one of seven projects approved yesterday by the NEB.

Others included the EIA study on a planned new parliament building in the Kiakkai area of Bangkok.


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