Myitsone hydro project needs tripartite discussions: KNCP

Maung Htoo
The Myanmar Green Network meets in Myitson region, Kachin State on October 29, 2016.

The Myanmar government, the Chinese government and its company and the Kachin political group should meet for a tripartite discussion in seeking a solution to the Myitsone project issue, said Dr Am Kaw La, chairperson of the Kachin National Congress Party.

The KNCP, recently the Myitsone hydropower project with Zhao Laipu, vice chairman of Upstream Ayeyarwady Confluence Basin Hydropower Company (ACHC) and Zhang Hua Ngui, project site manager. The Kachin party met with the Chinese company’s officials to discuss creating a tripartite discussion in search of a solution to the controversial project, Am Kaw La said.

The Myanmar government and the Chinese company had driven the project forward, he said. But a tripartite understanding involving the Kachin political group is essential for it to progress further.

“We gave a message to the Chinese officials – it would be impossible for the project to go ahead if they turned a blind eye to [Kachin] inclusion in the discussions. It is the key point,” Am Kaw La said.

“In the meeting with the vice chairman of the ACHC, we demanded three technical points in engineering, meteorology and hydrology, and geology. The Chinese company has not yet shared information with us, Dr Am Kaw La said.

The project could not continue based on support of the NLD government alone, he said, citing the impact of the project on the heritage of the Kachin people.

“If China, which is always a dialogue partner to Myanmar, ignores this point it may encounter some difficulty. We urged China to stand as the dialogue partner. We will also urge Myanmar the government. We don’t know how they will respond,” Am Kaw La said.

The discussion would pave the way for an improved political landscape in the area, he said.

“If the political landscape is transparent, we will consult Kachin people and Kachin political groups about the situation.”

The party brings an attitude of cooperation to the issue, he said.

On the government side, large hydropower dams are not a priority in Myanmar’s strategy to tackle chronic power shortages, Win Khaing, the country’s new energy minister said in a recent interview. The statement has cast doubt about the future of the controversial China-backed project in the country’s north.

A spokesperson from China’s foreign affairs ministry said that nation’s stance toward Myanmar will never change. Being dependent on bilateral interests, China would always promote bilateral cooperation.

The commission for reviewing and scrutinising hydropower projects was formed on August 12 in 2016.

The commission issued a first report that November, but has since not published an update.

Translated by Win Htut