The No. 2 Electrical Power Ministry Minister Zaw Min said on Monday that a 4,000-megawatt coal-fired power plant project to built in the Dawei special economic zone in southern Burma will be cancelled.
The minister made the announcement during a press conference at the Electric Power distribution centre in Ahlone, Rangoon Region on Monday.
“In fact, we took this decision after reading articles in the media, and we decided to stop this mega-project which would generate a huge amount of power. But we are still considering whether we should continue a small power plant project of 400 megawatts or not,” the minister said.
The 400-MW power plant project would generate power to be used in the preliminary projects to be built in the Dawei special economic zone.
A senior official at the Yangon city electricity supply board told Agence France Presse the decision was made after "listening to the people's voice.”
The director general of the Thai construction company's Dawei development arm said his group was not aware of the decision, AFP said, and environmental activists were "exaggerating" the risks of the plant.
The project site area is in the ancient city of Thagara in Tanintharyi Region, which is near Naphu Le village in Yephyu Township, 20 miles northwest of Dawei.
The former military junta signed a memorandum of understanding with the Italian-Thai Development Public Co. Ltd. in 2008 and in 2010 again signed 75-year operation agreement.
According to figures compiled by Dawei Region Development Organization, 19 villages and about 32,279 people, 21 schools and 23 religious buildings will have to be relocated from the project site area.
The first phase of the project will be done in a five-year plan from 2010 to 2014; the second phase will be from 2014 to 2017, and the third phase will extend to 2019.
Environmental groups in Burma and Thailand have raised concerns about the damage the coal-firing power plants would cause to the environment. Recently, the new Burmese government cancelled the massive Myitsone hydropower dam project, in a move that surprised environmentalists.
In November, the construction company leading the Dawei project, the Italian-Thai Development Pcl, Thailand’s largest construction firm, said it signed an agreement with Ratchaburi Electricity Generating Holding Pcl to build coal-fired power plants to provide electricity to the project and to Burma.
“We got Ratchaburi as a partner and we have three investors, two Japanese and one (South) Korean, who showed interest in the power plant project,” a company official said. It expected to find a partner for a steel smelting plant in Dawei in the first half of 2012, he said.
The construction company said in late December that it expected to reach a conclusion in 2012 on how it would finance the Dawei deep-sea port and infrastructure projects, which would include deep-sea ports, a chemical fertilizer plant, coal-fired power plants, a steel plant, chemical fuel plants, oil refineries, ship maintenance buildings, a railroad, roads and oil and natural gas pipelines. The environmental impact on the overall area will be massive, say environmentalists.
In late 2010, Italian-Thai signed an $8 billion contract for the deep-sea port and infrastructure project in Dawei in the Tanintharyi region of southern Burma.
Italian-Thai planned in 2012 to find partners for six projects, including power plants, oil and gas refineries, petrochemical, fertilizer, and steel plants and a port facility. It aimed to sell at least 50,000 rai (20,000 acres) of land at Dawei.
According to initial estimates, the development project, located about 20 miles from Dawei, will cost US$ 58 billion. In the first phase of the project calls for the port, coal-fired power plants, an industrial zone, a highway and railroad will be built in the 2010-14 period. The cost of the first phase is approximately US$ 8.6 billion; followed by the 160-kilometre, six-lane road and railroad which will connect with Kancahnaburi Province in Thailand through Yebyu Township, including oil and gas pipelines running along the super highway route.
The Karen National Union (KNU), which controls nearby areas in the Dawei industrial zone project, has prohibited road building for three months, citing the lack of an impact study on local residents and the environment that meets international standards.
Local residents said 200 buildings for staff quarters, residential buildings, offices, and meeting halls have been built in the Dawei deep-sea port project site, which is near Mayingyi, Hteingyi and Mudu villages.
The sub-contractors on the project include the Dawei Development Co., a subsidiary of Max Myanmar owned by Zaw Zaw; Dawei Princess Co., owned by Khin Zaw Min, the brother of former Triangle Region Command Commander Khin Zaw Oo; Myanmar Original Group; Kanaung Asia; Yuzana Co., owned by Tanintharyi Region MP Htay Myint; and San Thit Co.
Upon the completion of the Dawei project, countries throughout Southeast Asia will be able to access the Middle East and Europe more quickly with an estimated savings of 20 per cent in transportation costs.
Local environmentalists are trying to organize an awareness campaign on the pros and cons of the project among local residents in Dawei. The group said it would send open letter signed by more than 600 local residents to President Thein Sein and the Human Right Commission calling for closer scrutiny and more green development.
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