Friday, September 22, 2017

Government urged to abandon coal plans

Coal is not the right solution for the country’s energy needs, a recent public forum has heard. Experts warned that the fuel’s detrimental impact on the environment and well-being of Myanmar citizens mean its use would be a step backward in the fight to tackle the country’s sustainability goals.

The forum, held in Yangon June 29, was timed to coincide with a Global Action Day to End the Age of Coal.

U Win Myo Thu, managing director of EcoDev, said coal-fired power plants can worsen the global warming and climate change that is already affecting countries across the world.

“Coal-fired power plants are one of the major sources of carbon dioxide emissions that cause the greenhouse effect and global warming,” he said at the forum. “If we don’t control the emission of greenhouse gases the temperature of the world will rise about four degrees centigrade in the next 100 years. It will be a really difficult situation for our generation.”

He also added that coal is “not the only choice” for energy-poor countries like Myanmar.

“Many other alternative energy resources, such as solar power, are available today. Solar cells are becoming cheaper as the market is expanding,” he said. “We should not be addicted anymore to using coal as an energy resource.”

While a public outcry convinced the government to cancel a planned 4000-megawatt coal power plant at the Dawei industrial development project in Tanintharyi Region, U Win Myo Thu said that its backers are using all possible means to have their original plan approved.

“Plans to construct new coal power plants in Yangon, Kalewa and Myeik are also waiting for their tickets to go,” he said. He also warned that “clean coal technology” (CCT) is only “another way of persuading policymakers [to give] ignorant green lights” to environment-damaging proposals.

U Saw Moe Myint, retired general manager of the Ministry of Mines, said the country is not yet ready to use clean coal technology and should consider other options for energy generation.

“Many experts who know CCT very well are needed if we apply that technology. CCT training would need to be done first across the country before the plants are established. Moreover, a factory that applies CCT will cost more than one that does not use it.”

U Saw Moe Myint suggested that resources such as natural gas would be more economically viable, as well as safer for the environment and people’s health.

Burning coal releases a number of dangerous substances, U Saw Myo Myint said, including carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide, lead, arsenic, mercury, cadmium and ash. The result is toxic enough that it can even threaten buildings.

Another forum speaker, Ko Khun Myo from the Pa-O Youth Organisation, has since 2010 been studying the social and environmental impact of the

Tigyit open cast coal mine as well as the country’s largest operating coal-fired power plant, in Pinlaung township in southern Shan State. He said the burning of coal has lowered air and water quality in surrounding areas and is threatening the health of residents.

“The odour from burning coal is really bad for the stranger, but it seems common for the local people because they are breathing that air every day,” he said. “And local children swim in the creeks where water drains from the mine. Some villagers use that water for their [crops].”

Tigyit, along with Kalewa mine in Sagaing Region, produces most of the country’s coal, U Saw Moe Myint said. He said about 148 coal lodes in Myanmar are capable of producing coal for commercial use but most are of low quality.