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Southern tourist operators have called on the government to scrap plans for the construction of an 800-megawatt coal-fired power plant in Krabi for fear of its impact on the resort province.
Watana Thanasakcharoen, chairman of the Southern Chamber of Commerce, said Andaman coastal provinces did not need a project with a power generation goal designed to support the needs of the industrial sector over that of local people. The Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) said 45% of power generated from the coal-fired power plant will go to the industrial sector, 30% to households and 9% to the tourism sector. But Mr Watana insisted: “There’s no doubt the coal-fired power plant project is going to meet industrial needs rather than those of locals.” The government says it will press ahead with the project, with construction expected to start by the end of the year. Thailand depends heavily on natural gas from the Gulf of Thailand and from Myanmar for electricity generation. The government plans to cut back the amount of natural gas for power production from 65% in 2015 to 55% in 2028. It also wants to raise the use of coal and lignite from 19% in 2015 to 21% in 2028, when 5% of power production will also come from nuclear power. The proposed power plant in Krabi has drawn opposition from environmentalists and residents who fear pollution will drive tourists front its pristine beaches and ruin villagers’ health.
Coal-fired plants have a negative image in Thailand due to the country’s experience with the Mae Moh lignite power plant in Lampang. After a 12-year court battle, the Supreme Administrative Court this year ordered Egat to pay compensation to Mae Moh villagers whose health and farmland had been damaged by toxic pollutants from the plant. Environmental impact assess¬¨ment reports for the Krabi power plant, and for a sea port to import coal shipments to power the plant, are being scrutinised by the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning. Mr Watana said any benefits from the power plant could not compensate for the potential loss of tourism in Krabi and along the Andaman coastal areas. He said tourism in the Andaman coastal provinces generated more than 300 billion baht last year, and could make 400 billion baht this year. Krabi’s tourism alone generated more than 60 billion baht in 2013, likely to reach 70 billion baht by this year. “Krabi should be a tourism province and focus on promoting eco-tourism,” he said. Krabi residents draw their main source of income from tourism, fishing and agriculture, giving the province a high economic value compared with nearby provinces. Amarit Siripornchuthakul, president of the Krabi Tourism Association, said environmental-friendly tourism would attract more visitors to Thailand. “So it’s important for Thai tourism sector to support the withdrawal of the coal-fired power plant project, and instead promote renewable energy alternatives,” he said.
He said Krabi has high potential for developing renewable energy as it has a large palm oil plantation and the government should promote this instead of coal power. “The government must decide whether it will conserve Thailand’s pristine seas that create a number of tourism-related businesses and attract large numbers of foreign tourists, or if it will promote a coal-firedpower plant that the world agrees is environmentally harmful,” he said. Egat insists the Krabi plant will be equipped with leading technology and use high-quality coal imported from Indonesia and Australia, and there will not be a repeat of the Mae Moh experience.

Source : The Traveller Vol 3, No.6 From July20 To 26, 2015