Coal-Fired Power Plants Stoke Worries Among Locals, NGOs

With one 100-megawatt coal power plant under construction in Preah Sihanouk province’s Stung Hav district and a second 700-megawatt plant on the way, NGOs and villagers yesterday voiced concerns over the potential health and environmental impact the projects could have on local communities.

Um Deng, vice president of an O’Tres commune fishing com­mu­­nity, said he worried the plants would affect the district’s fisheries, which roughly 3,000 families in his commune depend on for a living.

Mr Deng said villagers had voiced their worries over the first plant and felt helpless now that a second had been approved by the Council of Ministers.

According to Ame Trandem, Mekong Campaigner at NGO In­ternational Rivers, coal-fired plants spew massive amounts of pollutants, endangering air and water quality. “This…can harm Preah Sihanouk’s coastal fisheries,” Ms Trandem said.

Chhith Sam Ath, executive director of NGO Forum, said the potential effects of both plants could be devastating, citing the example of a Thai coal power plant that NGO Forum studied earlier this year.

“Most of the communities living around project site were seriously affected on their health, such as respiratory cancer, skin burn, deaf, and affected to pregnancy,” he said of the Thai example.

It was unclear yesterday whe­ther an Environmental Im­pact As­sessment had been carried out for the new plant. Puth Sorithy, director of the Ministry’s EIA department, declined comment.

The Council of Ministers on Friday approved the construction of the $362 million 700-megawatt plant, granting a 33-year contract to Cambodia International Invest­ment Development Group.

But Ms Trandem, citing the lack of a national grid and limited transmission lines, said it might make more sense to produce “electricity closer to the consumer through the use of alternative energy sources.”

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