Got a problem with coal-generated power? A Karen National Union leader is inviting feedback and complaints to be directed to his office as the ethnic armed group eyes giving the greenlight to a costly Thai- and Japan-backed venture.
P'doh Mahn Nyein Maung, a member of the KNU's central executive committee, said members of the public should come speak to him if they take issue with a 1280-megawatt coal-fired power plant proposed for Hpa-an township's Wut Gyi Village.
Though the $3-billion project is still under study, it has already raised the ire of local residents and environmental groups alike, with concerns aired about health hazards caused by smoke and particulate matter.
But P'doh Mahn Nyein Maung countered that the project, which is one of two prospective plants under the auspices of Toyo Thai Corporation Public Company Limited, would help promote regional development.
“We are not doing this for profit," he said, speaking at the opening of a peace and politics dialogue in Kayin State at the end of June. "The KNU has an investment policy to prevent harm against the environment and to provide life assurance and job opportunities to the public. We are carrying out [the coal-fired plant] in line with this policy. If anyone wants to object, he or she can raise the objection with me."
On June 21, 33 civil society groups and non-governmental organizations issued a statement opposing the proposed coal project in Kayin State.
P'doh Mahn Nyein Maung attempted to allay such concerns about the plant's impact by citing a field visit to Japan where a similar style coal plant was found to be smokeless.
Nevertheless, Kayin (Karen) State engineer and resident Saw Kaung Zan said that the state should be focused on promoting fast-growing renewable energy producing technologies instead. Burning fossil fuels like coal is the single largest contributor to the world's carbon emissions, which scientists have agreed must be cut to stem the tide of global warming.
“There are many new technologies in the world for energy production," said Saw Kaung Zan. I don’t want this method to be used. Even though it has low production costs and can produce electricity within a short time, surveys have shown that the toll on the environment and on public health are very high."
Toyo Thai Corporation Public Company Limited has already signed a contract for an initial 1280MW coal plant in Mon State, which set to break ground this year. A subsidiary of the engineering firm also operates a 121MW natural-gas power plant in Yangon.