GROUNDBREAKING will begin for a 100-megawatt coal power plant in Preah Sihanouk province today amid pleas to the government to ensure its green credentials before allowing it to open.
Deputy Prime Minister Keat Chhon, minister of economy and finance, is to inaugurate the construction site.
Heng Kunleang, director of the Department of Energy Development for the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy, told the Post on Wednesday that the construction would be completed in three years.
“We hope that the power generated by the plant will be distributed not only to Preah Sihanouk province but also Phnom Penh,” he said.
The Sihanoukville project is 80-percent owned by Malaysian firm Leader Universal Holding’s Cambodian subsidiary, with the remainder held by Cambodian International Investment Development Group. In December, Leader announced it had hired Beijing-based Huadian Engineering Company to build the plant. It followed an application to invest US$200 million in the project in 2006.
Heng Kunleang said the ministry had spent a long time studying the proposed project for possible environmental impacts and economic effectiveness before giving the scheme the green light.
“We want power for the sake of development, but we will never forget to consider any negative effects it may have on the environment, which is concern for all of us,” he said.
Van Nara, an environmentalist from the Cambodian Association for the Protection of Environment and Culture, said Wednesday that the government should be very careful in its development of coal power plants. He said that if an environmental impact examination was not done carefully, problems could surface in the future. He added that in parts of Thailand, coal power plants have polluted the air and surrounding water, making residents sick or disabled.
“I think that the power generated by the plant will help fill in the present demand for electricity in the country,” he said. “But the government must thoroughly inspect the plant before allowing official operations to start. Cambodia also has many other good choices to produce electricity, such as solar and wind power.”
Thiv Sophearith, chief of the Office of Air Noise and Vibration Management, said: “We think that the company may have already put enough measures in to prevent environmental pollution.”
According to the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy, it plans to approve construction of a second 100-megawatt coal power plant in Preah Sihanouk province this year.