Ministry for Industry, Mines and Energy Secretary of State Ith Praing said Thursday that the government had approved a plan by Thai investors to conduct a feasibility study for building a $5 billion coal-fired power plant in Koh Kong province. The plant is intended to produce 3,600 megawatts of electricity for the Thai market, while 200 to 300 megawatts would be sold for Cambodian use, Ith Praing said.
“Cambodia needs more power and welcomes it from all types of sources,” he added.
According to a report in Tuesday’s Bangkok Post newspaper, Koh Kong Power Light is expected to come on-stream by 2014 in the Pouy Yeaysem area on the coast, about 50 km northwest of Koh Kong town. Coal for the plant would be imported from either Australia or Indonesia, Ith Praing said.
No license had yet been granted to the investors, which include Thailand’s largest construction company Italian-Thai Development PLC, Egco Plc, Ratchaburi Electricity Holding Plc, Datang International (Hong Kong) Ltd, Egat International and Sino Thai Resources Development Plc, he said.
An official from the Council for the Development of Cambodia and Koh Kong Provincial Governor Yuth Phouthang said they had not yet seen details of the plan. However, the CDC official, who asked to remain anonymous, said the project would benefit the country, as it would help reduce the cost of electricity and encourage businesses to set up here.
The Koh Kong plant is the second coal-powered plant in the pipeline for Cambodia. Plans are also in the works for a 200-megawatt plant in Sihanoukville—a joint venture between AZ Group and Malaysian company LEADER, AZ Group Vice Chairman Lim Bun Sour said Thursday. Lim Bun Sour said that he expected the plant would be up and running by 2012.
Coal-powered plants have proven controversial in other countries and experts have warned of potential negative side effects in Cambodia.
Va Dany, head of the Department of Environmental Science at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, said Wednesday that coal-powered plants were not well regarded internationally, due to the amount of harmful emissions and water pollution they produce.
Among health problems for those living near such plants are an increase in the incidence of asthma as well as respiratory and heart disease, Va Dany added.
International Rivers group spokesman Carl Middleton described the Koh Kong project as an example of larger more industrialized countries exporting their heavy industry to neighboring countries with less stringent environmental laws.
“Vocal protest by Thai villagers since the completion of Thailand’s Pak Mun dam in the early nineties has resulted in Thailand supporting hydropower projects in neighboring countries to import electricity,” Middleton wrote by e-mail Thursday. “Nowadays, there is equally strong resistance to new coal-fired power stations in Thailand, making building them in neighboring countries an attractive option,” he wrote. “It is difficult to see how Cambodians will benefit, especially those living nearby,” he added.
Ith Praing said that the government is concerned about the potential effects on the environment and noted that final approval for both coal-fired plants will only be granted if the government is satisfied with the results of environmental impact assessments for each project.
Thai Embassy First Secretary Kamrob Palawatwichai said Thursday that the embassy had no information on the Koh Kong project.
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