The project in question that of Building a reduced-sulfur generating, coal-fired plant by GHECO-One in Map Ta Phut, Thailand was examined for potential environmental impact due to the possible damage that the plant could cause. The company has stated throughout that their wish is to construct a plant that will be both environmentally and physically safe for the people, plants and animals that live within the region. This evaluation looks at that report with a specific view towards whether this environmental assessment is overly politicized in order to pacify the examining board of the country, and whether the site will have a cultural impact for the regions fishermen and others who either work in the area or are in some way affected by it. This evaluation is conducted to determine if the impact assessment met all of the requirements of a truthful and straightforward telling of the facts.
Summary of Assessment
The primary focus of the report is too give the reader an idea of how the plant is to be constructed, in what area, what, if anything, will be its impact on the environment and people surrounding the plant and the benefits that the plant will give to the people of Map Ta Phut. The report begins by stating that "demand for utilities especially electricity in the Eastern Seaboard region of Thailand continues to grow in parallel to the economic growth in the manufacturing, commercial and residential industries" (GHECO-One, 2010). This summarizes the need for power in the area due to the needs of individual dwellings and industry. Of course, the first mention in the report is of an industrial nature, but that is of little consequence in and of itself. That both the utility and the country would put industry before people is understandable because the utility will service industry at a much greater rate than residential homes, and because the revenue generated from this endeavor will primarily come from industry.
The company (GHECO-One) conducted the environmental assessment using data from previous construction of similar plants, data concerning the use of "very low sulfur content coal (not exceeding 1%)" (CHECO-One, 2010), qualitative assessments of the use of area seawater as a coolant instead of fresh water, and impact forums designed to hear the concerns of local citizens. The impact report covers environmental and social impact in nine areas: air quality, noise level, water quality, marine biological resources, transportation, solid waste management, social impact and public participations, occupational health and safety, and public health (GHECO-One, 2010). GHECO-One, a subsidiary of Glow Energy Public Company, Ltd., gathered the needed information and conducted the needed operations to produce the report of the plant to be located in Map Ta Phut.
The project was set to begin in 2008 with a projected end date of 2011. While the construction phase of the project was happening and after operation commenced the plant's owners intended to keep lines of communication between the people in the area and the plant operators, and to continuously provide environmental impact reports for the general public to view (Kimsuwanmalee, 2011). The policies developed to ensure that the plant met, and exceeded, all possible environmental codes (Which would affect any of the nine assessed areas after construction was complete) have been processes that Glow Group has followed for more than 15 years (Kimsuwanmalee, 2011).
Analysis of Merits and Limitations
On the surface it is simple to see the merits of the approach that the company is taking to protect the environment and the people. The goal of the project was the "reduction of overall accumulated air emission; generate income to the local community via employment and taxes; and contribution to the Surrounding Community Development Fund Project" (Kimsuwanmalee, 2011). The company seeks to ensure that the emissions from the plant do not exceed 1% sulfur, and that they are able to run clean water through the plant, and provide the same level of cleanliness back to the environment.
One of the goals, ensuring that the water used is able to be recovered by the environment, was a process that the plant developed (GHECO-One, 2010). The environmental impact plan states that they will "provide a wastewater treatment system/holding pond for storing treated water and inspecting its quality. The water whose quality is within the standard is drained out to the 500-meter canal and further to the sea" (GHECO-One, 2010). The plan calls for the water to be tested once it reaches the pond for compliance with state and international regulations. If the water does not meet the requirements, then it will be retreated, as many times as necessary, until it meets the standard.
Another positive aspect of the project is that there has been a concerted effort on the part of the managers of the site, throughout the construction process, to ensure that the public can voice any concerns that they have (GHECO-One, 2010). The major concerns that people voiced is that the noise from construction would impact them, and that, with the poor record Thailand has with environmental issues, that this was just a smoke-screen. GHECO-One answered all of the questions posed by citing the environmental and social friendliness of the site.
The report is generally strong when it comes to talking about what type of fuel will be used because it goes into detail about the exact percentage of sulfur allowed and the scrubbing that will occur to defray the dust and other particles that may be harmful to the people in the surrounding area and the environment as a whole. This is especially important in light of events in the area within the last three years. As a matter of fact, much of the activity in the area has been shut down because of the Map Ta Phut "crisis."
The crisis is that the industrial are where the low-sulfur coal plant is to be has had egregious environmental issues in the past (Hariharan, 2011). The author "warns of an anti-industrialization wave that is spreading across Thailand, especially in the southern provinces where the government would like to create a new industrial zone" (Harihan, 2011). Basically, the people of the city have filed an injunction in court to stop all new projects in the region (Richardson, 2009). This has been happening for the past three years and the GHECO-One project was one of the ones affected at first, but they were allowed to continue operations along with eleven other companies which were the: "Clean energy and product quality enhancement/Rayong Refinery; Gas recycling enhancement/HMC Polymers; Clean energy, oil vapor controlling unit installation/Star Petroleum Refining; Oil vapor controlling unit installation/PTT Aromatics and Refining; Air pollution improvement/Indorama Petroleum; Wastewater treatment improvement/PTT; Chlorine vaporizer and wet scrubber installation/Aditya Berla Chemicals (Thailand); Tank relocation/Map't Tank Terminal; LPG/Brutene Depot-Wharf/PTT Chemical; Loading Arm Installation/Star Petroleum Refining; and Petrochemical Depot-Wharf/Map Ta Phut Tank Terminal" (Richardon, 2009).
The reason that all of these projects were allowed to continue is because they have been proactive in their attempts to make sure that the environment is a first concern (Hariharan, 2011). The country has also received offers of free assistance from Japan;s Fujitsu, Corp. with new technology to better gage air quality in the region (Fujitsu, 2012). GHECO-One anticipated the need to have a plant that would match the soon to come air quality laws, and the report demonstrates the strength of their position in this area.
The reports treatment of air quality is weak because of the language that the writers chose to use. In discussing how they will control air quality the assessment says "plant evergreen trees around the coal yard and the trees should be tall enough to fit the coal pile; construct wind shields against wind directions from south and west of the yard, with the height of around fifteen meters" (GHECO-One, 2010). In any assessment words such as "should" and "around" make the report seem suspect. It is a weak treatment of the subject, and leads the reader to believe that the company is unconcerned with some areas of air quality, or that they believe that other measures are sound enough that there will be no real need for those that they weakly explain.
The treatment of how the company plans to return water to the sea is also questionable. One of the stated goals of the assessment is to make sure that water quality is maintained by the site. They have planned a method for doing this, but after the water is treated by the site, they plan to return it to the sea. The exact wording is "The water whose quality is within the standard is drained out to the 500-meter canal and further to the sea" (GHECO-One, 2010). The reason that this is problematic is that there is no mention of how the water quality will affect the sea life after it is released. Sea animals require certain salination levels to survive. If those vital levels are not maintained then the sea creatures will die. This could…