Myanmar suspends dam project after rare outcry

Sep 30, 2011 by Hla Hla Htay
A man in Myanmar drives a boat at sunset along the Irrawaddy river on the outskirts of Bagan. Myanmar's president has ordered a halt to construction of a controversial $3.6 billion mega dam on the Irrawaddy following rare public opposition to the Chinese-backed hydropower project.

Myanmar's president on Friday ordered a halt to construction of a controversial $3.6 billion mega dam following rare public opposition to the Chinese-backed hydropower project.

Resistance to the Myitsone Dam on the Irrawaddy River has been building as pro-democracy and environmental activists test the limits of their freedom under the new nominally civilian regime.

President Thein Sein, whose government has recently shown signs of reaching out to its opponents, said in a message to parliament in the capital Naypyidaw that work on the project in northern Kachin state would be suspended.

"We have to respect the will of the people as our government is elected by the people," he said.

"We have a responsibility to solve the worries of the people so we will stop construction of the Myitsone Dam during our current government."

In March Myanmar's junta handed power to a new government whose ranks are filled with former generals.

Environmentalists warn the dam project would inundate an area about the size of Singapore, submerging dozens of villages, displacing at least 10,000 people and irreversibly damaging one of the world's most biodiverse areas.

Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi is among those who have urged the authorities to review the project, which is backed by energy giant China Power Investment Corp. The dissident welcomed the suspension.

"It's good to listen to the people's voice. That's what all governments should do," Suu Kyi told reporters.

The Nobel laureate told AFP in a recent interview that there was "a growing consciousness of the need to protect the Irrawaddy".

She added: "It's something that we're all concerned about because the Irrawaddy is very important for the whole country, economically, geographically, ecologically and emotionally."

Police last week arrested a man who staged a rare solo protest against the project outside a Chinese embassy building in Yangon.

They also blocked a rally this week by people seeking the release of political prisoners and an end to the Myitsone project, electricity from which is destined for neighbouring China. No arrests were made on that occasion.

Map of Myanmar locating Myitsone hydroelectric dam project, which the new army-backed government has suspended following a rare public opposition, a government official said.

Protests are rare in authoritarian Myanmar, where pro-democracy rallies in 1988 and 2007 were brutally crushed by the junta.

Friday's announcement marked an unexpected U-turn by the regime. Local media had quoted the minister for electric power as saying earlier in September that construction of the dam would go ahead despite public concerns.

"I'm very glad the president decided to stop it. We have achieved our goal," said Maung Sein Win, a famous writer and outspoken critic of the dam.

For the people of Kachin, the Myitsone dam has come to symbolise the struggles they have faced for decades as a marginalised ethnic group in the repressed nation under almost half a century of military rule.

Activists urged China Power Investment Corp. to remove workers and equipment from the site and to allow local villagers who were forced to relocate to go home.

The Burma Rivers Network, a network of groups representing dam-affected communities, also called for six other mega dams planned on the Irrawaddy's tributaries to be scrapped.

"Building these six dams will also cause irreparable environmental destruction, unpredictable water surges and shortages, and inflict social and economic damage to the millions who depend on the Irrawaddy. Thousands of Kachin villagers will also be forced to relocate," it said in a statement.

In recent weeks fighting has erupted between ethnic rebels and government troops in the area.

In April a series of bomb blasts at the site of the Myitsone Dam destroyed cars and buildings and left one man wounded.

And in August state media accused ethnic fighters of shooting dead seven people, including civilian workers, at a different Chinese-run dam.

Explore further: New policymaking tool for shift to renewable energy

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

China's great dam in midst of eco-debate

Nov 19, 2007

The year-old Three Gorges Dam along the Yangtze River has spawned environmental problems such as water pollution and landslides, Chinese officials admitted.

China admits Three Gorges Dam caused 'host of ills'

May 19, 2011

China's Three Gorges Dam has caused a host of ills that must be "urgently" addressed, the government has said, in a rare admission of problems in a project it has long praised as a world wonder.

China says planning more dams on troubled Yangtze

Apr 21, 2009

China will build at least 20 more reservoirs or hydroelectric projects in the Yangtze river system by 2020, the government said Tuesday, despite growing concerns over dam construction there.

China web filter developer's finance woes: report

Jul 14, 2010

The developer of a controversial Internet filter software in China has denied it has closed due to a lack of funding, but it admits to having financial difficulties, state media said Wednesday.

Chile court blocks giant Patagonia dam project

Jun 20, 2011

A Chilean court ordered the suspension of a project to build a complex of giant hydroelectric dams in the Patagonian wilderness, bowing to appeals by lawmakers and environmental groups.

Recommended for you

Coal-rich Poland ready to block EU climate deal

1 hour ago

European Union leaders meeting in Brussels to set their new greenhouse gas emissions plan are facing staunch opposition from coal-reliant Poland and other East European countries who say their economies would ...

EU leaders seek last-minute climate deal

6 hours ago

European Union leaders came under pressure Thursday to strike a deal aimed at bolstering Brussels as a trailblazer in fighting global climate change as negotiations went down to the wire.

Research team studies 'regime shifts' in ecosystems

8 hours ago

The prehistory of major ecological shifts spanning multiple millennia can be read in the fine print of microscopic algae, according to a new study led by researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

omatumr
1 / 5 (5) Sep 30, 2011
"We have to respect the will of the people as our government is elected by the people"


Hear! Hear!

Governments around the globe have ignored the will of the people in pushing unscientific dogma as consensus "science."

Only yesterday the German journalist the German, Quirin Schiermeier, published WikiLeaks "news" in Nature magazine that UNs Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) is but a fig leaf for wealth transfers from industrialized nations to poor developing nations:

www.powerlineblog...arce.php

www.nature.com/ne...20110929

Thanks for the story,
Oliver K. Manuel
Former NASA Principal
Investigator for Apollo
http://myprofile....anuelo09
Ethelred
1 / 5 (1) Oct 03, 2011
The Spammer strikes again. How many threads this time?

So just how do Neutron Stars form when neutron repulsion is alleged by you to be so powerful that it stops Black Holes from forming no matter how large the mass?

Ignoring the question won't magically make you right Oliver. The ideas are contradictory and I bet even the Plasma Universe Cranks can see that now that it has been pointed out.

Ethelred