Sunday, November 21, 2010

Environmentalists oppose coal-fired power plant in Mindanao

SARANGANI PROVINCE, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Nov. 21, 2010) - The Greenpeace flagship Rainbow Warrior sailed in Mindanao's Sarangani province in the southern Philippines to join thousands of local folks who are against a proposed coal-fired power plant in Maasim town.

The ship was accompanied by hundreds of small fishing boats to the town's shore. The fishermen formed the words “Clean Energy Now” using at least 75 boats and villagers banded together to form the word "No" in San Felipe Colon Elementary school just a few hundred meters away from the coal plant project site.

“Coal is dirty energy. It has negative effects on health because of its toxic emissions. We want to protect our environment so our air and water can remain clean for our children,” Vicente Jatico, chairman of Maasim People’s Coalition on Climate Change, said in a statement sent to the regional newspaper, the Mindanao Examiner.

"Coal may seem like the most practical fuel because of its abundance, but from mining, through combustion to waste disposal, and in some cases, recultivation, coal has a dire impact on the environment, human health and the social fabric of communities living near mines, plants and waste sites. Aside from massive carbon dioxide emissions when this fuel is burnt, coal severely damages ecosystems and contaminates water supplies. It emits other greenhouse gases like methane, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide, as well as chemicals like arsenic and mercury which can disrupt human mental and physical development," he said.

Greenpeace said Conal Holding Corporation is planning to build a US$ 450-million, 200 megawatts coalfired power plant in Kamanga village.

Conal claimed that their so-called “clean coal” technology and planned 4,100-hectare ‘carbon sequestration’ project will minimize the negative impacts. Greenpeace asserts that these claims are patently untrue.

"No coal-fired power plants are truly clean. Clean coal methods only move pollutants from one waste stream to another which are then still released into the environment. Any time coal is burnt, contaminants are released. They can be released via the ash, the gaseous air emissions, water outflow or the ash left at the bottom after burning. Ultimately they still end up polluting the environment."

"Coal combustion is the largest single source of atmospheric mercury emissions. There are no commercially available technologies to prevent mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants. Mercury is an extremely toxic metal that has no biochemical or nutritional function. Most of the toxic effects of the substance that can result from exposure are on the central nervous system," Greenpeace said.

It said fisher folks are among the worst impacted victims of the coal plant operations. The site of the Conal coal plant overlaps a marine sanctuary in fertile Sarangani Bay. Construction will adversely affect the rich coral beds in the area, and the air pollution from coal combustion will have negative impacts on fishing catch, aside from reducing crop yields, it added.

“Greenpeace is supporting communities in Southeast Asia in their struggle against coal. Coal is a curse to communities. The development of coal-fired power plants are a shameful example of how time and again, people’s livelihoods and health, and our natural biodiversity on which these depend, are sacrificed for short term prosperity that benefits only a very small sector of society. Such dirty and inequitable development victimizes populations and resources essential for economic sustainability,” said Amalie Obusan, Greenpeace Southeast Asia Climate and Energy Campaigner.

The Greenpeace flagship Rainbow Warrior is in Thailand for the first leg of the “Turn the Tide” tour of Southeast Asia. Greenpeace is calling on ASEAN member nations to support green investments and adopt low-carbon growth
pathway for future development.

The Tour marks 10 years of Greenpeace Southeast Asia campaigns to protect forests, catalyze an Energy Revolution, promote sustainable agriculture, and stop water pollution in the region.

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