Chipwe, Hsawlaw res­i­dents join anti-My­it­sone cho­rus in Kachin State

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

RES­I­DENTS of Chipwe and Hsawlaw town­ships in Kachin State have joined grow­ing calls for the gov­ern­ment to scrap seven hy­dropower projects along the Aye­yarwady River, in­clud­ing the con­tro­ver­sial My­it­sone megadam in neigh­bour­ing My­itky­ina town­ship.

The res­i­dents sent an open let­ter lay­ing out their de­mands to Pres­i­dent U Htin Kyaw. Copies of the mis­sive were also sent to State Coun­sel­lor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the chair of the com­mis­sion re­spon­si­ble for re­view­ing and scru­ti­n­is­ing hy­dropower projects along the Aye­yarwady River, lower house deputy Speaker U T Khun Myat.

U Lwan Zau, a mem­ber of the Kachin State-based NGO Mungchy­ing Rawt Jat and vet­eran op­po­nent of the My­it­sone project, told The Myan­mar Times that the gov­ern­ment should not pro­ceed with projects op­posed by lo­cal pop­u­la­tions.

“We don’t want any of these [hy­dropower] projects on the Aye­yarwady River. That’s why we de­cided to send a let­ter to the pres­i­dent. We hope that he re­sponds,” he said.

Ac­cord­ing to the let­ter, res­i­dents are de­mand­ing that the projects be can­celled be­cause they were ne­go­ti­ated by the pre­vi­ous mil­i­tary gov­ern­ment, which failed to con­sult or gain sup­port from peo­ple liv­ing near the pro­posed project ar­eas.

The Myan­mar Times was un­able to reach the Pres­i­dent’s Of­fice for com­ment on the let­ter.

The com­mis­sion for re­view­ing and scru­ti­n­is­ing hy­dropower projects along the Aye­yarwady River has been tasked with rec­om­mend­ing whether the pro­posed projects should be con­tin­ued, fac­tor­ing in the pub­lic in­ter­est as well as pre­vi­ously agreed con­trac­tual obli­ga­tions with de­vel­op­ers.

An ini­tial re­port from the com­mis­sion is due to be de­liv­ered to the pres­i­dent on Novem­ber 11, though its mem­bers have down­played the sub­mis­sion as un­likely to yet con­tain much sub­stan­tive pol­icy ad­vice.

The com­mis­sion held a reg­u­larly sched­uled meet­ing on Septem­ber 26, dur­ing which the let­ter from the Chipwe and Hsawlaw res­i­dents was not dis­cussed.

Fol­low­ing the meet­ing, one com­mis­sion mem­ber who spoke to The Myan­mar Times on con­di­tion of anonymity said the re­view body is cur­rently com­pil­ing data for its Novem­ber 11 re­port and is un­sure whether a pre­vi­ously pro­posed in­terim re­port would be given to the pres­i­dent ahead of that date.

“I think our first re­port and any in­terim re­port wouldn’t be that dif­fer­ent,” the com­mis­sion mem­ber said.

Last week, the com­mis­sion re­leased a state­ment say­ing their as­sess­ment would con­sult not only with lo­cal ex­perts and af­fected res­i­dents, but also with for­eign ex­perts as nec­es­sary.

The My­it­sone dam is likely to pose the thorni­est of dilem­mas for the com­mis­sion. The Chi­nese-backed US$3.6 bil­lion project was sus­pended by then-pres­i­dent U Thein Sein amid wide­spread pub­lic op­po­si­tion in 2011. Bei­jing has been pres­sur­ing the suc­ces­sor Na­tional League for Democ­racy gov­ern­ment to re­sume con­struc­tion, but lo­cal op­po­si­tion has not di­min­ished in the years since U Thein Sein or­dered a halt on devel­op­ment.

Con­cerns about the dam’s en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pacts, dis­place­ment of lo­cal pop­u­la­tions and an orig­i­nal power-trans­fer agree­ment that would see about 90 per­cent of the elec­tric­ity gen­er­ated by My­it­sone sent to China have all fu­elled the per­sist­ing re­sis­tance to the project.

A group of more than 50 Kachin civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions came out force­fully against My­it­sone’s re­sump­tion ear­lier this month, when the scru­ti­n­is­ing com­mis­sion paid a field visit to My­itky­ina from Septem­ber 15 to 18.

Photo: EPA

Pres­i­dent U Htin Kyaw (right) shakes hands with Chi­nese Min­is­ter for Pub­lic Se­cu­rity Guo Shengkun dur­ing a meet­ing at the Pres­i­den­tial Palace in Nay Pyi Taw yes­ter­day.

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