AN ACADEMIC claims that the Environmental and Health Impact Assessment’s (EHIA) approval for the Thepa coal-fired power plant was unjust, because local people did not have a chance to present to the expert committee before a final decision was made, and because the report was inconclusive.
The project owner, the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat), says the approval was a big relief because it will be able to solve the power shortage in the South caused by the long delay in establishing the Krabi coal-fired power plant. An expert committee of the Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning Office last Thursday approved EHIA’s support for the 2,200-megawatt coal-fired power plant in Songkhla’s Thepa District. But Somporn Chuai-Aree, a science and technology lecturer at Songkla University said the EHIA was flawed and should have been rejected.
He also claimed the expert committee should be reformed, as its approval of the EHIA report was unjust. “First of all, the whole project of the Thepa coal-fired power plant has been split in two – the coal-fired power plant and the coal transporting pier – but it should have been studied as one big project. This separation makes it harder for people to see the bigger picture regarding the environmental impact of the project,” he said.
Somporn also claimed the original report had been inconclusive. For example, the report did not fully outline the biodiversity of the surrounding sea and canals, he said, and it also inaccurately detailed the types of marine animals in the area. “This does not include the fact that the EHIA allowed just nine months for all three public hearings,” he said, “which clearly signifies the lack of proper public participation. “The committee should reconsider its decision, as local people who opposed the project did not have the chance to meet until they had already been informed of the decision. I cannot find any other word than unjust to describe this.” The project still needs to be considered by the National Environment Committee and Cabinet before construction can start. Egat governor Kornrasit Pakchotanon said that as the project owner, he was pleased that the project’s EHIA was approved and now Egat will prepare for the construction and start a bidding to find the constructor. “It is a fact that the South is very prone to power shortages, because the Krabi coal-fired power plant has been delayed and we have also had a problem of constructing another power line to the South. Therefore, the progress on the Thepa coal-fired power plant is a good sign for us to assure a stable power supply to the South,” Kornrasit said. The precise timeline for the power plant could not be finalised yet, he admitted, since the Energy Ministry was still updating its new Power Development Plan (PDP) for the future power needs of the country. Meanwhile, Kornrasit also said Egat was still seeking a power company to undertake a new EHIA study in relation to the project, but it was expected that the first public hearing could be held as early as November.