CPI Falls Short on Environmental Impact Assessment of Myitsone: Experts

From left, Aung Soe Naing, Win Myo Thu and Dr. Kyaw Nyein Aye of the Advancing Life and Regenerating Motherland (Alarm) Group speak out against the Myitsone dam project in Kachin State at a press conference in Rangoon on Monday. (Photo: Steve Tickner / The Irrawaddy)

RANGOON — A Chinese corporation’s environmental impact assessment of the controversial Myitsone dam project in north Burma is not complete, international experts say.

The assessment by China Power Investment Corp. (CPI) fails to clarify the social and environmental consequences of the Kachin State dam project, as well as its potential effects on fresh water species, according to experts from several countries around the world.

International Rivers, a US-based NGO that works with groups in Burma and elsewhere in the region to stop destructive dam projects, has joined the Burma-based Advancing Life and Regenerating Motherland (Alarm) Group in urging CPI to conduct a wider environmental impact assessment over the course of many years.

Both groups solicited opinions on the CPI report from a number of international experts, including from the University of Oxford, the University of California, the University of Hong Kong, the University of Yangon, Ubon Ratchathani University in Thailand, Aalto University in Finland, Tribhuvan University in Nepal, Fernando Leao’s Institute of Environment and Development in Brazil, the California Institute of Technology, an NGO coalition known as Rivers Without Boundaries, the Climate Change Science Institute in the United States, and the Myanmar Environment Institute.

These experts studied the CPI report, which was issued in 2011. Two researchers from the University of Yangon and the Myanmar Environment Institute also assessed the situation on the ground at the dam site, as part of independent research initiatives.

China’s state-owned CPI plans to build the Myitsone hydropower dam in collaboration with Burma’s Ministry of Electric Power as well as Asia World Co., owned by a Burmese business tycoon. The project is expected to supply up to 4,600 megawatts of electricity when it is completed, but most of that power would be exported to China.

“The report should state the advantages and disadvantages, for both the presence of the dam and the absence of the dam,” Win Myo Thu, managing director of the Burma-based Alarm Group, told reporters at a press conference in Rangoon on Monday, exactly two years after President Thein Sein suspended the dam project, in the face of mounting public anger over widespread flooding and deforestation that would result from the project, as well as the forcible resettlement of 10,000 ethnic Kachin villagers..

Win Myo Thu said the report lacked data on the dam’s possible effects on public health and climate change. He said CPI took just one week to conduct research for a report, leading to an insufficient compilation of data.

“If CPI wants to restart the dam, they first need to take about 10 years for more observation on environmental and other impacts, and they need to collect public recommendations. After that, they should act according to the will of the people,” he said.

The Myitsone hydropower dam is located on the Irrawaddy River, the most important commercial waterway in Burma, as it supports the livelihoods of millions of people.

China has pushed for a resumption of construction on the dam, which may be possible in the future, depending on the leadership elected in Burma’s 2015 election.


3 Responses to CPI Falls Short on Environmental Impact Assessment of Myitsone: Experts

  1. ႊ့None of the Chinese companies, as far as is known, have good track record regarding worker safety and health, and environmental protection. They have a terrible track record of pollution in river waters. Those who believed them care a damn about the people and the environment.

  2. Three-quarters of the rivers running through Chinese cities are toxic; seven of the world’s 10 most polluted cities are in China. Smog kills an estimated 400,000 people a year, according to the International Energy Association. China is facing the most severe environmental degradation in history and now these poor standards are being exported to Burma.

  3. Myanmar is lucky, because the sources of three of its major rivers are inside the Union: Irrawaddy/Ayeyarwady, Chindwin, and Sittaung Rivers.
    Any damages done to these rives will be “inside jobs”.

    The Salween River (Nu River in China) is the only major river with its source outsde the country..Whenn you study what China is doing to its own rivers, including Mekhong shared with other countries of South East Asia, you know enough. They cannot be trusted to protect the environment.

    In case of the NuRiver/Salween River China decided to stop the dams in their own country to preserve the unique beauty of the environment, but go ahead with dams planned in Shan and Kayah State. There the damage will not hit China, they will only get the electricity. This also appliesto Myit-sone dam on the sources of the Ayeyarwady/Irrawaddy in Kachin State.

    Ayeyarwady/Irrawaddy River is Myanmar’s life line.
    Be careful with the Ayeyarwady! Whatever happens to it, will be an “inside job”.

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