(Posted by CAAI News Media)
Wednesday, 18 November 2009 15:02 Irwin Loy and Sam Rith
GOVERNMENT departments and developers must proceed cautiously with a coal-fired power plant planned for Preah Sihanouk province, rights groups warned Tuesday, saying that not enough was being done to ensure the facility does not harm the environment.
Rights group representatives were meeting with officials from the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy to discuss the proposed 100-megawatt power plant, to be built by Malaysian-owned Leader Universal Holdings.
The talks once again drew a line under one of energy-starved Cambodia’s most pressing development conundrums – how to balance a recognised need for sustainable power against protecting the Kingdom’s environment.
“We’re not opposed to the government’s plan,” said Chhith Sam Ath, executive director of the NGO Forum on Cambodia. “We realise the energy is needed, but we do not want to see the energy plan cause negative impacts.”
An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) commissioned by Cambodian Energy Limited, a subsidiary created by Leader Universal to steer the project, downplayed some of those concerns.
“The impacts on coastal water quality will be caused by coal spillage into the sea during strong wind,” the report’s authors warn, before noting that a spill plate could prevent coal from escaping.
Likewise, though the EIA acknowledges that hot coolant water released back into the ocean may affect non-mobile flora and fauna, it adds, “dolphin, fish and other swimming animals will be able to escape … easily”.
But one rights advocate worries the measures are insufficient. “After we read the EIA … the company seems not to take much care on managing the pollution,” said Boun Narith, coordinator for rights group Licadho in Preah Sihanouk.
NGO Forum’s Chhith Sam Ath contends the stated US$3.59 million environmental management plan lacks enough detail to ensure mitigation measures are monitored or even adequate.
Puth Sorithy, director of the Environment Ministry’s EIA Department, declined to comment or suggest a date when the proposed power plant might be approved.
A representative with Leader Universal did not return a request for comment Tuesday.
However, the project is not the only plant proposed for the area. Leader Universal previously pitched a 200-megawatt project as a joint venture with MKCSS Holdings. The proposal was split into two separate 100-megawatt plants in June, with each company developing a single facility.
Leader Universal has an active proposal to develop a 700-megawatt coal plant, also in Sihanoukville.