En­vi­ron­men­tal con­fer­ence par­tic­i­pants de­mand govt re­ject My­it­sone dam

The Myanmar Times - - News - KYI KYI SWAY news­room@mm­times.com

AN­GRY vil­lagers, govern­ment of­fi­cials, MPs, ex­perts, and na­tional and in­ter­na­tional NGOs came to­gether to de­nounce the trou­bled My­it­sone dam project in Kachin State. Con­vened by the Myan­mar Green Net­work, last week they spoke out in a bid to in­flu­ence the com­mis­sion set up by the state coun­sel­lor to re­port on the dam’s fu­ture.

At the Oc­to­ber 28-30 meet­ing in the state cap­i­tal My­itky­ina, speak­ers com­plained of the risks posed by the project to the en­vi­ron­ment, as well as the loss of liveli­hood in­flicted on vil­lagers, many of whom have al­ready been dis­placed.

Op­po­nents ob­ject to the se­cre­tive way the for­mer mil­i­tary regime and in­vestors han­dled the projects, show­ing no con­sid­er­a­tion for the pub­lic opin­ion. The Myan­mar Min­istry of Elec­tric Power, con­glom­er­ate Asia World and China Power In­vest­ment Cor­po­ra­tion (CPI) formed a joint ven­ture – the Up­stream Aye­yarwady Con­flu­ence Basin Hy­dropower Com­pany – to build the 4600-megawatt My­it­sone dam, reg­is­ter­ing in 2010.

The project, sus­pended in 2011 by then-pres­i­dent U Thein Sein, awaits a de­ci­sion based on a re­port to be com­piled by the 20-mem­ber com­mis­sion of in­quiry es­tab­lished in Au­gust to review hy­dropower projects slated for the Aye­yarwady River and to rec­om­mend whether they should pro­ceed, weigh­ing costs and ben­e­fits along with the po­ten­tial ef­fects on in­vestors.

The com­mis­sion is ex­pected to sub­mit a pre­lim­i­nary re­port to the pres­i­dent on Novem­ber 11. In the face of strong ob­jec­tions ex­pressed by lo­cal residents, some com­mis­sion mem­bers have re­port­edly al­ready sug­gested they will rec­om­mend against re­sum­ing the US$3.6 bil­lion My­it­sone ven­ture.

H La Awng, Kachin State min­is­ter for nat­u­ral re­sources and the en­vi­ron­ment, said his govern­ment placed the high­est im­por­tance on en­vi­ron­men­tal con­ser­va­tion, and would take into ac­count the wishes of the peo­ple.

Myan­mar Green Net­work founder Daw Dawei Thant Sin told par­tic­i­pants at last week’s My­itky­ina meet­ing that par­lia­ment should act to al­low law­suits against in­vestors who dam­aged the en­vi­ron­ment. The dam­age could ex­tend all along the Aye­yarwady River, she said, adding that all the com­mu­ni­ties con­cerned were united in op­pos­ing the mega-dam.

Me­te­o­rol­o­gist U Tun Lwin said the dam would not only take longer to build than ex­pected, but would also cer­tainly come in over bud­get. Cit­ing an Ox­ford Univer­sity re­search pa­per, he said hy­dropower gen­er­ated by the 250 dams stud­ied over a four-year pe­riod was costlier than elec­tric­ity from re­new­able so­lar and wind en­ergy. The dam would also gen­er­ate meth­ane gas, a ma­jor green­house gas, said U Tun Lwin.

An­other MGN mem­bers, lawyer U Kyee Myint, called on the govern­ment to pub­li­cise the con­tract with the in­vestors, say­ing it should be sub­ject to Myan­mar law.

Vil­lagers al­ready dis­placed by the ini­tial prepa­ra­tions for the dam also spoke out, de­cry­ing the poor con­di­tions in which they had been forced to live.

They said their chil­dren had lost in­ter­est in study­ing. “Two of my kids have al­ready left school, and only the youngest still goes,” said Daw Jer Htel, who had been forced to leave La­pan vil­lage and re­lo­cate in Aung Myay Thar San vil­lage. Many have lost their farms and plantations, and said they had not been ad­e­quately com­pen­sated.

“They of­fered only K30,000 for an orange tree, K5000 for a bam­boo tree. What good is that? That’s just pocket money. I want my home back,” said Daw Lu Yar, who was forced out of Tanpe vil­lage. In all, six vil­lages have al­ready been de­stroyed and their in­hab­i­tants re­lo­cated to Aung Myay Thar San San Pya and My­it­sone vil­lages.

Photo: Sup­plied

Kachin ac­tivists stage a protest against the My­it­sone dam in March.

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