Residents Fear Restart of Coal Power Plant

A coal-fired power plant in southern Shan State that was shut down two years ago due to residents’ complaints may be reopening, despite the opposition of the local community, villagers say. They are already accusing local officials of breaking their promises.

Test operations at the plant, in Tigyit village, Pinlaung township, were carried out on October 22, apparently in advance of a resumption of activity. The state government says the reopening of the plant depends on the results of the tests.

Villager U Sein Thaung said yesterday that the government and the plant’s management had failed to inform residents about the tests. He said he and his neighbours still object to its reopening.

“The company should have told us they were going to run tests, but they don’t care about us. And the Shan State government told us they wouldn’t allow the plant to reopen if we objected. It looks like they broke their promise.”

Tigyit was the first coal-fired power plant to be built in the country, by Myanma Electric Power Enterprise in 2001. Operations began in 2005, under the management of China National Heavy Machinery Corporation, with local companies Eden Group and Shan Yoma Nagar. The upgrading work is being carried out by Wuxi Huagaung Electric Power Engineering, also of China.

Although the plant’s two coal-fired turbines have a capacity of 60 megawatts each, it is estimated that their combined output is now only 60MW, according to the Myanmar Alliance for Transparency and Accountability (MATA).

Ko Moe, a member of MATA, said the government should refuse permission to restart the power plant because the fumes from it will affect residents’ health and damage the environment. Tigyit is not far from Inle Lake, a major tourist attraction.

“The plant will release pollutants into the air that would foul the atmosphere. We’re worried that the government might allow the plant to reopen,” he said.

U Soe Soe Zaw, secretary of the Shan State government, told The Myanmar Times yesterday that the government had only agreed to allow test operations to assess possible effects on the environment.

“The plant’s future depends on the results of the tests. The company must submit a report on the effects on the environment and the local population. If the results are bad, the plant will stay shut,” he said.

The former government signed at least 11 contracts for coal-fired power plants around the country with a number of international and regional companies. None of these projects has yet come online due to widespread opposition by the public, local residents and environmental groups.


Source: The Myanmar Times

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