A rather small, controversial coal-fired power plant in Kyaikmayaw Township (Mon State) causes concerns and opposition by residents. The plant is part of a cement factory run by the company Mawlamyine Cement Limited (MCL) [1,2]. The facility was approved by the Myanmar Investment Commission through an agreement signed in March 2013, according to which the factory will operate for the next 45-50 years [3,4].
Locals found out about the coal power plant when several vessels began transporting coal on the Attaran River in 2015. Initially, they had accepted the project hoping it would provide new jobs, however, they did not know that the facility was powered by coal. “If we had known earlier, we would have protested then.” . Residents are concerned about the adverse impacts of the plant on local livelihoods and their health. Many have begun to cover their water wells due to fears over rain water polluted by coal fumes  and voiced concerns over the declining water quality of the Attaran stream water . Local fishermen complained that fishing has been largely disrupted due to the waves and noise created by the coal vessels [3,4]. Their average daily catch has declined since the vessels increased their services, they say . Local civil society groups and monks further denounced the lack of information provided to villagers and worry about the adverse impacts on the environment such as through carbon emissions, global warming, smog and acid rain .
Social mobilizations against the project emerged in Kyaikmaraw, Moulmein and Mawlamyine townships where thousands of residents oppose the power plant. In April 2016, a petition with 3,780 signatures was sent to the President’s Office, demanding a halt of the controversial project and the use of other fuel instead of coal. On February 18, 2017, around 7,000 residents from seven nearby villages staged a protest against the controversial plant. A second protest was held in July 2017 by about 2,000 villagers, because the president and state government leaders had not responded to their complaints, they said . More protest actions followed [3,4,7].
Despite these protests, the factory started commercial operations in April 2017 [2,4]. However, the company has come increasingly under pressure from the regional and Union government. Since June 2017, the Ministry of Natural Resource and Environmental Conservation has asked for monthly EIA reports from the factory [3,8]. In August 2017, the Mon State Parliament requested information on the plant from the Ministry of Electricity and Energy, which replied that MLC had not sought permission to run the 49 KW power plant. The company countered that the factory was powered only by one of the turbines (20MW) for which they have permission . Nevertheless, in September 2017, the Mon State Parliament agreed to debate the legality of the power plant  and criticized the lack of transparency of the project [4,7]. According to Mon State lawmakers and the Ministry of Electricity and Energy, the company did not seek approval for the 40+ MW coal power plant, required under the 2014 Electricity Law and the 2016 Mon State medium- and small-scale electricity supply law [2,7]. Furthermore, according to the 2008 Constitution, heavy-scale electricity production (classified as more than 30 megawatts) needs the approval of the Myanmar Union government .
Attempts to polish the image of the cement factory and its power plant have failed. On 15 November 2017, the company mounted a huge billboard with photos of visiting journalists from the Southern Myanmar Journalist Network (SMJN). The billboard caption said that “the local reporters are visiting our company as observers” . However, the journalists’ network responded, stating the company did not ask for permission to put up their photos. SMJN has considered filing a complaint against MLC or releasing a statement that would clarify their role and position .
Negotiations about the controversial power-plant are ongoing. On December 24, 2017 the company met with six representatives of villagers and monks to address their concerns. Discussions included the consideration of alternative power sources instead of coal, which was also a concern of the environmental committee of Mon State Hluttaw . Various other measures to reduce the factory’s impact were also to be discussed. As of early 2018, the coal plant remains a contentious project and villagers and government bodies continue to monitor closely the facility [5,9].