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Objections raised over restarting Myitsone Dam project

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – With news of ongoing talks between China and Burma regarding the status of the Myitsone Dam suspension, objections from environmentalists and politicians have begun.
Hostels built for Chinese workers near the Myitsone Dam site were photographed in January 2012. The project in Kachin State was suspended by Burmese President Thein Sein in September 2011, but talks about the suspension are now ongoing between China and Burma. Chinese workers still live in the hostels. Photo: Mizzima 
On Saturday, China Power Investment Corporation president Lu Qizhou was quoted in the state-run China Daily newspaper as saying discussions with Burmese government leaders were going on over the suspension of the Myitsone Dam project, and China would like to restart the project as soon as possible after Burmese concerns are dealt with.

The Burmese government has made no statement about ongoing talks with the Chinese concerning the hydropower dam project, which was suspended in September of last year. An estimated 90 per cent of electricity from the project will go to China, which is funding the construction.

A Burmese conservationist who was involved in the anti-Myitsone Dam campaign quickly voiced strong objections to a resumption of the project. “I think their action, the discussion to resume the project, is offensive,” said Ohn, who goes by one name. “Although they talk about democracy, their actions are not in accord with their words.”

He said rare species of flowers, rare plants, rare butterflies and animals live in the Myitsone Dam area. “We can’t exchange that precious location for a dam that can damage the environment,” he told Mizzima.
Activist Win Cho, who was also involved in the campaign conducted in 2011, urged the Burmese government to halt the project.

“We protested against the project in the past,” he said. “We believe that our objections were proper, so it’s sure that we will object to it again. When our government really resumes the Myitsone Dam construction, we will confront it.”
Dr. Phone Win, a conservationist and director of the NGO, Mingalar Myanmar, said experts, researchers and conservationists should conduct transparent studies before the government makes a final decision.
“I think the decision on whether the project should be resumed or not should be made only after research has been carried out carefully and fact finding has been made. If the people agree to it, they can continue,” he told Mizzima.
Cartoonist Aw P Kyel said that international pressure should be exerted. “We, all of our ethnic people, including the Kachin people, feel pain whenever we think about the Myitsone Dam project,” he said.
In 2011, Burma's Electric Power 1 Minister Zaw Min said that the US$ 3.6 billion dam project, which will generate 6,000 megawatts of electricity, was for the national interest.
National Democratic Force leader Khin Maung Swe told Mizzima that if the government continues the Myitsone Dam project, his party would collect people’s opinions and raise objections in Parliament.
In early February, Burmese Lower House Speaker Shwe Mann told the Chinese National People’s Congress chairman Wu Bangguo in Beijing that the bilateral economic cooperation between Burma and China was important and lessons should be learned from the Myitsone Dam project and other ongoing projects such as oil and gas pipelines, the Kyaukpyu deep seaport and roads and railroads. He said such projects could greatly benefit the two countries, according to Chinese state-run newspapers.

In that meeting, Wu Bangguo told Shwe Mann that some western countries were involved in the Myitsone Dam issue and tried to disrupt it.
The Myitsone Dam project site is located 27 miles from Myitkyina in Kachin State. The project began in December 2009. After widespread public opposition, Burmese President Thein Sein ordered the project to be suspended during his government’s tenure.
Last Updated ( Monday, 12 March 2012 21:45 )  

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