Thousands call for clean energy in Thailand

Feature story - February 24, 2011
Our region, Southeast Asia, is home to strong grassroots environmental movements especially those opposing the spread of harmful coal and nuclear energy.

In the past years we’ve seen how great things happen when people stand up because they want to make a difference: we’ve seen this in Jepara in Indonesia, in the south of Thailand and in Manila, Philippines.

When we stand up for clean energy, we are able to make governments think twice about dirty coal or dangerous nuclear energy!

Just today Greenpeace stood in solidarity with thousands of Thais as they formed a human chain with 10000 people to show their opposition against coal fired power plants. Greenpeace is calling on the Government of Thailand to make a clean energy future a reality for Thai communities by abandoning plans to build more coal fired power plants and to prioritize solutions such as renewable energy.

The activity was held in Tha Sala district, Nakhon Si Thammarat Province, where the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) is planning to build a coal plant. Thais are asking EGAT to withdraw its coal project due to the serious economic, social and environmental impacts it will have on host communities.

Communities in southern Thailand say “Coal will be clean when dogs can fly.” They say: “we have enough fruit, we have so many fish to eat. We are not poor. The coal industry is telling us that they will bring development to our community but this can't be true as right now we are already rich."

What they say is true because coal’s effects on communities are severe. There is no reason to choose coal when sustainable development through renewable energy is possible. Coal is never clean. From mining, through combustion to waste disposal, coal has dire impacts on the environment, human health, livelihoods, and the social fabric of communities living near the mines, plants and waste sites. Burning coal also accelerates climate change which will affect the whole country.

Communities around coal plants and coal mines in Thailand and around Southeast Asia are already suffering. Mae Moh in Lampang province is considered to be the worst coal-fired power plant of its kind in Asia, causing sickness and disease as well as lost livelihoods. BLCP and GHECO-I coal plants, both in Map Ta Phut Industrial Estate in Rayong province are no different.

Fly ash from BLCP is contaminated with a range of toxic and potentially toxic elements such as mercury, cadmium, lead, arsenic and nickel, and recently, GHECO-I has been included in the list of harmful industries list requiring mandatory environmental and health impact assessment.

In Indonesia, coal mining in Samarinda, Kalimantan and coal plants in Cirebon and Cilacap in Java have left communities without livelihoods aside from endangering their health.

Chariya Senpong our Climate and Energy Campaigner says, “To avoid the disastrous consequences of a coal-powered future the government must embrace an Energy Revolution – a massive uptake of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies. This is what the communities in Nakhon Si Thammarat and across Thailand are demanding and what the Thai government should instead deliver.”

The people of Southeast Asia are standing up for their future and demanding clean energy. See how you can be part of this movement!