DASSK Message Written at Today’s Save the Irrawaddy Art Show

(Mizzima) – Burma’s opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi attended “The Sketch of A River” art exhibition in Rangoon on Thursday, highlighting the possible adverse impacts on the environment because of the Myitsone Dam project.

The exhibition at Gallery 65 on Yawmingyi Road includes paintings, photos and cartoons that highlight gold mining, timber harvesting and other activities that can adversely affect the river.

Aung San Suu Kyi is surrounded by viewers and the media at 'The Sketch of a River' art exhibition in Rangoon on Thursday, September 22, 2011. Photo MizzimaAung San Suu Kyi is surrounded by viewers and the media at ‘The Sketch of a River’ art exhibition in Rangoon on Thursday, September 22, 2011. Photo Mizzima

Aung San Suu Kyi, the general-secretary of the National League for Democracy, has urged the government to review the dam project and its possible consequences before it is too late.

She said: “At the present time, we have to face many things in order to achieve unity in the country. The affair regarding the Irrawaddy River is not likely to make us united. But if we all work in unison and we are united, we can get good results regarding the Irrawaddy.”

In a book marking the exhibition, she wrote, “May the Irrawaddy River survive forever for the unity of all the sons and daughters of the Union.”

The three-day art exhibition, organized by the Green Hearts Conservation Group, will run through Saturday.

Work on the Myitsone Dam project, located near the confluence of the Maykha and Malikha rivers, is a joint under taking of the No. 1 Electrical Power Ministry and the China state-own China Power Investment Corporation. Environmental activists and political groups have launched campaigns to urge the government to reconsider the project, calling for more environmental studies, disseminating the studies by experts more widely and accepting public input before deciding to continue the project.

However, on Saturday, Burmese No. 1 Electrical Power Ministry Minister Zaw Min cited parliamentary decisions as the authorization for moving ahead on the project.

“The ministry will continue implementing power supply projects in line with the decisions of the Parliament, and the adopted policies of the government within the framework of law,” Minister Zaw Min told a group of MPs in a small workshop, according to an article in the state-run newspaper New Light of Myanmar on Sunday.

Environmental activists have urged the new government to stop construction during a more intensive review process. Opposition leaders and ethnic groups have called for a national referendum on whether to continue the project.

“The decision by the Parliament is not enough. If they want more views, they can hold a referendum,” Myo Yan Naung Thein, an organizer of a signature campaign to oppose the project, told Mizzima.

If the Myitsone Dam, the largest dam on the Irrawaddy River, is completed, 6,000 megawatts of electricity will be generated, the vast majority dedicated to China, which is bankrolling the project. Construction plans call for five massive embankments to be built along the Maykha River and two embankments along the Malikha River. The project area, including the reservoir, covers 18,000 square miles.

Zaw Min told lawmakers that companies implementing the project would take responsibility for the impact on the upper and lower basin areas, and the obligation that adequate protection measures would have to be taken for the environmental impact was included in the joint venture contract.

He said that in the five-year term of the current government, nine hydropower projects would be completed including Shwegyin, Kun, Pyu, Thaukyekhat (2), Nankhio, Upper Paunglaung, Belu Creek (3), Upper Belu Creek, Chipwenge, contributing an additional 655 megawatts to the national electrical grid, according to the newspaper.

Win Tin, a central committee member of the National League for Democracy, said: “We cannot accept that they will decide this issue in Parliament, because they, the USDP MPs, dominate the Parliament. If they put up a motion to continue the project, the Parliament will approve it. If the Parliament decides to continue the project, it will like granting an official license to continue the Myitsone Dam project,” Win Tin said.

MP Phone Myint Aung said there has been a silence in Parliament about the Myitsone Dam Project.

In the Lower House, about 350 out of the 395 MPs are from the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) or military-appointed MPs, giving the party an overwhelming majority.

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