A controversial dam project on the Irrawaddy River has been suspended by Myanmar’s government. The Burma Rivers Network reported in July that the company behind the dam had ignored the findings of its own impact assessment study, which described the project as both harmful and unnecessary. Much of the electricity generated would have been bound for China, reducing any mitigating benefits for the affected areas. From The Associated Press:
The move will be welcomed by environmentalists and social activists who had claimed the project would displace many villagers and upset the ecology of the important food source, the Irrawaddy River, on which it was to be situated.
The political ramifications are equally large, as it marks a rare meeting of the minds between the military-dominated government and the country’s pro-democracy movement. It also marks a rare difference in relations with China, a key ally for diplomatically isolated Myanmar ….
Thein Sein’s note, read out in parliament by lower house Thura Shwe Mann, said construction of the project should be terminated as it is against the will of the people and their representatives.
Grace Mang, program coordinator at International Rivers, said: “The suspension of the Myitsone Dam is a great success for civil society groups in Burma and throughout the world. The decision shows that dam builders can no longer rely on dictatorial governments to push through projects that are rejected by their populations. China Power Investment Corporation and other dam builders should now reconsider other planned projects on the Irrawaddy and Salween rivers.”
The US$3.6 billion Myitsone hydropwer project would have submerged the confluence of the Irrawaddy River in Kachin State and created a reservoir the size of Singapore. The project is the central part of a seven-dam cascade proposed to be built with $20 billion in Chinese investment. It is located in one of the world’s top biodiversity hotspots, would displace 12,000 people, and would irreversibly affect Burma’s central river system and rice-growing area.
[This post initially stated that the dam’s construction had been cancelled. In fact, it has merely been suspended until 2015.]