«Case Study of Mae Moh Power Plant, Lampang The Mae Moh coal- fired power plant is located in the mountains of the Mae Moh district in Lampang ...»
Case Study form the EETAP WG4 Draft Report: Representation and Who Decides in Energy Planning
Case Study of Mae Moh Power Plant, Lampang
The Mae Moh coal- fired power plant is located in the mountains of the Mae Moh district
in Lampang province, Northern Thailand. The fuel source of the power plant is a lignite
coal mine occupying an area of 135 square kilometers, and is located near the plant itself.
The plant consists of 13 generating units and has a capacity of 2,625 Megawatts, and is owned and managed by the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT). The power plant aims to meet the electricity demand in Bangkok and rural provinces. It provided 12 per cent of Thailand‟s electricity and until 2008, it has been the largest coal- fired power plant in Southeast Asia. EGAT has termed the plant as a successful project as its objectives of „least-cost nature, system loss reduction and system stability and reliability‟ have been accomplished.
The power plant received funding from various sources, including the Asian Development Bank, Export Development Canada, and the U.S. Export-Import Bank. The plant underwent expansion in the 1980s, and expels approximately 1.6 million tons of sulfur gas each year. The emissions have caused immense damage to the local residents and the environment.1 Effects of the Mae Moh Power Plant The power plant‟s expansion in the 1980s has resulted in it being in closer proximity to the local villages. A total of sixteen communities reside near the Mae Moh power plant.
Notably, it is only 800 metres away from one village. Since the operation of the Mae Moh Power Plant, more than 30,000 villagers have been compelled to relocate, and many thousands have suffered from severe respiratory problems due to the inhalation of and exposure to sulfur dioxide and other toxic chemicals emitted from the power plant. Sulfur gas has scorched rice fields and polluted water sources of the Mae Moh region and that of nearby communities. Communities claimed that the wind brought coal mine dust into their homes and farms and that the power plant did not have proper filters.
A study undertaken by Greenpeace Research Laboratories demonstrated that the power plant produced 4.3 million tons of fly ash every year. Fly ash is found to contain concentrations of inorganic mercury, which can be transformed into organic mercury by micro-organisms in soils and marine sediments. Inorganic mercury such as methyl mercury is extremely dangerous to living things and the environment.
On 3 October 1992, EGAT operated 11 units of the Mae Moh power plant which led to more than a thousand villagers dwelling within seven kilometers of the plant to suffer from breathing problems, nausea, dizziness and inflammation of the eyes and nasal cavities. Half the rice fields were destroyed by acid rain and within two months after the incident, approximately 42,000 villagers suffered from inhalation difficulties. In April and May of 1996, communities alleged that the pollution caused by the power plant caused six villagers to die of blood poisoning. In 1998, mobile clinics determined that out of 8,214 patients, 3,463 suffered from respiratory diseases.
In 2003, the State Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning Office detected high concentrations of arsenic, chromium and manganese in water 1 Greenpeace, Coal Plant Dossier- An ADB Skeleton in the Closet: Mae Moh, 5.
Case Study from the EETAP WG4 Draft Report: Representation and Who Decides in Energy Planning sources located near the plant, most likely due to chemicals leaking from the plant downhill into water sources.
Since the plant‟s operation, there have been more than 200 respiratory-related deaths. Nevertheless, EGAT remained adamant that the power plant emissions were lower than the level stipulated by the National Environment Board, and that the emissions were not dangerous for the people and the environment.
In an attempt to counter the problems caused by the power plant‟s pollution, local activist Maliwan Najwirot organized the Network of Occupational Health Sufferers of Thailand in 2002 with the aim of assisting those negatively affected by the operations of the plant.2 Villagers’ Lawsuit against EGAT According to the local communities, the government persisted in granting permits to expand the power plant despite the negative impacts to the people and the environment, and had neglected to notify the stakeholders of the hazards associated with the power plant. The communities made complaints to public relations officials and to financiers of the power plant but the parties were unresponsive and their communities‟ concerns failed to be adequately addressed.
The local residents of Mae Moh resorted to lawsuit for remedy, and started a legal battle against EGAT since 2003. From 2003 to 2005, lawsuits against EGAT were filed by 437 residents in the affected area. The residents claimed that the power plant used low-quality lignite in its production of electricity and neglected to treat the smoke before emitting it. They claimed damages for health decline, physical and mental grievances, and compensation for medical expenditures and destruction of farm crops.3 The Court’s Decision EGAT‟s Deputy Governor Wirat Kanjan has claimed that EGAT had established procedures to solve the pollution problem arising from the power plant, assisted the local residents, and adhered to environmental law. Despite his claims, in May 2004, EGAT was ordered by the Thai provincial court to compensate approximately 5.7 million Baht (US$ 142,500) to villagers for crops destroyed by the power plant.
Consequently, on 4 March 2009, the Chiang Mai provincial administrative court made a landmark decision in response to 35 lawsuits filed by residents in 2004 with assistance from the Council of Work and Environment Related Patient Network of Thailand (WEPT). The court required for EGAT to compensate 130 Mae Moh villagers who had suffered severe health distress due to the toxic emissions originating from the lignite-fired power plant.
The court considered an air-quality report by the Pollution Control Department dated November 1992 to August 1998 which proved that the level of sulphur dioxide emitted by the power plant exceeded the legal standards permitted. EGAT also admitted 2 Ibid.
3 The Nation, EGAT Loses Lampang Pollution Case, http://www.nationmultimedia.com/search/read.php?newsid=30097191&keyword=Egat Case Study from the EETAP WG4 Draft Report: Representation and Who Decides in Energy Planning that in August 17-18 1998, only two out of ten devices to treat sulphur dioxide were effective, ensuing in the illness of 868 local residents.
In essence, the court held that the power plant‟s emissions of sulphur dioxide exceeded the legal limit and adversely affected the villagers. The court ordered that EGAT rehabilitate the environment at the power plant, and required for EGAT to pay an approximate sum of 246,900 Baht (US$ 7,000) per family. It also ordered that EGAT arranged for the relocation of 400 affected families to areas at least five kilometers away from the power plant, and to provide each family with house and farmland. EGAT was also required by the court to submit an Environmental Impact Assessment report to the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning. The group Network of Patients‟ Rights Against Mae Moh Toxic Emissions expressed approval of the court‟s landmark decision regarding the compensation. They expressed that the court‟s decision provided the much needed justice that the affected villagers deserved, and the ability for them to reconstruct their lives. 4
Case Study of Map Ta Phut Industrial Estate, Rayong
The Map Ta Phut Industrial Estate is located in the Rayong province, and is one of the 29 industrial estates in Thailand. It was developed in 1989 by state enterprises, under the management of the Industrial Estate Authority of Thailand (IEAT) and the Ministry of Industry. It is one of 29 estates in Thailand Map Ta Phut Industrial Estate began operation in 1990 and occupies a land area of 2,768 acres. The estate consists of 117 industrial plants which include 45 petrochemical factories, eight coal-fired power plants, 12 chemical fertilizer factories and two oil refineries.
Effects of the Map Ta Phut Industrial Estate 24,668 residents from 25 communities surrounding the Map Ta Phut municipality have been adversely affected by industrial pollution released by Map Ta Phut Industrial Estate.
The pollution suffered by Map Ta Phut Panphittayakarn School was brought to public attention in 1997. Around 1,000 pupils and teachers suffered from illnesses after inhaling the toxic emissions from plants and factories located at the Map Ta Phut Industrial Estate, and had to be hospitalised for breathing difficulties, headaches, nasal irritation and nausea. In 2005, the Ministry of Education approved of the school‟s relocation to a site five kilometres away from the original compound.
A test carried out in 2005 by US-based Global Community Monitor (GCM) environmental organisation demonstrated that airborne cancerous toxic chemicals such as benzene, vinyl chloride and chloroform released by Map Ta Phut Industrial Estate exceeded safety standards of developed nations by 60 to 3,000 times. These toxic chemicals are known to cause cancer, birth defects and other severe illnesses. In 2007, health assessments conducted on 2,177 Map Ta Phut residents between June and August depicted that 329 of them had unusually high levels of benzene. The level of two airborne polluters namely, nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide were 200 to 500 times of the legally permitted standards per year.
Water resources in the area surrounding the estate were found to be contaminated with metallic constituents. Testing of water samples obtained from 25 public ponds in the 4 Ibid.
Case Study from the EETAP WG4 Draft Report: Representation and Who Decides in Energy Planning Map Ta Phut municipality indicated the existence of hazardous levels of toxic substances.
Cadmium was 6 times the safety level, zinc 10 times, manganese 34 times, lead 47 times and iron 151 times.5 Villager’s Lawsuit against National Environmental Board (NEB) 27 villagers from 11 communities surrounding the Map Ta Phut Industrial Estate brought a case against the National Environmental Board (NEB) in October 2007.
The NEB currently consists of the Prime Minister Abhisit Vejajiva as board chairman, Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban as a member, and Natural Resources and Environment Minister Suwit Khunkitti as vice-chairman.6 Under section 13 of the Enhancement and Conservation of National Environmental Quality Act B.E 2535 (1992) (“Environment Act”), some of the powers and duties of the NEB are:
o To submit policy and plan for enhancement and conservation of national environmental quality;
o To prescribe environmental quality standards;
o To supervise the enactment of regulations and laws relating to enhancement and conservation of environmental quality; and o To give approval to plans such as the Environmental Quality Management Plan and the Changwat Action Plan for environmental quality management.
The villagers claimed that the NEB was negligent in failing to designate the area as a pollution control area in compliance with section 59 of the Environment Act. A pollution control area refers to an area devoid of toxic chemicals beyond the legal limits.
According to section 59:
“In case it appears that any locality is affected by pollution problems and there is a tendency that such problems may be aggravated to cause health hazards to the public or adverse impact on the environmental quality, the National Environmental Board shall have power to publish notification in the Government Gazette designating such locality as a pollution control area in order to control, reduce and eliminate pollution.” Surachai Trongngam, a lawyer of the non-profit legal group Enlaw representing the villagers affirmed that the case was lodged in order to protect the rights of villages who were affected by the poisonous emissions released from the plants in the estate.
The Court’s Decision On 3 March 2009, the Rayong provincial administrative court found that the NEB had breached section 59 of the Environment Act by failing to designate the Map Ta Phut municipality as a „pollution control area‟. The court ordered that the NEB cleaned up the polluted industries within Map Ta Phut Industrial Estate, and to declare the areas around the estate a „pollution control area‟ within a timeframe of 60 days. The areas to be declared pollution control zones consist of the whole Map Ta Phut municipality which includes tambon Nern Phra, tambon Map Kha, tambon Thap Ma of Muang district and tambon Ban Chang of Ban Chang district.7 According to Thailand‟s Environment Act,
Bangkok Post, NEB Won’t Appeal Map Ta Phut Ruling,5
http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/local/13429/map-ta-phut-row-comes-to-head 6 Ibid.
7 Global Community Monitor, Thai Villagers Win Pollution Case, http://www.shellfacts.com/article.php?id=856 Case Study from the EETAP WG4 Draft Report: Representation and Who Decides in Energy Planning pollution control areas require state agencies and involved parties to urgently alleviate the pollution problems by controlling, reducing and eliminating toxic waste in accordance with the Environment Act.