established a civil development association earlier this month to monitor and solve any erupting social issues.
The association began in Kaw Ton Village, consisting of about 20 local monks and 100 local residents as they held a meeting on January 22. It was founded out of local concerns reacting to recent reports about the nearby coal-fired power project, which will generate electricity for the Mawlamyine Cement Limited (MCL) cement factory. MCL’s production is set to start in 2016.
“The people from the MCL are damaging our natural environment for their business and profits. Our environment will be affected till the world ends if it is damaged. In particular, if the coal-fired plant is applied for the electricity of the cement factory, it will use water from the Ataran river, while the released waste from the factory will also go into the river. The smoke, ash and waste from the factory will flow along the river as toxic waste,” said Min Thein Oo, from Kaw Ton Village.
It is not enough for the MCL to run its factory with the electricity access distributed in Mon State. It has been reported that the Anhui Conch Kawasaki Engineering Co., Ltd from Japan would build a coal-fired plant which is able to produce 40 Mega-Watt electricity for the cement factory. However, MCL has not yet confirmed the construction of the coal-fired plant.
“They are telling us different lies. They lie to us that they would pave the roads for us and provide electricity for us. But, we should leave the limestone mountain, which is more than 2,000 years old, as it is in it’s natural way. Such limestone mountains are very rare in Burma. The MCL is the source of SCG, which is from Thailand. Thailand has this kind of Limestone Mountain. But the government does not let companies touch it. It attracts tourists through tourism projects,” continued Min Thein Oo.
According to Daily Eleven’s newspaper, issued on January 10, 2016, “A coal-fired plant is being built in the compound of Mawlamyine Cement Limited, near Kon Ngan Village, Mawlamyine [Moulmein] District, Mon State,
“The companies say something and do the other. It is now the MCL which constructs a cement factory. It did not tell the local people about its coal-fired power for electricity production. They also promised that it would not cause any noise when it blew off the limestone. But now when they exploit the mine, the earth shakes,” said Sayadaw Ashin Kay Thara, from Kon Ngan Village, in an interview with MNA.
The representatives from the MCL promised the locals before the start of the cement construction, “The SCG [Thailand’s cement factory] in Thailand is very careful not to cause any harm to the environment regarding its factories’ operation. Similarly, we will not cause any harm to the environment here when we construct the factory in Mon State. We will use modern technology for the factory to reduce noise, reducing big noises when we blow off the limestone and release as little ash and smoke as possible. If necessary, we will also set up a forest department to prevent environmental destruction.”
“Before, the representatives from the company came to meet us and told us that they would solely produce cement. They never told us that they would use a coal-fired plant. Now, we have heard that they would use coal-fired power to produce electricity,” said Nai Palain, a resident of Kaw Ton Village.
According to Daily Eleven, issued on January 10, “Mon State’s Electricity Ministry did not know that that [MCL] cement factory would build a coal-fired plant to generate it’s electricity. The MCL company had direct contact with the union government, I did not know which power plant the company would use to operate its factory”, stated the Mon State Government Minister.
It will be too late for the locals to ask where the factory gets its power since the electricity ministry itself didn’t know, as stated above. Although the government already agreed with the MCL to develop this huge project in Mon State.
According to the report from the Mon State Government, upon its completed tasks between 2010 and October, 2015, the Mawlamyine Cement Limited (MCL) invested USD 272.56 million in its cement project in Kon Ngan Village, Kyaikmayaw Township, and its factory can produce 5000 tons of cement per day. From January 2014 till the report was released, 50% of the project is complete. The MCL planned to start its cement production in mid-2016. The MCL already received permits from the Myanmar Investment Committee and Mon State Government as well as a limestone production permit from Mining Ministry [Union level].
To analyze this, the government or respective ministries agreed to this cement project, so it would be likely that they already have agreements with the company’s electricity plans. Therefore, there is no doubt that while the Mon State Government is not brave enough to report about the agreements to the local residents, MCL continues to implement its project quietly.
It is necessary for the local organizations, civil society organizations and media groups to watch the projects, that can have negative impacts on the environment,especially during this lack of the transparency. Also, this case must be reported to the new government. Hence, I would like to urge that it is essential to keep our eyes on the matter of MCL’s coal-fired project.