De­vel­oper, Sa­gaing govt agree to nix hy­dropower pro­ject

The Myanmar Times - - News - CHAN MYA HTWE chan­myahtwe@mm­

A HY­DROPOWER pro­ject that had been un­der con­struc­tion in Sa­gaing Re­gion’s Ho­ma­lin town­ship was scrapped af­ter the re­gional gov­ern­ment and the dam’s de­vel­oper, In­ter­na­tional Power Gen­er­a­tion (IPG), came to an agree­ment on Oc­to­ber 28. The two par­ties de­ter­mined that the pro­ject’s ex­penses were greater than po­ten­tial rev­enues and that it might harm the lo­cal en­vi­ron­ment, Sa­gaing Re­gion’s Plan­ning and Fi­nance Min­is­ter U Soe Oo told The Myan­mar Times.

“It was lo­cated in the for­est where lo­cal peo­ple go and pluck veg­eta­bles for their food,” said re­gional MP U Kyaw Htay Lwin (NLD; Ho­ma­lin 2). “And there are farm­lands, so lo­cals are con­cerned about their farms and pas­tures – that their cat­tle will dis­ap­pear af­ter flood­ing [caused by the dam]. They op­posed the pro­ject. Now they are sat­is­fied that the pro­ject has been ter­mi­nated.”

The Nam Mar Lone hy­dropower pro­ject was ap­proved un­der the pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment but halted and re­anal­ysed af­ter the han­dover of power ear­lier this year. The 600-megawatt-gen­er­at­ing dam had been slated for com­ple­tion in 2018.

The en­tirety of the con­struc­tion process was pro­jected to cost K6 bil­lion (US$4.67 mil­lion) and the pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment fronted 10 per­cent of that, K600 mil­lion, in March. IPG later asked for an ad­di­tional K900 mil­lion, claim­ing that they had com­pleted 25 per­cent of the pro­ject. But au­thor­i­ties, af­ter sur­vey­ing the work, de­ter­mined that the com­pany was not in fact one-quar­ter of the way to com­plet­ing the pro­ject. In Au­gust, U Soe Oo re­vealed that IPG had com­pleted only 8.5pc of the pro­ject.

Fur­ther rankling of­fi­cials, the com­pany had not re­ceived the nec­es­sary per­mis­sion from the Depart­ment of Forestry, de­spite it op­er­at­ing in forested ar­eas, Sa­gaing Re­gion law­maker U Than (NLD; Katha 1) said in Au­gust.

IPG has agreed to pay back the K600 mil­lion in fund­ing that it had ac­cepted from the gov­ern­ment and eat the cost of taxes that the com­pany paid af­ter they re­ceived ini­tial pro­ject ap­proval.

Al­though this was fund­ing from the re­gional bud­get, fi­nan­cial reg­u­la­tions re­strict the re­turned money from be­ing spent im­me­di­ately, U Soe Oo said, adding that it will have to be re­viewed by the Union gov­ern­ment. The funds will not be un­locked for re-ap­pro­pri­a­tion un­til next year’s bud­get is passed, he said.

Of­fi­cials have de­clared that they are re­view­ing sev­eral hy­dropower projects across Myan­mar that were sim­i­larly planned by pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ments – most no­tably in Kachin State, where the fate of the Chi­ne­se­backed My­it­sone dam hangs in the bal­ance. That $3.6 bil­lion ven­ture was sus­pended by then-pres­i­dent U Thein Sein in 2011. His suc­ces­sor gov­ern­ment has formed a com­mis­sion to scru­ti­nise the dam, and oth­ers also slated for the Aye­yarwady River, and rec­om­mend whether con­struc­tion should re­sume.

– Trans­la­tion by Win Thaw Tar

Photo: AFP

Work­ers in­stall elec­tri­cal tow­ers on March 16.

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