Suu Kyi Appeals for Megadam Review
The Irrawaddy News Magazine
Thursday, August 11, 2011
Burma's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has issued a personal
appeal to all concerned parties to review the ongoing dam projects in
Kachin State, the main one being the 6,000-megawatt Myitsone dam which
is being built at the source of the Irrawaddy River.
"Ecological change to the Irrawaddy would impact all those whose lives
are linked to the great river, from the ethnic peoples in the
northernmost state of our country to the rice-growing communities of the
delta," Suu Kyi wrote in a statement released on Thursday. "To conserve
the Irrawaddy is to protect our economy and our environment, as well as
to safeguard our cultural heritage," she added.
"While recognizing that large sums of money have already been spent on
the realization of the project, we would urge that in the interests of
both national and international harmony, concerned parties should
reassess the scheme and cooperate to find solutions that would prevent
undesirable consequences and thus allay the fears of all who are anxious
to protect the Irrawaddy," Suu Kyi said.
Dam construction on the Irrawaddyï¿½often referred to as the "lifeline" of
the country, because it flows through several of Burma's main citiesï¿½ is
being facilitated by the Burmese government and financed by Chinaï¿½s
state-owned China Power Investment Corporation (CPI). However, the
project has become a major talking point among Burmese in recent weeks
as criticism by environmental rights groups mounts.
Environmentalists say the megadam project will cause serious social and
environmental problems, and will directly affect people living both
upstream and also far downstream, even as far away as the Irrawaddy
delta and the coastal areas of Burma.
In May 2007, the Burmese military regime and CPI signed an agreement to
build seven large dams in Kachin State by 2017.
Upon completion, the project will have capacity to produce approximately
13,360-MW of electricity annuallyï¿½which will not be for local
consumption; it will be transferred to Yunnan Province to feed Chinaï¿½s
expanding energy needs.
Meanwhile, an environmental impact assessment, fully funded by CPI and
conducted by a team of Burmese and Chinese scientistsï¿½but which was
obtained by Thailand-based Burma Rivers Networkï¿½said that the dams will
threaten the biodiversity of the local ecosystem, as well as impacting
millions of people who depend on the Irrawaddy River for their livelihoods.
The megadam project in Kachin State is deeply unpopular among the
general population. Local communities in project areas have opposed the
dams, not just because of their displacement, environmental impact and
threats to cultural sites, but also because the site is located less
than 100 kilometers from a major fault line, posing a risk to basin
inhabitants should an earthquake weaken the dam structure or cause
landslides in the reservoir.
"If the Irrawaddy Myitsone Dam were to break during an earthquake, it
would endanger the lives of hundreds of thousands of people by flooding
Kachin State's largest city, Myitkyina," noted Burma Rivers Network on
The Myitsone Dam is being constructed at the confluence of the Mali and
N'Mai rivers. It is the largest among the seven dams, and is expected to
produce 3,600 to 6,000 MW of electricity annually. When finished, it
will be the 15th-largest hydroelectric power station in the world.
Under contract to the CPI in partnership with Burma's Electricity
Ministry of Electric Power-1 and private firm AsiaWorld, the dam will
create a reservoir the size of New York.
In July, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Hong Lei said
that "cooperation between China and Myanmar [Burma] is on the basis of
mutual equality, and is in the interest of both countries' development
and both countries' people."
The spokesman added that China pays close attention to ecological
protection and requires Chinese companies operating outside its borders
to obey local environmental and other laws.
The Burmese state media, in response to critical articles such as Aung
Din's "Killing the Irrawaddy" has maintained that the project will have
no negative impact on the flow of the Irrawaddy, nor on the lives and
livelihoods of the local population.
A link to Aung San Suu Kyi's full statement can be found at
More information about the dam projects is available at
The original New Light of Myanmar article can be found
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