Monday, July 12, 2010

New Sabah coal plant threat to ecosystem, says report

July 08, 2010
A villager walks in front of a coal-fired power plant on the outskirts of Shanxi province, China Nov 20, 2009. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, July 8 — The proposed 300MW coal-fired power plant in Felda Sahabat, Lahad Datu could, at the very least, raise sea temperatures by four degrees Celsius and displace some 70 families, according to a federal government report.

According to documents made available to The Malaysian Insider, the power plant near Kampung Sinakut, Lahad Datu, will also result in the loss of a traditional seaweed farming area measuring 4km.

Lahad Datu is located within Tawau in eastern Sabah and occupies the peninsula on the north side of Darvel Bay. The district is also the gateway to the Danum Valley Conservation Area (160 km away), the Tabin Wildlife Reserve in the east (20km away), and Madai Caves in the south.

The report warned that exposure to the transiting ships from the plant may harm the coral and marine life.

“At the jetty, there is a chance of spillage of oil, chemicals and other pollutants into the sea caused by accidents such as collisions or sinkings. Should the tugboats and their towed barges accidentally transit across, or close to Gazetted Marine Parks, or should they anchor, they may cause damage to the coral and harm marine life,” said the report of the detailed environment impact assessment (EIA) for the project..

The effect on seaweed farming would have a detrimental impact on nearby settlements as the communities’ livelihoods were dependent on fishing and seaweed farming.

The construction activity would have an adverse affect on the safety of the fishermen.

“The construction of the jetty will reduce the size of the fishing ground available to the local fishermen. The area near the jetty will no longer be available for fishing because of the construction activities that may pose danger to fishermen and their vessels and gears.

“Fishermen safety may also be adversely affected since construction activities (including increased in vessel movements for transporting construction equipment and materials) can increase the risk of collision and accidents involving fishermen vessels,” said the report.

The 300MW plant worth more than RM1.3 billion was proposed to generate power supply to help spur development of the Palm Oil Industries Cluster (POIC) Lahad Datu.

The proposed power plant will have four power units, each having a net electrical output of 75MW, and will use the most widely-used method of burning coal to generate steam.

The report stated that the maximum total ash generation in the power plant is estimated at 49,000 tonnes per year.

Fly ash is generally from the chimneys of coal-fired power plants while bottom ash is removed from the bottom of coal furnaces.

Most of the fly ash and some of the bottom ash produced by the plant will be sold to local cement manufacturers for construction material, while ash which is not sold will be disposed off in a designated ash yard.

However, studies have shown that ash containment yards could lead to groundwater contamination, which is hazardous to the environment and the inhabitants.

The report pointed out that the large amount of waste from the construction could also pose environmental risks.

It is estimated that the amount of solid waste generated by the workers would be about 2,000kg daily.

The coal plant was initially proposed in Silam, near Lahad Datu, and Sandakan, but both were rejected by the state government following protests.

The report also warned that the site would also cause an increase in emissions of sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and carbon dioxide, along with a degradation in water quality.

Environmentalists and activists have voiced their concerns over the power plant because it would affect the state’s “last wilderness frontier.”

The power plant’s impact on marine life is a major factor because Darvel Bay is considered as one of the country’s main seaweed production centre.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry’s Fisheries Department has also identified the bay as the area most suitable marine industry development in Sabah.

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