An Andaman Sea conservation group in southern Thailand has accused the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) of trying to obstruct efforts to protect a delta area in the country’s famous beach resort province of Krabi.
On Tuesday morning, 26 January 2016, at least 15 members of Save Andaman from Coal, a conservation group opposed to coal-fired power plants based in Krabi gathered at the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE) in Bangkok.
The group came to issue a statement against a controversial plan to build a 60-billion-baht (about USD 1.8 billion) coal-fired power plant with 870 megawatts (MW) capacity and a coal seaport adjacent to it in Nuea Khlong District of Krabi Province. The plan was proposed by the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) in early 2014.
According to the group’s statement, Krabi, which is famous for its marine national parks, might be removed from the list of Ramsar conservation areas if EGAT’s plan is given the green light by the government. RAMSAR is an international intergovernmental treaty providing a framework for international cooperation on the conservation and wise use of wetlands.
Krabi’s delta was the fourth area in the country to be put on the Ramsar list in 2003.
In 2007, the cabinet issued a resolution to declare the area protected. However, the application of the resolution expired in 2012 and is subject to review by the cabinet.
Since the 2007 resolution expired, a new resolution which will determine the fate of Krabi’s delta area has not been reached and EGAT has been trying to delay and change the language in the new resolution in order pave the way for construction of the coal-fired power plant, reported Save Andaman from Coal.
The group urged the MNRE to declare Krabi’s delta area as a protected area as soon as possible in order to protect it from irreversible environmental effects.
At 12:30 pm, Kasemsun Chinnavaso, Permanent Secretary of the MNRE, negotiated with the group. He said that the MNRE was not informed in advance about the issue and invited the leaders of Save Andaman from Coal for a closed door discussion.
The conservation group, however, said that they had already sent a petition to the Ministry in 2015, but there was no concrete response.
Last week, hundreds of students from the Federation of Patanian Students and Youth (PerMAS) and other student organisations rallied at Prince of Songkla University in the Deep South province of Pattani against a plan to construct a coal-fired power plant in Thepha District of Songkhla Province.
The 2,200 megawatt (MW) coal-fired power plant was proposed by EGAT. Many environmentalists and locals have expressed concerns about the plan, fearing its environmental impacts, which could worsen the security situation in the already volatile Deep South.
The rally occurred just days after Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, the junta leader and Prime Minister, issued National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) Orders No. 3/2016 and 4/2016, using his authority under Section 44 of the Interim Constitution, which gives him and security officers absolute power to maintain national security.
NCPO Order No. 3/2016 exempts the construction of buildings in Special Economic Zones (SEZs) from the regulatory framework of the 1975 Town and City Planning Act and other regulations on buildings. The order also takes away from local government the authority to impose regulations on construction in SEZs.
Similarly, NCPO Order No. 4/2016 exempts all kinds of power plants, water treatment plants, garbage disposal and collection plants, recycling plants, and gas processing plants from regulations under the Town and City Planning Act.
The demonstration by Save Andaman from Coal in front of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment in Bangkok (photo from New Democracy Movement)