society organizations. The meeting was organized by the Myanmar Alliance for Transparency and Accountability (MATA) on January 13.
According to local accounts, residents were pleased that the cement project would bring new jobs but have been disappointed by the lack of transparency and communication offered by MCL.
“Before, we did not know clearly. What we knew was only that if the cement factory came here, the locals would have employment opportunities and our region would develop. But now we understand that they will use coal-fired power. Where will they throw the waste produced by the factory? If they throw it in the river, this will affect not only us but those who are in Moulmein since they use water from here. So it is a great worry for us,” said a villager from Kyaikmayaw Township.
Local residents said their concerns have also begun to extend beyond the impact of coal burning to include other perceived social ills.
“We have heard that drugs are being dealt around the cement factory, that employees’ salaries get cut off, or that workers come here illegally,” said Nai Aung Htoo, the head of MATA’s Committee. “[MCL] also plans to use a coal-fired plant at the factory. We have not had the opportunity to observe or give input about their project, so for the benefit of the villagers, we will form a group to monitor the cement factory project.”
The MCL cement project encountered challenges to land acquisition in its early planning stage that were later resolved. Local residents say they now wonder whether their concerns about the effects from coal burning will be addressed.
According to a Makhro villager, who asked to remain anonymous, “On the day [the company] held a meeting about the coal-fired plant, I attended. They said they wouldn’t be releasing harmful by-products into the air but into the ground, and they said this wouldn’t be dangerous.”
Construction of the MCL project began in January 2014 and production is slated to start in March 2016. The 12,400 million Baht project plans to produce about 5,000 tons of cement per day.