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Controversial coal-fired power plant built in MCL Cement factory, Mon State, Myanmar


Description

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.” [3]. 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 [3] and voiced concerns over the declining water quality of the Attaran stream water [5]. 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 [5]. 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 [6].

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 [3]. 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 [4]. Nevertheless, in September 2017, the Mon State Parliament agreed to debate the legality of the power plant [2] 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 [4].

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” [8]. 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 [8].

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 [9]. 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]. 

Basic Data

NameControversial coal-fired power plant built in MCL Cement factory, Mon State, Myanmar
CountryMyanmar
ProvinceMon State
SiteKyaikmayaw Township, Mon State
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level

Source of Conflict

Type of Conflict (1st level)Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Pollution related to transport (spills, dust, emissions)
Building materials extraction (quarries, sand, gravel)
Thermal power plants
Specific CommoditiesElectricity
Cement
Coal

Project Details and Actors

Project DetailsThe plant is run by Mawlamyine Cement Limited (MCL), which is a subsidiary of Thai Siam Cement Group (SCG) and Pacific Link Cement [1]. News reports state that it has the capacity to produce about 5,000 tonnes of cement per day [8]. The controversial coal plant powering the factory has a gross capacity of 40 MW (Units 1&2: 20 MW, each) [1] plus a spare turbine of 9MW, totalling to 49 MW of installed capacity [4].

According to company staff, an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was completed for the cement factory by Resource and Environment Myanmar [6].

Coal is imported from Australia and Indonesia. According to a news articles from September 2017 more than 200,000 tons of coal have arrived [2].

Total investment into the cement factory was reported to amount to 400 million USD [2,3].

Lime stone for the related cement factory comes from a semi-open mining system on Mount Pya Taung in Kuam Ngan village in Kyaikmayaw Township [2].

Mariana Container Lines (MCL) operates the vessels carrying coal and rocks needed to produce cement in the factory [5].
Level of Investment (in USD)400,000,000 USD (entire cement factory)
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Populationseveral thousand residents
Start Date03/2013
Company Names or State EnterprisesMawlamyine Cement Limited (MCL) (MCL) from Myanmar - operating company
Siam Cement Group (SCG) (SCG) from Thailand - parent company
Pacific Link Cement Industries Ltd. from Myanmar - parent company
Mariana Container Lines (MCL) (MCL) from Myanmar - transports coal to the power plant
Relevant government actorsMyanmar Investment Commission

Ministry of Natural Resource and Environmental Conservation

Ministry of Electricity and Energy

Mon State Parliament
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersMt. Pya Taung, a grassroots group named after the mountain from which raw materials are extracted for the factory

Mon State Human Rights Foundation.

Southern Myanmar Journalist Network (SMJN)

The Conflict and the Mobilization

Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Recreational users
Religious groups
Fisher people
Forms of MobilizationDevelopment of a network/collective action
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches

Impacts

Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Noise pollution, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Other Environmental impacts
Potential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Global warming, Soil contamination, Groundwater pollution or depletion
OtherRiver ecoystems are disturbed by the coal transporting vessels, also impacting average fish catch [5].
Health ImpactsVisible: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Other environmental related diseases
Potential: Malnutrition
OtherIncreased exposure to acid rains, coal fumes, etc.
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Loss of livelihood, Other socio-economic impacts
OtherDeclining fish catch due to disturbances of the river ecosystem through the coal transporting vessels [5].

Outcome

Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseUnder negotiation
Application of existing regulations
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Do you consider this as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly.Negotiations are ongoing and pressure on the facility is mounting by residents and government actors

Sources and Materials

Legislations

2008 Constitution of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar
http://www.burmalibrary.org/docs5/Myanmar_Constitution-2008-en.pdf

2012 Foreign Investment Law
http://www.burmalibrary.org/docs15/Foreign_Investment_Law-21-2012-en.pdf

2016 Myanmar Investment Law
https://www.dica.gov.mm/sites/dica.gov.mm/files/document-files/myanmar_investment_law_official_translation_3-1-2017.pdf

2014 Myanmar Electricity Law
http://www.myanmar-law-library.org/law-library/laws-and-regulations/laws/myanmar-laws-1988-until-now/union-solidarity-and-development-party-laws-2012-2016/myanmar-laws-2014/pyidaungsu-hluttaw-law-44-2014-the-electricity-law-burmese.html

2016 Mon State medium- and small-scale electricity supply law

2015 Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Procedure
http://www.myanmar-responsiblebusiness.org/resources/environmental-impact-assessment-procedures.html

Links

[4] The Irrawaddy, 17 August 2017 "Legality of Mon State Cement Factory’s Power Plant Questioned" (accessed online 30.05.2018).
https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/legality-mon-state-cement-factorys-power-plant-questioned.html

[5] Myanmar Times, 12 January 2018 "Cement factory draws ire of fishermen" (accessed online 30.05.2018).
https://www.mmtimes.com/news/cement-factory-draws-ire-fishermen.html

[1] Sourcewatch.org on "Mawlamyine Cement power station" (accessed online 30.05.2018).
https://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Mawlamyine_Cement_power_station

[9] Myanmar Times, 22 December 2017 "Cement factory officials to meet residents over complaints" (accessed online 30.05.2018).
https://www.mmtimes.com/news/cement-factory-officials-meet-residents-over-complaints.html

[2] The Irrawaddy, 6 September 2017. "Mon State Parliament to Debate Controversial Cement Factory". (accessed online 30.05.2018).
https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/mon-state-parliament-debate-controversial-cement-factory.html

[3] The Irrawaddy, 21 July 2017. "More than 2,000 Locals Protest Cement Factory in Mon State" (accessed online 30.05.2018).
https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/2000-locals-protest-cement-factory-mon-state.html

[6] Myanmar Times, 8 February 2016 "Thai cement giant tackles Mon coal fears" (accessed online 30.05.2018).
https://www.mmtimes.com/business/18858-thai-cement-giant-tackles-mon-coal-fears.html

[7] Globalcement.com, 18 August 2017 "Mawlamyine plant may not have proper power plant permission" (accessed online 30.05.2018).
http://www.globalcement.com/news/item/6452-mawlamyine-plant-may-not-have-proper-power-plant-permission

[8] Myanmar Times, 28 November 2017 "Factory accused of using journalists to polish image" (accessed online 30.05.2018).
https://www.mmtimes.com/news/factory-accused-using-journalists-polish-image.html

Other Documents

Protests against the coal fired power plant Source: The Irrawaddy, https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/legality-mon-state-cement-factorys-power-plant-questioned.html
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/f_no_coal_protests_Mon_state__irrawaddy_.png

Vessels transporting coal to the factory Source: The Myanmar Times, https://www.mmtimes.com/news/cement-factory-draws-ire-fishermen.html
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/h_cement_vessels.jpg

https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/coal-fired_power_plant_built_in_MCL_Cement_.jpg

Meta Information

ContributorEJatlas Southeast Asia Team (ejatlas.asia"at"gmail.com)
Last update12/06/2018

Images

 

Protests against the coal fired power plant

Source: The Irrawaddy, https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/legality-mon-state-cement-factorys-power-plant-questioned.html

Vessels transporting coal to the factory

Source: The Myanmar Times, https://www.mmtimes.com/news/cement-factory-draws-ire-fishermen.html