By Nauvarat Suksamran and Yuthana Priwan

October 31, 2000 (Bangkok Post)—The Hin Krut power plant will be shut down if its operations harm the local environment and livelihoods, its management has pledged.

Fierce local opposition has delayed construction of this coal-fired power plant in Bang Saphan district, approved under the Independent Power Producers programme.

Union Power Development Co will spend 1.2 billion baht on the power plant to produce 1,400 megawatts.

Nathee Sitthiprasart, the firm’s public relations manager, told the Senate committee on science and energy recently that the management wanted to set an example that power plants and communities can co-exist.

The senate panel, chaired by Vicha Siritham (Chanthaburi), wanted to make sure the construction and operation of the Hin Krut plant meet required standards, and that the project will not affect the environment or local occupations.

Mr Nathee said every step is open to checks by an inspection committee made up of representatives of local communities. The inspection panel may report to state agencies in charge if the company makes any blunder that may cause damage.

The company is also willing to shut down the power plant if its production causes pollution, he said.

Mr Nathee said part of the revenue from electricity sales would go to a fund for community development.

Several senators said they support the project but are worried the use of bituminous coal as fuel may pollute the environment.

They said it is important the company conceals no information from the public. If it is certain of the safety of its project, it must be able to produce clear proof to allay public fear.

Thorough understanding of the pros and cons of the project is essential to ensure there are no clashes between supporters and opponents of the project, they said.

The government has yet to approve the Hin Krut project and Gulf Power Co’s 800-million-baht, 700-megawatt Bo Nok power plant, also to be built in Prachuap Khiri Khan, pending the outcome of the social impact assessment study.

As the term of the current government ends on Nov 16, the final decision will likely be made by the next administration.

The senate panel suggested authorities and private operators try to reach out not only to local people but also to all other sectors, such as grassroots groups, non-governmental organisations, academics and legislators.

“Local people alone are not capable enough to demolish a big project. There are several parties involved in deciding its fate and therefore their participation is always important,” said M.L. Kamloonthep Devakula, a Loei senator.

Some suggested the company look to the possibility of using other types of fuel that are environmentally-friendly.

Mr Nathee said the project has been fully open to public scrutiny from the beginning.

Independent academics studying its environment impact assessment have confirmed the plant would not cause any damage.

If results of the social impact study were in favour of the project and if the cabinet gave approval, construction could begin right away, Mr Nathee said.

Opponents of mega-projects, however, have pledged to continue their fight.

Groups opposing the Yadana gas pipeline in Kanchanaburi, the Thai-Malaysian gas pipeline in Songkhla, and the Hin Krut and Bo Nok power plants will soon meet in Bang Saphan to plan their future campaigns.

They will be joined by the senate panel on the environment and some NGOs.

Meanwhile, Gulf Power Generation Co has said that construction of the Bo Nok plant will go ahead despite local opposition.

The plant’s completion schedule, originally set for 1995, has now been moved to 2004.

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