Following a state-sponsored study tour to coal-fired power plants (CPP) in Kuching, Johor Baru, Perak and Selangor, a Sabah-based Anti-CPP action committee has returned even more fired-up in its objections against the proposed CPP project in Sandakan.
The four-day trip, in which 43 representatives from the Anti-CPP action committee and several other business, government and political bodies took part, was reportedly supported by the Sabah government in order to provide a clearer picture of the pros and cons of CPPs.
Action committee chairperson Stephen Wong, however, said the Sep 8-12 junket had only bolstered their resolve to reject the proposed 300MW CPP for Sandakan.
“After our visit to various coal power plants namely Sejingkat in Kuching Sarawak, Tanjung Bin in Johor Baru, Manjung in Perak, and Kapar in Selangor, we have doubts on the justification and reasoning to build a coal power plant in Sandakan,” he said in a statement today.
Wong, who is also secretary-general of the Sandakan Chinese Chamber of Commerce (SCCC), said the reasons the CPP project - which had originally been planned for Lahad Datu but was scrapped for public health and welfare and environmental reasons - should be rejected include:
- Coal is the dirtiest of all fossil fuels and coal dust will litter Sandakan and settle far and wide in the town and residential areas surrounding it;
- Large amount of heat will be released into the atmosphere when coal is burnt, therefore spelling the possibility of climate change for Sandakan in the form of hotter days in dry seasons and more rain in the wet seasons. This will have tremendous effect on our crop and forest habitats;
- Non-combustible substances produced when burning coal such as fly ash and bottom ash contain arsenic, will cause cancer in one out of 100 people who drink water containing just 50 parts of such ash per billion parts of water. The waste also contains lead, cadmium and other heavy metals, and trace amounts of uranium;
- When burnt, the resulting haze from the burnt coal’s production of fly ash can cause chronic bronchitis, aggravated asthma, lung cancer, heart attacks and premature death;
- Bituminous coal, in particular, contains mercury and, when burnt will be released into the atmosphere and contaminate fish and plants. Just 1/70th of a teaspoon deposited on a 25-acre lake is said to render the fish therein unsafe to eat;
- The burning of coal produces carbon dioxide (CO2), the primary cause of global warming and climate change. The proposed site is slated to produce 2,700,000 tonnes of CO2 per year, the equivalent of cutting down 121 million trees;
- Incomplete burning of coal will produce 720 tons of carbon monoxide (CO), which causes headaches and place additional stress on people with heart disease;
- The burning of coal will also release 10,000 tonnes of sulfur dioxide (SO2) per year, which causes acid rain and damages forests, lakes and buildings. Small airborne SO2 particles can penetrate into lungs;
- Even if SO2 is removed using the 'seawater desulfurization system', it will most probably be dumped into the sea. Both the marine life and fishermen of Sandakan Bay cannot afford to have toxic waste being poured into their waters;
- About 10,000 tonnes of nitrogen oxide (Nox) a year will also be produced by the burning of coal, which is the equivalent of that emitted by half-a-million late-model cars. NOx causes smog, leads to the incidence of lung inflamation, the burning of lung tissue and makes people more susceptible to respiratory illness;
- The large volumes of seawater used as coolant will be released into the shore environments, thereby increasing their temperatures;
- The injection of chlorine and dispersants into the intake seawater to prevent the growth of fouling organisms on the surface of the cooling systems will result in chlorination by-products which might potentially inhibit microbes that play ecologically important roles in coastal ecosystems.
State gov't's call
Reminding Sabah Chief Minister Musa Aman that he had on April 2 said the Lahad Datu CPP proposal was scrapped so as not to "risk the welfare and health of the communities in the area as well as any adverse impact on the environment," Wong said it is for these same reasons that the proposed CPP for Sandakan be junked.
"Sandakan does not need the coal power plant as other means of electricity supply are available, such as gas, hydro, bio-mass, wind and solar (power).
"The present and future electricity grid system can be available to deliver electricity to Sandakan. Please keep Sandakan free from environmental pollution by adopting a green energy (policy)," he said.
The Sabah Department of Environment (DOE) was earlier reported to have said it would be the state government that would decide on the fate of the Sandakan CPP project.
Even if an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) approval was obtained, the project may not be implemented, said DOE's principal assistant director Sharifah Zakiah Syed Sahab earlier this month.