Hydropower review commission awaits orders
After submitting its first report to the president on November 11, the taskforce charged with scrutinising hydropower says it has yet to receive instructions for a second project.
A COMMISSION member on the taskforce reviewing hydropower projects said the team has yet to hear back from the president about the first submitted report, which is believed to have advised cancelling the controversial, Chinese-backed Myitsone dam.
The first report on hydropower projects along the Ayeyarwady River was sent to the President’s Office on November 11, with a strong recommendation against restarting the suspended Myitsone dam, members of the review team said.
The commission members said they are awaiting instructions for their next report.
“The president hasn’t [sent any communications regarding the] second report. But the commission is ready for it. I think the president will be pleased with our first report,” the committee member who spoke on condition of anonymity said.
A spokesperson for the President’s Office last month told The Myanmar Times that it was the responsibility of the commission to give information to the public about the review process. However, commission members also say they have no authority to publicly divulge the contents of the report.
Only secretary U Win Thein, who is also chair of the Union Civil Service Board, is authorised to offer comment in his capacity as spokesperson of the commission. But the commission has not released contact details for a media spokesperson, and no press conference was held prior to the submission of the first report.
Activists have raised questions about the transparency of the commission.
U Brang Shawng, a veteran opponent of the Myitsone dam project and a member of Kachin State’s Mungchying Rawt Jat organisation, said that either the government or the commission must supply the public with more information about the scrutiny process.
“I don’t understand why they [government and commission] won’t release any facts of the first report. The people want to know what the commission reported to the president and it is important for the country,” he said.
Commission member and irrigation expert U Cho Cho said releasing findings of the report is not within their remit, with the group tasked only with reviewing and scrutinising hydropower developments.
“It should be released by the government,” he said.
A deal for the 4600-megawatt Myitsone hydropower project was made in 2006 under the previous military government and China Power Investment (Upstream Ayeyarwady Confluence Basin Hydropower Company). New villages were established in 2009 in order to relocate people displaced by the area earmarked for the floodzone. The Myitsone dam project was suspended in 2011 by then-president U Thein Sein amid public opposition to the project.
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.
In a statement released by CPI last week, the company said it would continue to cooperate with the commission’s investigation.
“We expect that the commission will accomplish an objective and fair investigation report,” the statement said.