Sepa voices concern

(Daily Express) Kota Kinabalu: Sabah Environmental Protection Society (Sepa) Wednesday expressed grave concern over Tenaga Nasional Berhad’s (TNB) plan to build the controversial coal-fired power plant at a “totally pristine” wilderness coastline in Dent Peninsula.


“From our recent field visit, we understand that Kampung Sinakut, just a stone’s throw (one kilometre or so) from Sahabat Resort, is the proposed site for the 300MW plant.

“Kg Sinakut is part of a totally pristine coastline 40km long, stretching between Tunku and Dent Heaven around the eastern-most tip of Dent Peninsula,” said its President Wong Tack (pic).

“This is Sabah’s last wilderness frontier,” he told reporters at a press conference.

Lapping this coastline are kilometres of snow-white sandy beaches, according to Wong.

“You look out to Darvel Bay or the Sulu Sea, you would be staring at the deep blue sea with corals lining the sea beds. This is Sabah’s rich lobster ground. Restaurants in Kota Kinabalu get their lobster orders from here,” he said.

“Sabah Fisheries officials have said Darval Bay is the only remaining pristine sea in Sabah and this is the reason why it has been selected as the seaweed production centre in the country,” he added.

“The whole marine ecosystem here form part of the Indo-Pacific region known by marine scientists as the epi-centre of global marine biodiversity, that is, where diversity of marine organisms is the highest in the world,” Wong noted.

“Coral diversity is so concentrated it prompted Indonesia, Malaysia and Philippines to form the Coral Triangle Initiative to protect it,” he said.

“Once set up, the plant will draw millions of litres of pure seawater every day, then inject chlorine into it to kill organisms like barnacles to prevent their growth on the inner surfaces of the cooler’s condenser pipes so that it won’t be clogged.

Then millions of litres of these chlorinated water will be discharged back to the sea every single day, every week, every month and every year for the next century perhaps and what will happen to this pristine sea when it is all over?” Wong asked.

“TNB and SESB (Sabah Electricity Sdn Bhd) should know that this kind of area has to be protected but instead they want to move into the most pristine coastline to set up one of the dirtiest industries that we know.

This is insane, for anybody to propose such a highly polluting power plant in a pristine wilderness,” he said.

The location was disclosed and announced by the District Officer during a meeting with the village people, called just a day before Ramadan, claimed Wong.

“The location was picked without prior consultation with the village folks.

We understand that they have been told to relocate.

“The feeling is not good. They are worried and upset. They are asking why they impose it to the ‘orang kampung’ after Sandakan and Silam had rejected it and are strongly against it because they say their livelihood depends on a good coastline where they can fish, eat what they catch and sell the extra.

This is their livelihood,” he said, adding, “we heard comments like ‘Orang kampung bukan manusia kah?’ (Are villagers not human?).”

The third point about it is the location is next to the 120,000-hectare Tabin Wildlife Reserve where they are going to start an ambitious fenced-up Rhino breeding programme in the natural forests, said Wong.

“They will argue clean coal technology but just observe what they do at night when they open the valves of the chimneys and fine coal ash is sent billowing into the atmosphere,” he said.

“This fine ash is not dry but oily in nature. When it settles on the canopy of a forest like Tabin, they will stick to the leaves and impede photosynthesis and we are very concerned that maybe 10 years or more down the road, it will gradually sicken a major conservation forest like Tabin,” Wong pointed out.

In addition, it is also close to one of the biggest Ramsar sites in Malaysia. “Clearly this is a statewide issue,” Wong contended.

“Eco tourism is big stuff in Sabah and this may tarnish Sabah’s green image, effectively blocking investment in green technologies, green employment and green development,” he said.

“The sad part is this happens when everybody is talking about renewables, with US President Barrack Obama taking the lead declaring the US is no longer a bystander in climate change but is investing US$80 billion in green technologies,” he added.

“We are also puzzled why locate the plant in such a secluded area when it will cost another RM200 million to build just the transmission lines to deliver power to Lahad Datu,” said Wong.

“SESB has often argued that dependence on West-East coast transmission grid risk security of power supply should the single lines get damaged. If that be so, why now suddenly such transmission risk from Felda to Lahad Datu and 300km to Tawau or Sandakan is no more an issue?” he asked.

“The fact is studies worldwide show blackouts are seldom caused by damage to transmission lines but more to inappropriate design problems.

Sabah had only two statewide blackouts in history, one of which was caused by an old tree falling and snapping high tension wires near Pangi hydro plant and the other due to metal thieves dismantling a transmission tower because SESB did not use one-way bolts which would have otherwise made it impossible for anyone to unscrew anything,” Wong said.

“But they argue the Government is willing to spend, but this is public money. Why not instead use the money to complete the Keningau-Tawau transmission loop and hook the 300MW Kimanis gas power plant and the 180MW Ulu Tomani hydro dam to that there will be about an extra 500MW of electricity that can be delivered to the East Coast,” Wong asserted.

“In addition to that, Ranhill at KKIP is building some extra 190MW gas power turbines which will be ready by the end of next year while the Kimanis gas power plant can easily be increased to 750MW and similarly in Ranhill,” Wong argued.

Given this situation, Sepa is calling for a public forum to look into all the alternative energy options before TNB and SESB propose the EIA study at Felda to fulfil the promise made by Datuk Masidi Manjun at a forum organised by SESB at Sutera Magellan Resort two years ago, appealed Wong.