Egat loses Mae Moh pollution appeal
Chiang Mai - The Supreme Administrative Court has upheld a lower court ruling that ordered the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) to compensate villagers affected by pollutants from its Mae Moh lignite power plant.
Wednesday's ruling, which supported that of the Chiang Mai Administrative Court, grants a total of 25 million baht to 131 victims, both alive and dead, the villagers' lawyer Thirasak Chihunthot said.
The compensation is to help relieve years of suffering after they were exposed to dust and sulphur dioxide emissions from Egat coal-fired plants in Lampang's Mae Mo district, he said.
The villagers will receive between 20,000 to 240,000 baht each, depending on the severity of their illnesses, he said.
The ruling ends a long-running legal battle between the state-owned electricity giant and the villagers who brought the case to court in 2003.
Though some affected villagers are not completely happy with the amount of compensation awarded, Maliwan Nakwiroj, who chairs the Mae Moh Occupational Health Patients' Rights Network, was more upbeat, saying she was "satisfied" with the ruling.
At least, she said, the villagers had proved they really had health problems and, more importantly, they set a model for other people to "stand up and protect themselves" against pollution in their localities.
The Mae Moh case will also be a good lesson for Egat which needs to think more carefully about plans to build coal-fired power plants elsewhere and to raise its environmental standards to curb unpleasant impacts, Ms Maliwan said.
Yesterday, some affected villagers complained the compensation was too low, saying the money awarded cannot cover the huge expenses they have incurred for medical treatment.
The family of Prani Inpanyo, a Ban Sop Klang resident, was awarded 200,000 baht. She says the amount does not cover the medical bills for her father, who died of brain cancer at the age of 64.
The amount is "unfair for my family", she said, adding her 10-year-old daughter suffers breathing disorders, which require expensive treatment.
Ms Prani is among 477 villagers who lodged a petition with the Chiang Mai Administrative Court some 12 years ago, demanding 1.08 billion baht in damages.
The court in 2009 awarded the villagers the same compensation level.