Ac­tivists fear My­it­sone restart

The Myanmar Times - - News - CHAN MYA HTWE chan­myahtwe@mm­times.com

AC­TIVISTS are pre­pared to re­sume protests against the My­it­sone megadam de­vel­op­ment in Kachin State, amid con­cerns that For­eign Min­is­ter Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s visit to China could re­sult in the re­vival of the sus­pended project.

“I will protest against the project re­sum­ing be­cause [it would] af­fect the en­vi­ron­ment along the [Aye­yarwady] River,” said U Sa Gi, gen­eral sec­re­tary of the Kachin So­cial De­vel­op­ment Net­work Team. Some 2500 res­i­dents dis­placed from the dam’s prospec­tive im­pact zone prior to the sus­pen­sion say their re­lo­ca­tion to Aung Myin Thar and Maliyan camps has left them fac­ing crit­i­cal food se­cu­rity is­sues, as well as ma­jor con­cerns over ac­cess to health­care and ed­u­ca­tion. Kachin civil so­ci­ety groups are de­mand­ing the new com­mis­sion tasked last week with scru­ti­n­is­ing hy­dropower de­vel­op­ments in the state take into con­sid­er­a­tion in­ter­na­tional best prac­tice, weigh­ing long-term eco­nomic ben­e­fits against po­ten­tial neg­a­tive en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pacts.

The com­mis­sion’s first re­port is slated to be passed to Pres­i­dent U Htin Kyaw in Novem­ber. Ac­tivists say they hope the com­mis­sion will take a thor­ough and con­sul­ta­tive ap­proach in mak­ing its as­sess­ment.

A chief bug­bear of those op­posed to the dam is that just 10 per­cent of elec­tric­ity gen­er­ated will go to Myan­mar. The re­main­der will go di­rectly to China.

“The elec­tric power from this My­it­sone project is 3600 megawatts and just 10pc, or 360 megawatts, will go to Myan­mar,” said en­vi­ron­men­tal ac­tivist Saw Moe Myint, who firmly be­lieves that when it comes to My­it­sone, the neg­a­tives de­ci­sively out­weigh the positives.

“The amount of elec­tric­ity pro­duced is large but the amount we get is very small, and [it is a loss] for the en­vi­ron­ment. It is not worth it,” he said.

Smaller-scale projects from rivers and trib­u­taries other than the Aye­yarwady ought to be con­sid­ered as they could har­ness as much as 200 megawatts – all of which would go to Myan­mar – Saw Moe Myint said. He pointed to a loan from the World Bank as a po­ten­tial means of fi­nanc­ing such a ven­ture. Pres­i­den­tial eco­nomic ad­viser Sean Tur­nell told The Myan­mar Times there were many fac­tors to be con­sid­ered, and that it was cru­cial for any ma­jor de­vel­op­ment like My­it­sone to be ef­fec­tive in terms of cost. How­ever, he urged prag­ma­tism on the mat­ter of bi­lat­eral re­la­tions and en­ergy re­quire­ments.

“[There needs to be a] good re­la­tion­ship be­tween China and Myan­mar. There are many prob­lems at My­it­sone. Myan­mar needs elec­tric power. The My­it­sone project is mainly for elec­tric­ity, and we should think about th­ese facts in this sit­u­a­tion,” he said. – Trans­la­tion by Khine Thazin Han and San Layy

Photo: EPA

A Kachin man pans for gold near the site of the sus­pended My­it­sone dam in Kachin State.

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