One Year On, No Response on Myitsone Impact Assessment

By Htet Naing Zaw 6 February 2019

NAYPYITAW—The commission tasked with evaluating hydropower projects on Myanmar’s Irrawaddy River—including the Myitsone Dam in Kachin State—submitted its assessment to the President’s Office more than one year ago.

The commission was formed on August 12, 2016, and was assigned to assess potential impacts of proposed projects on the environment, society, foreign investment, economy and water resources along the Irrawaddy River.

Speaker the Lower House of Parliament U T Khun Myat chairs the 20-member commission and the State Counselor’s Office Minister U Kyaw Tint Swe serves as vice-chairperson. Union ministers and Kachin State’s chief minister are also members of the commission.

“We presented our assessment, but [the President’s Office] has not made any reply about what to do next. The authority of the commission is limited [to submitting the assessment],” Mi Kun Chan, a member of the commission, told The Irrawaddy.

The commission has studied the dam project contract signed under the former military government by Myanmar’s former Vice Sen-Gen Maung Aye and China’s President Xi Jinping, who was vice president at the time.

“It is up to the government to make the decision. As the commission includes a lot of experts, I don’t want to make personal comments. I don’t know if [the government] will release the report during its two remaining years [in office],” said Mi Kun Chan.

Sources close to Chinese investors said that Beijing has invested at least $6 billion in Kachin State including the $3.6-billion dam project in Myitsone to be located at the confluence of Mali or the N’Mai rivers where the Irrawaddy River begins.

The project was shelved by then-President Thein Sein in 2011 amid widespread public concern over its social and environmental impacts and recently returned to the spotlight when Chinese Ambassador Hong Liang claimed after a visit to Kachin State at the end of December that the Kachin people were not opposed to its resumption.

Kachin spiritual leaders, Kachin political parties and Kachin people have publicly objected to the dam project, and called for its termination.

“There is the Sagaing Fault, and if something happens Myitkyina will be flooded in seconds, and Bhamo will be flooded in minutes,” said Lower House lawmaker U Aung Thein of Bhamo Township.

None of the Chinese-backed projects in Myanmar, including those in Kachin, benefit Myanmar citizens, he claimed.