CREDIT EMG 20.MAY 2013
China has reportedly approached Myanmar’s opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) to help push for the resumption of the Myitsone (confluence) dam project in Kachin state.
The approach was made during the 10-day visit of an NLD delegation to the People’s Republic of China at the invitation of the ruling Chinese Communist Party.
Myanmar President Thein Sein announced the suspension of the project, which was being built on the Ayeyawady River near Tanphe village, about 7 kilometers downstream of the confluence, in September 2011.
A news source of Radio Free Asia (RFA) quoted Nyi Pu, leader of the NLD’s visiting delegation, as saying China wanted to re-implement the project.
“We met Kunming governor. When we arrived in Beijing, we called on government officials, including director general of foreign affairs department. We also met government deputy ministers. They expressed their willingness to re-undertake the Myitsone dam project. They said they wanted to make investment in the project.”
During the visit, both sides also discussed trade and investment matters. The Myanmar delegation studied trade activities, road connections, environmental conservation and low-cost housing projects.
The RFA news stated that China wants to continue to invest in Myanmar and express heart-felt thanks to NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi for giving help in the controversial China-backed Latpadaungtaung copper mine project.
Lower House MP Phyu Phyu Thin, who is a member of the visiting delegation, told the Eleven Media Group that Aung San Suu Kyi would be informed of details about the study tour, including China’s willingness to resume the Myitsone dam project.
However, some experts say that the resumption of the project will draw widespread criticism even if the NLD leader supports it.
“The project should not continue. China will approach us for what they want to do. The Chinese government insisted constructing three dams in the Yangtze river amid public objections, said writer Ko Tar. “Myitsone is our treasure and the land of Kachin. We cannot bear giving it to aliens. That’s why the project should never continue, he explained.
Forestry expert U Ohn said: “Myitsone is the origin of the Ayeyawady River, which is the lifeblood of Myanmar. The river represents our culture, history, prosperity and all. We totally oppose the project. Instead of the large Myitsone dam, it is more appropriate to build a hundred of small dams with no more than 15 metres in length and less than 50 feet in height.”
“From the perspective of water resources, the river does not flow well in summer. We should not see it economically but environmentally and socially. China is very keen on the project because its people need electricity,” U Ohn said.
President Thein Sein sent a message to Parliament in September 30, 2011, saying the Myitsone dam project would be suspended during his presidency.
The 10-point message stated that the project was suspended as public concern mounted over possible damage to the Ayeyawady River. The melting of glaciers in the northern part due to climate change, heavy rains, strong quakes are considerable factors to cause destruction or damage to the Myitsone dam and Ayeyawady river, thereby threatening the lives of local people, the message described.
Environmentalist Myint Zaw said that any ruling government and political party should seek the long-term interest of the Ayeyawady.
“As the Ayeyawady is the national character, political parties and state leaders should not sacrifice our Ayeyawady for economic gains,” he said.
Khun Jar from the Kachin Peace Network also said: “Anyone who wants to continue the Myitsone project is the enemy of the entire nation. Mega dams are no more popular in the world. Myanmar is also in need of electricity. Small dams should be considered if we have little environmental impact, and if the people are secure.”
She said she could not understand why the NLD discussed it with China because it is not an economic organization or was not delegated to do so.
The Ayeyawady river must be protected as its watershed areas account for 65% of the total area of Myanmar, Khun Jar suggested.
As Myanmar has improved its relations with western countries, including the United States, since Thein Sein’s government took office, the Chinese government has come to build closer relationship not only with the Myanmar government but also with the opposition NLD.
Chinese Ambassador Yang Houlaan recently called on NLD chairperson Aung San Suu Kyi, who is popular among the public to win the 2015 election and come to power. The ambassador donated 1 million kyats to the NLD’s education network funds.
Suu Kyi did not include the visiting delegation as the Chinese Communist Party only invited those under 60.