Asian communities say No to Coal

Feature story - July 5, 2010
Anti-coal leaders from across Asia today called on their governments to quit coal power and begin the switch to clean renewable energy. The statement came at the close of a series of workshops hosted by Greenpeace and attended by community leaders from Indonesia, China, India, The Philippines, and Thailand, in Cirebon, West Java, to share their experiences and find common linkages.

Greenpeace activists and members of the community in Waruduwur Village called on their governments to quit coal power and begin the switch to clean renewable energy during the closing of the regional anti-coal workshops hosted by Greenpeace and attended by community leaders from Indonesia, China, India, The Philippines and Thailand.

"Coal is a common curse for communities living in its shadow across Asia. In every country where coal is mined and used to generate power we find communities suffering the impacts from environmental damage and health problems. Burning coal also accelerates climate change which also impacts communities as Asia is one of the world's most vulnerable and least prepared regions to deal with climate change," said Amalie Obusan, Greenpeace Southeast Asia Climate and Energy Campaigner.

"The extraction and burning of coal is perilous for communities in Asia living near mines or in the vicinity of power plants, many of which are sited in cities. Local people are susceptible to various ailments including respiratory diseases, cancer, liver failure and birth defects. The worst impacted among them would be children and pregnant women. Clearly its our future generation that is in danger" said Dr. Wenceslao Kiat, environmental toxicologist from The Philippines.

Community leaders from across Asia revealed the shocking truth about coal mining and power plants in the nation. Research commissioned by Greenpeace has revealed that 90 percent of children under the age of 5, living around the coal-fired power plant in Cilacap, Central Java, have developed respiratory problems.

Kahar Al Bahri from East Kalimantan said "Coal mining will destroy my region if the government doesn't act immediately. Coal mining concessions in East Kalimantan already cover 3.1 million hectares of the province, an area the size of Switzerland, with an astonishing 1,226 mining permits already being issued."

"In India, the massive coal based development model and expansion would only mean disaster for the country. The 4000MW coal fired power plant being proposed in the state of Kerala is not because there is an energy deficit in the state but because of a development model that is both regressive and inequitable. The goverments in all these countries are being short sighted about the long term impacts of such dirty development and not progressive in understanding that the energy needs of the country can actually be compensated with energy efficiency and renewable energy options.'' Said Sudheerkumar from Kerala in India.

"In Thailand, coal industry is infamous as strong local opposition against coal. Mae Moh coal plant for example, government, after a decade of ignorance, has to pay huge cost of environmental and health impact to local communities. Some coal plant projects have been shelved by landmark administrative law suite as it is a violation of civic rights." Said Sutti Atchasai, Coordinator, Eastern People Network of Thailand.

To avoid the severe environmental destruction, health and livelihood impacts as well as the catastrophic climate change which the mining and burning of coal causes, the community leaders and Fiyanto urged the government to write off coal and switch to renewable energy instead.

"By this coming together, we hope we are able to send a strong message to our governments and leaders that continued dependence on fossil fuels like coal and oil will push us towards more social and economic instability." said the community leaders in a joint declaration. (1)

Greenpeace firmly believes that decentralized renewable energy, combined with energy efficiency, are the solutions to ending the misery suffered by communities living with the deadly impacts of coal, and to equitable energy access and to stopping climate change.

"Governments should immediately lay down the pathway for the massive uptake of renewable energy technologies. At the same time, they should ensure the adoption of large-scale energy efficiency measures in all sectors. Asia, especially Indonesia, has an abundance of clean, renewable energy and the Government should harness it now," Fiyanto concluded.

(1) People's Declaration Against Coal and In Support of Clean Renewable Energy, 05 July 2010. The declaration is available at http://www.greenpeace.org/seasia/id/press/reports/declaration-against-coal

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