Songkhla locals add fuel to anti-coal push

Songkhla locals add fuel to anti-coal push

Local communities in Songkhla have launched a protest against a proposed coal-fired power plant in the province, saying it would destroy the area's reputation for organic farming.

Thepha district, which would house the new project, has the “best-preserved nature” of Songkhla’s 16 districts, the locals said, adding that farmers and fishermen in the area follow Islamic halal regulations and refrain from using chemicals.

The declaration, signed by representatives from more than 100 tambons in the province, said residents would refuse to allow a 2,200-megawatt plant to “sit near our white sand beach”.

It comes in the wake of a partial government backdown last week over a similar project in nearby Krabi province, which has been placed on hold after a series of well-publicised protests.

The Songkhla group, which voiced opposition to the Thepha project for the first time during a forum yesterday, raised doubts about the government’s claim that the power plant would boost the local economy.

The new plant will hire only 300 people — mostly skilled engineers — so it would do little to increase the employment rate in Thepha district, the network said.

Songkhla is already home to a 1,600MW power plant, fuelled by bunker oil and natural gas. The supply from that facility already exceeds the current demand of seven southern provinces, making the new plant unnecessary, the group said.

Government forecasts show a need to nearly double the country's power capacity from 37,612MW as of last year to 70,410MW by 2036, with coal being identified as the primary source of fuel to drive that increase.

A two-day public hearing on the Thepha plant begins tomorrow.

Songkhla is one of several southern provinces eyed for the construction of coal-fired plants.

Others reportedly include Trang, Nakhon Si Thammarat and Krabi.

In Krabi, the government has agreed to establish a joint committee, made up of its representatives, villagers and scholars, to examine a proposed coal-fired plant project following a 13-day hunger strike by protesters.

The Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning yesterday said it would not consider Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand’s environment and health impact assessments for the plant, as well as a nearby deep sea port, until the joint committee delivers its findings.

“I suggest Egat withdraw the two reports during this time to show the sincerity of the government,” said Kasemsun Chinnavaso, the department's permanent secretary.

Do you like the content of this article?