Impact Assessment Found Burma Dam Unnecessary, Harmful

Burma Rivers Network reveals that the China Power Investment Corporation is ignoring the advice of its own impact assessment in pushing ahead with construction of the 500-foot Myitsone Dam in northern Burma.

The 945-page “environmental impact assessment,” fully funded by China’s CPI Corporation and conducted by a team of Burmese and Chinese scientists, recommends that the Irrawaddy Myitsone Dam not proceed. “There is no need for such a big dam to be constructed at the confluence of the Irrawaddy River” says the assessment.

CPI is planning to build and operate seven mega dams on the Irrawaddy and its tributaries. According to the assessment the dams will impact millions that depend on the river and threaten biodiverse ecosystems: “The fragmentation of the Irrawaddy River by a series of dams will have serious social and environmental problems not only at upstream of dams but also very far downstream to the coastal area.” […]

“Chinese companies are increasing their investments in Burma yet they are not following their own standards” said Sai Sai, coordinator of the Burma Rivers Network. “While CPI Corporation is hiding its assessment from the people of Burma, construction of the dams is speeding ahead.”

Fighting erupted last month near other Chinese dams in the area, which have been accused of fuelling the outbreak. Also at Burma Rivers Network, however, Yun Sun argues that Chinese damming has only aggravated the situation, and is not a root cause of the violence.

Under strict requirements from Naypyidaw, Chinese companies negotiated these deals with the central government and almost no consultation with the local Kachin population. They lack transparency, neglect local needs, and have negative environmental, economic, and social impacts. More importantly, they are viewed by the KIA as strategic maneuvers by Naypyidaw to exploit the Kachin’s natural resources and expand its control under Chinese protection. Locals see nothing to gain and everything to lose.

Today, both Naypyidaw and the KIA are using Chinese dams and the conflict to advance strategic goals. By using the protection of the dams to justify military actions, Naypyidaw tries to cover up its intention to eliminate the KIA and enlist Chinese support to squeeze the armed group out of its traditional territory. The KIA sees China’s desire for border stability and dam safety, and uses the conflict to force China into mediating a settlement. Indeed, after rejecting the government’s call for a ceasefire a week after the fighting started, the KIA made an official appeal for China to be a “referee” in potential negotiations.

See more on the Myitsone Dam project at International Rivers’ site.


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