Myan­mar probes China-backed dam

Kuwait Times - - BUSINESS -

Myan­mar is prob­ing whether to re­sume con­struc­tion on a con­tro­ver­sial Chi­nese-backed dam, state me­dia re­ported yes­ter­day, with prom­ises to lis­ten to fierce pub­lic op­po­si­tion to the project.

The fate of the $3.6 bil­lion My­it­sone dam in north­ern Kachin state has hung in the bal­ance since it was abruptly halted by Myan­mar in 2011 fol­low­ing protests over en­vi­ron­men­tal and safety con­cerns. The hy­dropower project came to sym­bol­ise China’s economic dom­i­nance in for­merly junta-run Myan­mar and now poses a del­i­cate chal­lenge to the coun­try’s new civil­ian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The vet­eran ac­tivist is ea­ger to pre­vent re­newed protests at home but also wants to main­tain healthy ties with top in­vestor Bei­jing, which has been lob­by­ing her gov­ern­ment to un­freeze the project. China also holds strong sway over eth­nic rebel mili­tias along the two coun­tries’ restive bor­der and has a key role to play in peace talks that Suu Kyi is de­ter­mined to make progress on.

A com­mis­sion ad­vis­ing Suu Kyi’s ad­min­is­tra­tion on whether to scrap the dam sub­mit­ted its first re­port to her gov­ern­ment on Fri­day, ac­cord­ing to the state-run Global New Light of Myan­mar.

It said an en­vi­ron­men­tal and so­cial impact as­sess­ment was un­der­way and that the com­mis­sion had al­ready met lo­cal of­fi­cials and other stake­hold­ers. A fi­nal de­ci­sion on the project’s fate would take into con­sid­er­a­tion en­vi­ron­men­tal costs, the “de­sires and opin­ions of lo­cal peo­ple and so­ci­eties and po­ten­tial ef­fects on for­eign in­vest­ment”, the re­port added.

Lo­cal op­po­si­tion to the dam has been fu­elled by a mix of con­cerns, in­clud­ing its location near an ac­tive seis­mic fault line, the impact of flood­ing on lo­cal res­i­dents and a gen­eral lack of trans­parency in a project viewed as a re­source grab by Bei­jing. The dam was orig­i­nally de­signed to fun­nel the vast ma­jor­ity of its elec­tric­ity back to the main­land. China was in­stru­men­tal in shield­ing Myan­mar’s for­mer junta from in­ter­na­tional sanc­tions and was re­warded with lu­cra­tive con­ces­sions that of­ten had lit­tle trickle down ben­e­fit.

Bei­jing is still by far Myan­mar’s largest for­eign in­vestor, de­spite demo­cratic re­forms in re­cent years that have seen West­ern firms pour in. —AFP

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Kuwait

© PressReader. All rights reserved.