Myitsone decision delayed
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