UNFC snubs govt by sit­ting out meet­ing

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - HTOO THANT thanhtoo@mm­times.com

As gov­ern­ment ne­go­tia­tors have yet to re­spond to eight de­mands laid out by the al­liance, its gen­eral sec­re­tary said the bloc is too busy to meet.

PLANS for three hy­dropower dams in Shan State are go­ing for­ward amid calls for a halt to some of the most con­tro­ver­sial on the Thanl­win River, though none of the three projects is sited on the as-yet-un­dammed wa­ter­way.

U Htay Aung, deputy per­ma­nent sec­re­tary of the Min­istry of Elec­tric Power and En­ergy, told The Myan­mar Times last week that the projects – the Sh­weli (3), Up­per Yeywa and Up­per Kyaing Taung dams – are seen by the min­istry as a means of meet­ing en­ergy-de­prived Myan­mar’s elec­tric­ity needs, while not­ing that the ear­li­est ex­pected com­ple­tion dates were 2020.

Along with a fourth dam un­der con­struc­tion in Rakhine State and a fifth in Nay Pyi Taw’s Py­in­mana town­ship, the projects’ elec­tric­ity gen­er­a­tion will to­tal more than 1500 megawatts, he said, nearly half of Myan­mar’s cur­rent in­stalled ca­pac­ity na­tion­wide.

“We aim to ramp up power gen­er­a­tion ca­pac­ity an­nu­ally to sup­ply more elec­tric­ity in the coun­try,” he added.

The 280-megawatt Up­per Yeywa dam in Kyaukme town­ship, north­ern Shan State, is slated for com­ple­tion in 2020. About 25 per­cent fin­ished at present, de­vel­op­ment at the site on the My­it­nge River be­gan in 2011 and nearly K16.8 bil­lion (US$13.8 mil­lion) has been set aside this year for on­go­ing con­struc­tion.

The small­est of the Shan dams, the 51-megawatt Up­per Kyaing Taung project in Moe-ne/Mong Nai town­ship shares a 2020 tar­geted com­ple­tion date, with de­vel­op­ment be­gun in 2009. Lo­cated on the Kyaing Taung River, it has been bud­geted K10.78 bil­lion this year.

Con­struc­tion of the far larger Sh­weli (3) dam, on the river of the same name in Shan State’s Momeik/ Mong Mit town­ship, be­gan in 2010-11 but it is not ex­pected to be up and run­ning un­til the 2021-22 fis­cal year. K7.9 bil­lion has been ap­pro­pri­ated this fis­cal year for con­tin­ued de­vel­op­ment on the 1050-megawatt dam.

To the west, the 111-megawatt Thah­tay dam in Rakhine State’s Thandwe town­ship is about 42pc com­plete, with a 2024 fin­ish date and bud­get al­lo­ca­tion of K46 bil­lion this year, while the 100-megawatt Mid­dle Paung Laung project in Py­in­mana town­ship has been al­lo­cated K588 mil­lion this fi­nan­cial year af­ter site sur­vey­ing was con­ducted in 2015.

With Myan­mar’s elec­tric­ity de­mand in­creas­ing at an an­nual rate of about 15 per­cent, the Min­istry of Elec­tric Power and En­ergy is also con­sid­er­ing con­struc­tion of coal- and gas-fired power plants to fill the ca­pac­ity gap. But a Reuters re­port this week said the gov­ern­ment was lean­ing to­ward con­tin­u­ing the coun­try’s cur­rent heavy re­liance on hy­dropower.

Last month a Yan­gon Elec­tric­ity Sup­ply Cor­po­ra­tion of­fi­cial laid out a se­ries of steps the com­pany was tak­ing in an at­tempt to re­duce re­cur­rent black­outs in the com­mer­cial cap­i­tal, in­clud­ing an ex­pan­sion of YESC’s staff and fi­nanc­ing, and in­stal­la­tion of new trans­form­ers for more ef­fi­cient elec­tric­ity trans­mis­sion.

The Na­tional League for Democ­racy gov­ern­ment will face com­pet­ing de­mands in the years ahead, how­ever, as it seeks to bal­ance the need for de­vel­op­ment with lo­cal pop­u­la­tions that have ob­jected to en­ergy projects ini­ti­ated by its pre­de­ces­sor. Their con­cerns range from a lack of con­sul­ta­tion dur­ing im­ple­men­ta­tion to en­vi­ron­men­tal degra­da­tion and the lo­ca­tion of sev­eral hy­dro-projects in con­flict zones, with ac­cu­sa­tions that the dams actively fuel fight­ing be­tween eth­nic armed groups and the Tat­madaw.

Ear­lier this year a com­mit­tee was created to as­sess pro­posed dams on the Aye­yarwady River. The con­tro­ver­sial My­it­sone dam, at the con­flu­ence that marks the be­gin­ning of the river, was sus­pended in 2011 amid pub­lic out­cry.

Since the NLD took power in late March, calls have been mount­ing for a My­it­sone-style sus­pen­sion of pro­posed dams along the Thanl­win River.

– Trans­la­tion by Thiri Min Htun

Photo: EPA

En­vi­ron­men­tal groups fear that large-scale hy­dropower de­vel­op­ment along the Thanl­win River could have dev­as­tat­ing con­se­quences.

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