Hy­dropower projects in Kachin to be re­viewed

The Myanmar Times - - News - YE MON yeemon­tun@mm­times.com

ON the eve of a visit to China by For­eign Min­is­ter Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Pres­i­dent U Htin Kyaw has an­nounced the cre­ation of a com­mis­sion to look into the coun­try’s hy­dropower projects, in­clud­ing the con­tro­ver­sial My­it­sone dam on the Aye­yarwady River in Kachin State.

Ac­cord­ing to the an­nounce­ment re­leased on Au­gust 12, the 20-mem­ber com­mis­sion will re­view and scru­ti­nise the projects to as­sess the likely ben­e­fits for Myan­mar cit­i­zens, and to make rec­om­men­da­tions on whether they should pro­ceed.

The My­it­sone dam, a ma­jor Chi­nese project, was sus­pended for the re­main­der of his term of of­fice by then-pres­i­dent U Thein Sein in 2011. Though his de­ci­sion was crit­i­cised in China, it was widely wel­comed in Myan­mar, in­clud­ing by lo­cal res­i­dents, who had com­plained of land grabs and the re­lo­ca­tion of vil­lages.

Deputy Pyithu Hlut­taw Speaker U T Khun Myat will chair the com­mis­sion, and the min­is­ter for the Of­fice of the State Coun­sel­lor, U Kyaw Tint Swe, will serve as vice chair. The com­mis­sion must con­sult cit­i­zens and civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions in re­view­ing the con­tracts from the point of view of ex­pected ben­e­fits for both Myan­mar cit­i­zens and for­eign in­vestors. Its first re­port to the pres­i­dent is due on Novem­ber 11.

Lo­cal res­i­dents have of­ten vo­cally op­posed hy­dropower plants on the Aye­yarwady River, and the My­it­sone dam is a par­tic­u­lar ob­ject of their anger.

The for­mer mil­i­tary regime in­vited a Chi­nese com­pany to build the 4600-megawatt My­it­sone dam in 2006. China Power In­vest­ment, now re­named Up­stream Aye­yarwady Con­flu­ence Basin Hy­dropower (ACHC), built a new vil­lage in 2009 to ac­com­mo­date res­i­dents re­lo­cated from Tan Hpre, Pa Tan and My­it­sone vil­lages.

Daw Ja Hkaung, a mem­ber of the Mungchy­ing Rawt Jat or­gan­i­sa­tion in Kachin State, a vet­eran op­po­nent of the My­it­sone project, said they would mon­i­tor the com­mis­sion’s work and ad­vise it to rec­om­mend that the project should be aban­doned.

“The sit­u­a­tion will be bad if the com­mis­sion rec­om­mends con­tin­u­ing the projects. We don’t want them. We will mon­i­tor the com­mis­sion’s meet­ings with cit­i­zens and CSOs to make sure the re­sults are not faked,” she said, echo­ing the con­tent of an open letter the or­gan­i­sa­tion had sent to the pres­i­dent in May.

En­vi­ron­men­tal spe­cial­ist U Win Myo Thu, direc­tor of EcoDev Myan­mar, told The Myan­mar Times that the for­ma­tion of the com­mis­sion was a step in the right di­rec­tion. He said he hoped it would re­sult in changes for the hy­dropower projects.

“I also hope the com­mis­sion ad­vises against con­tin­u­ing the projects,” he said.

ACHC re­leased a state­ment on Au­gust 13 wel­com­ing the com­mis­sion and say­ing that it would help the pub­lic learn the truth of the projects.

“Dur­ing the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Aye­yarwady Hy­dropower Projects, the com­pany con­ducted project con­struc­tion ac­tiv­i­ties strictly in ac­cor­dance with Myan­mar law and rel­e­vant con­trac­tual agree­ments,” said the state­ment.

The state­ment said the com­pany would con­tinue to abide by the laws and covenants, prac­tise cor­po­rate so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity and of­fer the com­mis­sion its full co­op­er­a­tion.

For­eign Min­is­ter Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will visit China from Au­gust 17 to 20.

Photo: Aung Myin Ye Zaw

A man poles a bamboo raft near the My­it­sone in Kachin State.

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