Three Gorges Probe

Black day for Burma’s Irrawaddy: junta ministers host Myitsone dam “celebration”

(December 22, 2009) Hundreds of local villagers were forced to greet the Minister of Electric Power and Minister of Energy today at an official “celebration” ceremony to launch the construction of China’s Myitsone dam, which will block the Irrawaddy River for the first time and impact millions living along Burma’s main waterway.

Numerous public appeals from Kachin State leaders and affected villagers to Burma’s Senior General Than Shwe and to Chinese investors to stop the dam and prevent the forced displacement of 15,000 people have been ignored. Open letters, posters and face-to-face meetings with senior generals highlighted concerns including the destruction of one of Burma’s most important cultural sites and the likelihood of a disastrous dam break in an earthquake-prone area.

This resistance continued today as hundreds of anti-dam posters were seen pasted in the Myitkyina, the capital city of Kachin State that lies downstream of the dam site, and villages in the upstream flood zone.

“Local villagers have made it clear that they do not want to move and do not accept this dam. Yet today, they are being forced to clap and cheer while the generals and their Chinese friends celebrate construction of a dam that will flood their homes and destroy their lives forever,” said Tsa Ji, secretary of the Kachin Development Networking Group, who have been monitoring developments at the dam site for the past three years.

The 50-storey-tall mega dam, being built by China Power Investment Corporation, will produce 3,600 MW of power for export to China, and is the first in a series of seven Chinese dams on the Irrawaddy and its main tributaries.

The ceremony comes on the heels of a high-level visit by China’s Vice President Xi Jinping to Burma’s capital Naypyitaw yesterday, to discuss China’s expanding energy deals with its neighbour.

The Burma Rivers Network has called on China to follow its own domestic standards, which require social and environmental assessments including public participation, when building dams in other countries.

“Even as concerns grow over the downstream impacts of China’s dams on the Mekong, China is plunging ahead with the dams on the Irrawaddy. These dams threaten millions who rely on the Irrawaddy for fishing and farming, but no impact assessments have been conducted,” said Sai Sai, coordinator of the Burma Rivers Network.

In May 2009, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao halted the construction of the Liuku dam on the Salween River in China’s Yunnan province, calling for more thorough impact assessments.

For more information, and to view video footage of villagers confronting military commanders to stop the Myitsone dam, see http://www.burmariversnetwork.org/videos.html

Contact:
For Burmese: Tsa Ji,(+66)837555693, kdngchn@gmail.com
For English: Ah Nan, (+66) 848854154

Burma Digest, December 22, 2009

Read the original story here.

Categories: Three Gorges Probe

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