Hy­dropower re­view com­mis­sion awaits or­ders

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - YE MON yeemon­tun@mm­times.com

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.

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