88 Generation Activists Meet Main Backers of Myitsone Dam

By Kyaw Phyo Tha 10 June 2013

RANGOON—On a visit to China, Burmese activists from the 88 Generation Students Group have urged the main backers of the controversial Myitsone Dam to completely shut down the suspended project in north Burma.

A four-member delegation from the activist group met last week with officials from state-run China Power Investment Corporation (CPI), the primary investor of the hydropower dam in north Burma’s Kachin State, the group said in a statement on Friday.

The CPI officials briefed the delegation on their efforts to ensure the $3.6 billion project adhered to international business standards and caused the least possible environmental damages.

But 88 Generation leader Mya Aye said the project would nevertheless have detrimental effects on the local population. He said CPI planned to build the dam at the source of the Irrawaddy River, a cultural landmark for the ethnic Kachin people that is also highly valued by the Burmese for its historical and economic significance.

“Given those facts, he seriously requested a total shutdown of the dam,” the group said in a statement on Friday.

The Myitsone Dam is a 6,000-megawatt hydropower project planned for construction at the confluence of the N’Mai and Mali rivers, which meet to form Burma’s largest river, the Irrawaddy. It is part of a seven-cascade dam project mainly financed and built by Chinese state-owned companies. Much of the electricity generated by the project would be exported to China.

The project, slated for completion in 2017, would be the 15th largest hydroelectric power station in the world.

In September 2011, Burmese President Thein Sein suspended the project until at least 2016, after his term in office expires. He cited environmental concerns and widespread public criticism, including from opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, whose National League for Democracy (NLD) party called for the dam’s suspension.

Last month, CPI also expressed a desire to restart the suspended project in a meeting with NLD members who had traveled to China at the invitation of the Communist Party of China.

“I welcome the 88 delegation’s request,” said Devi Thant Cin, an environmentalist who has led campaigns against the Myitsone Dam since 2010.

She said the project’s potential damage to the Irrawaddy River was a national concern.

“We object to any attempt to resume the dam, by the government or anyone,” she said.