My­it­sone de­ci­sion de­layed

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - YE MON yeemon­tun@mm­times.com

The com­mis­sion tasked with re­view­ing the stalled hy­dropower project said it will not be ready to make a de­ci­sion on whether the project should restart by the first re­port dead­line in Novem­ber.

A DE­CI­SION on the stalled My­it­sone hy­dropower dam has been de­layed for sev­eral more months, even as the com­mis­sion tasked with eval­u­at­ing the project has ad­mit­ted to hav­ing al­ready re­viewed the con­tract.

The tem­po­rary sus­pen­sion of the project came up for rene­go­ti­a­tion as the Na­tional League for Democ­racy took of­fice at the end of March, with Chi­nese of­fi­cials press­ing an ur­gent restart, and lo­cals de­mand­ing a can­cel­la­tion.

The Chi­nese-backed mega-project is seen as a piv­otal test of Sino-Myan­mar re­la­tions un­der the new ad­min­is­tra­tion, and an­a­lysts an­tic­i­pated a de­ci­sion in a six-month time frame.

But af­ter a com­mis­sion meet­ing yes­ter­day, one of the mem­bers said a yes-or-no de­ci­sion will not be pos­si­ble by the first re­port­ing dead­line of Novem­ber 11, or even shortly there­after.

“The first re­port won’t be the fi­nal one. The time frame for sub­mit­ting it is too short,” the com­mis­sion mem­ber who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity said. “A sec­ond and third and prob­a­bly a lot more re­ports will be sent to the pres­i­dent.”

The com­mis­sion for re­view­ing and scru­ti­n­is­ing hy­dropower projects along the Aye­yarwady River held its third meet­ing in Nay Pyi Taw yes­ter­day. Mem­bers said they have fin­ished re­view­ing the My­it­sone con­tract, but will now need to un­der­take a field site to dis­cuss the project with lo­cal res­i­dents.

Long be­fore tak­ing of­fice, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi had penned let­ters against the US$3.6 bil­lion dam. But the state coun­sel­lor, who has at­tempted to ce­ment strong ties with neigh­bour­ing China, has more re­cently hedged on the project, say­ing a re­view of the con­tract was nec­es­sary to en­sure it will ben­e­fit the peo­ple.

The My­it­sone dam – which would flood a con­flu­ence of his­toric im­por­tance to eth­nic Kachin – is de­plored by the lo­cal res­i­dents, who say it will cause sub­stan­tial en­vi­ron­men­tal da­m­age while trans­mit­ting 90 per­cent of the power gen­er­ated to China.

Fam­i­lies re­lo­cated to com­pounds 8 miles (13 kilo­me­tres) from the dam site have said the re­mote model vil­lages are in­fer­tile and the promised food sub­si­dies have fallen far short of the re­quired amount.

But even af­ter then-pres­i­dent U Thein Sein called a halt to the project in 2011 amid pub­lic pres­sure and in­creased fight­ing be­tween the Tat­madaw and the Kachin In­de­pen­dence Army, the 500 re­lo­cated house­holds were not per­mit­ted to re­turn home.

Daw Ja Hkaung, a mem­ber of the Mungchy­ing Rawt Jat or­gan­i­sa­tion in Kachin State and a vet­eran op­po­nent of the My­it­sone project, said lo­cal res­i­dents plan to stage a protest and hold a press con­fer­ence on Septem­ber 9 in My­itky­ina.

“The res­i­dents [dis­placed by the My­it­sone dam] want to re­turn to their homes,” she said.

“They want the govern­ment to act coura­geously on their be­half and to can­cel the project. The govern­ment al­ready knows this is what the Myan­mar peo­ple need.”

The mil­i­tary govern­ment and Chi­nese de­vel­oper China Power In­vest­ment (CPI) had inked a con­tract for a 6000 megawatt hy­dropower project on the con­flu­ence of the coun­try’s big­gest river, the Aye­yarwady, in 2006.

CPI, which did not re­turn re­quests for com­ment yes­ter­day, has pushed for a restart on the grounds that it did not get a fair op­por­tu­nity to dis­sem­i­nate in­for­ma­tion about the dam’s ben­e­fits be­fore it was sus­pended. Should the new govern­ment choose to ter­mi­nate the con­tract, it would have to re­im­burse the de­vel­oper for any in­vest­ments.

‘The govern­ment al­ready knows [can­celling the My­it­sone dam] is what the Myan­mar peo­ple need.’ Daw Ja Hkaung Kachin ac­tivist

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