Expert warns of coal power’s health costs

Before giving permission to build coal-fuelled power plants, the government should conduct health assessments of those living near existing projects, mining expert Saw Moe Myint told a forum on power supplies.

“The health of people living near the Tijit and Kawthaung coal-fuelled power plants should be examined so we can evaluate the possible impact of future projects,” he said.

The government is planning to produce up to 13,100 megawatts of electricity from coal. It is predicted that carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired plants may jump to 96.6 million tonnes – 11 times the current 8.9 million tonnes.

“What we usually forgot to mention is that coal-powered electricity projects need lots of water. It takes 2.2 billion gallons for every coal power plant with a capacity of 500 megawatts. The question is how to supply such huge amounts of water,” Saw Moe Myint argued.

New coal technology, which was apparently far cleaner, consumed a great quantity of limestone and released a large amount of dust, he added.

Standards and procedures for coal use should be declared, Saw Moe Myint said.

“I’ve been in Pinlaung, Shan State, where houses are covered with ash filled with sulphur dioxide from the Tijit coal-powered plant. I’m sure this ash will turn to acid when the rain falls,” he said.

Coal-powered plants could harm nervous, respiratory and cardiac systems and cause many diseases, according to a US survey.
It was found that women living near coal-fuelled power plants were likely to suffer more from miscarriages, delivering underweight babies with lower intelligence and higher rates of mortality.

Ko Moe, an environmentalist, said: “People die early of ailments for which they have no knowledge. We’ve discovered that they are drinking water contaminated with ash.”