Published on Tuesday, 01 October 2013 18:04
A construction site of Myitson dam project seen (Photo-Win Myint Kyaw/EMG)
The China Power Investment company is attempting to restart the controversial Myitsone dam project despite persistent environmental concerns.
The Myitsone dam and hydroelectric power project, planned at the source of the Ayeyarwady River 42 kilometres north of Myitkyina, in Kachin State, has been widely criticized due to its potential flooding area forcing many villages to relocate to so called model villages.
Its environmental impact has also been the source of much contention as it is located on the earthquake-prone Sagaing fault line as well as its impact on the larger Ayeyarwady River basin.
Meteorologist Dr. Tun Lwin voiced his concerns during a meeting of the Ayeyarwady River Basin Research Organization on Saturday.
"I've been hearing about how they are trying to restart this project. I feel worried. This is happening even though the President said he'd stop this [project] while he is in office. He has only completed half of his term, and the other side is preparing to restart the dam," said Dr. Tun Lwin.
The original project outlined in 2001 was to be built by China Power Investment (CPI) in a joint venture with the state-contracted Asia World Company, Suntac Technologies, the Myanmar Electrical Power Enterprise, and Kansai Electric Power Company.
On September 30, 2011, President Thein Sein announced that the Myitsone dam project was to be halted during his term in office citing public concerns over the project.
However, when a four-member delegation from the 88 Peace and Open Society led by Mya Aye visited China in June this year, they met with officials from CPI who voiced their desire to continue the project.
On September 29, a delegation including twenty-one Kachin MP's visited the dam project site at the invitation of CPI. The company appealed to the delegation, including journalists from state-owned media, highlighting the benefits of the dam and the model villages they have built to relocate residents who would be displaced by the dam.
According to Dr. Tun Lwin, CPI has invested Ks. 400 million to open an office in the capital Nay Pyi Taw, further indications that the dam project may be resumed.
Once constructed, the 1,310 metre long dam is said to provide between 3,600 to 6,000 Megawatts of electricity, mainly for export to Yunnan province in China. Another source of contention is that the project will bring little benefit to local communities in a country where only 30 percent of the population have access to electricity.
Professor Nyo Maung from the Biodiversity and Nature Conservation Association (BANCA), who wrote the environmental impact assessment report for the Myitsone project, said that their report was never shown to international experts, highlighting a lack of transparency in the process.
"When the Myitsone project was started, Chinese and Myanmar scholars studied the environmental impact and submitted separate reports to the company (CPI) in May 2010. However, when I look at the provisions in the report that have been criticized by international experts, they are not the ones from our report. I believe the company didn't show our report to the international community," said Nyo Maung.
Environmentalist Daewi Thant Zin said that the Myanmar public will not rest easy if China restarts the Myitsone dam project.
"They are getting ready to restart the Ayeyarwady [project]. Based on what we have been hearing, we can't rest our mind at ease completely for our Ayeyarwady River. The chairman of CPI told the media that 60 percent of the investment already been paid to the government," said Daewi Thant Zin.
"We are not opposing this because of the Chinese government. Now countries from both the West and the East are doing business in Myanmar. So I don't believe our public will accept it even if were the U.S., Japan or Korea constructing the Myitsone project. I reject this as our national duty," she added.
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