Burma’s Burning Issue—The Myitsone Dam Project
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Burma’s Burning Issue—The Myitsone Dam Project

By WAI MOE Friday, September 16, 2011

The Myitsone Dam project on the Irrawaddy River in Kachin State, Burma. (Photo: Jingpaw Targyi)

Burmese government officials, including Minister of Electric Power-1 ex- Col Zaw Min, are scheduled to hold a workshop to assess hydropower projects with scholars, researchers and NGO staffers in Naypyidaw on Saturday amid criticism and protests against the controversial Myitsone hydropower project, which is financed by China. 

Ahead the workshop, Zaw Min vowed to go on the Myitsone Dam at the source of the Irrawaddy River.

“We will go on with the project. We will never go back,” Zaw Min told reporters in Naypyidaw on Sept.10.

He rejected any international involvement in the issue, saying: “The issue is not related to the UN, but our country. Getting electric power is in our national interest. We will resolve other issues later.”

Zaw Min is described by observers as one of the former junta head Snr-Gen Than Shwe’s right-hand men. Former intelligence officers, including Aung Lynn Htut , a counter intelligence officer and Burma’s former deputy chief of mission to Washington, alleged that he was involved in the summary executions of more than 80 civilians, including children and women, on Christie Island, southern Burma, in 1998.

Other parties such as Information and Culture Minister ex Brig-Gen Kyaw Hsan and Minister of Industrial Development, as well as Border Affairs Minister, Lt-Gen Thein Htay, have been defending the Myitsone projects at press conference and parliamentary secessions.

“Myitsone is a important energy project for the economic development of the State as it will be able to generate about 18,000 MW,” Thein Htay said in parliament on Wednesday, adding that the project is equal to “about 20 nuclear reactors.”

The first official MoU between Zaw Min’s Ministry of Electric Power-1 and the state-owned China Power Investment Corporation (CPI) was signed in December 2006 and included provisions for AsiaWorld Co Ltd, owned by Steven Law, also known as Tun Myint Naing, one of the US-sanctioned cronies and son of Lo Hsing Han, a well-known drug lord.

Burma and China again signed an agreement on Myitsone and its six sister dams projects in December 2009 during Chinese Vice-president Xi Jinping’s visit to the country, including a plan to upgrade Myitsone's capacity from 3600 MW to 6000 MW.

Previously the project was scheduled to be operational by 2017. However, a new timetable lists the opening for 2018.

According to a CPI press release in June: “With a total installed capacity of 6,000 MW, Myitsone Hydropower Station (8×750MW) is a cascade hydropower station with the largest installed capacity in the upstream of Ayeyarwady [Irrawaddy] River and is expected to start operation in 2018.”

 Myitsone is CPI’s largest hydropower projects ahead of the Jishixia Hydropower Project and Chipi Hydropower Project in China.

After signing with Burma, the CPI assigned a Burmese NGO, the Biodiversity and Nature Conservation Association (BANCA) to conduct an Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report in October 2009, just a few months before the upgrading of the project.

The report warned that the dam runs great risks due to its location less than 100 km from the Sagaing earthquake fault line, as well as affecting deforestation and the erosion of lands. The EIA said the dam would not cope with major floods which would inundate the Kachin capital of Myitkyina.

The report recommended two smaller dams north of the current site. However, both Burmese and Chinese stakeholders in the project ignored the EIA report and its recommendations. CPI reportedly forced researchers to remain silent on the issue.

Although the EIA report was kept confidential for two years, it was leaked to scholars, researchers and environment activists in recent months, reportedly by Chinese scholars who disagree with the project.

Concerned Burmese intellectuals and activists have launched some civic activities such as distributing information about the projects, holding public talks, and sending petitions to President Thein Sein.

“Save the Irrawaddy” campaigners have said that one of major concerns regarding the project is the danger to the Irrawaddy River, which is the main artery of Burma's civilization, economy and ecosystem as it flows through the heart of the country, serving millions of livelihoods, from Kachin State to the Indian Ocean.

"Ayeyarwady (Irrawaddy) is the National Heritage of all national people,.” said Than Htut Aung, the CEO of Eleven Media Group. “We have a responsibility to protect our national interest. We must steer clear of untoward accidents and problems that will otherwise arise in the future.”

On Sept.

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soe yeain thu Wrote:

Angry Myanmar Wrote:
The Chinese citizen are paying the price of Chinese TECHNICAL INCOMPETENCY - two consecutive train accidents and mega dam problems. Why should we let them destroy our Irrawaddy? Why is our government that stupid to accept Chinese exploitation?


May Khaing Wrote:
NO dam on Irrawaddy river

Marty Myanmar Wrote:
"3.6 billion likely to double" that means 720 million USD of brokerage fee to Than Shwe tax fee!, no wonder he wants to retire! And we have such a hard time on a 3500USD car!

Marty Myanmar Wrote:
Its got nothing to do with the future, or the people of Myanmar, or the future generations. Its got nothing to do with the Chinese and everyone else. It is all about money. This is probably how it all happened, 1) Loyal and patriotic Chinese realize that there will be a great shortage of energy in the country in the near future, 2) the have seen the damage by the three gorges dam, 3) they vow that the Chinese will never live in the dark and never destroy their country again, no matter what, 4) they decide to look abroad for cheap energy sources, 5) they talk to a few power brokers with the objectives in mind, 6) they sign a contract to construct and obtain hydro energy to the grateful eyes of the millions of fellow country, 7) they pay their friends handsomely for their services in helping China.

And that about it, who cares about Myanmar!

Min Nway Wrote:
China will gradually colonize our country just like they did in Tibet. Monks and people must demonstrate to show our patriotism, courage and solidarity against brand new dictators and their master.

Moowah Wrote:
how can a small group denying this project. The small group always loose. The government are under the control of the Chinese. The government will get profit alone when the civilian face with big problem. Be strong, Kachin.

Bees Wrote:
I wonder why KIO doesn't do any practical actions against this destructive hydro project which will create a lot of problems to the people of Kachin and people in downstream. I understand that KIO must get a lot of pressure from Chinese government. But at least, it should strongly stand for their people and stop this. Without KIO's strong involvement, it is hard to stop this project.

MM Wrote:
Stop that project, You all have to think for new generation,if you all did not stop that dam, all your sons, daughters, grandsons, etc, will be cursed by Myanmar people. Remember, we don't agree this project and we hate you all and Chinese very much. Better decide to stop it for your souls.

Min Nway Wrote:
We must start the fight to end this stupid project before too late.

The puppets of Chinese are very active and very fast nowadays and they will not be given up without bloodshed.

Kyaw Wrote:
The whole country against the construction, hence the project must be stopped and canceled. That's simple. Fail to do so means This Government is not representing it's peoples, but the old regime with the new skin.

kerry Wrote:
Clearly the 'Government' of Burma has shown no change. They do not in any way listen to the people of Burma. They are not listening environmentally (preferring to walk against all 21st century knowledge, experience and common-sense ... with China) democratically (the people have no say, like China) or on humanitarian grounds (not listening to people's concerns, like China, not considering the rights of the people, just like China).

Forced dispossession, violence, economic madness... all like China.

How did intelligence agents and executioners turn into engineers and economists?

This is not change. This is surely just more of the same.

Who is running this government? China?

Nyi Nyi Wrote:
Chinese CPI and Asia World should go and build wind turbines on the great wall of China and see what happens.

thant zin win Wrote:
I'm disagreement on Myitsone project,if there is a good benefit for Burma, I'm sure it will be little and damages will be more. But only writing a comment here will not affect to stop the project, so please find out the most effective solution to stop the project and I'm the one to follow this and to motivate my surrounding. please save Irrawaddy and her children.

yeyintthu Wrote:
We strongly reject the building of dam as mentioned in this article, Irrrawaddy is our national heritage. These stupid ministers can't determine the fate of our country's future. We can build nuclear reactors to get electricity. no need to destroy our the last natural resources which is a back bone to our country people. This is irrevocable destruction . Must stop in any ways by any means. This is most important duty for every Myanmar Citizen. Pls think for your next generation. The ministers are ex-generals and they will never consider for the people suffering.

Tettoe Aung Wrote:
What a way to love our country. When people were having a hard time during the Japanese occupation they blamed Bogyoke Aung San for bring the Japanese. How about Than Shwe's love for our country? They might not exist in a few years. Why should he care? His son-in-law is the Ambassador to China and his daughters can easily become 'concubines' (raising the Red lantern to whoever Chinese those are in the position of power). I can go for 'Sulathubatta's' hatred and vengeance any time to that the love of Than Shwe. Good work to all at Bama Tattamadaw to give our country to the Chinese on a platter.

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