Thursday, January 24, 2013

Myitsone Dam project expected to resume in 2015, says CPI

Myitsone Dam project expected to resume in 2015, says CPI
Thursday, 24 January 2013, Mizzima News

While construction work at the Myitsone Dam has been completely
suspended, Chinese contractor CPI expressed hope that it will resume
again after Thein Sein's tenure as Burma's President expires in 2015.

Construction at the Myitsone Dam is "100 percent stalled," said the
senior representative of China Power Investment Corporation Yunnan
(CPI), the main contractor and financial backer of the controversial
hydroelectric project in Kachin State, which was suspended by President
Thein Sein in September 2011.

Speaking to Mizzima on January 22, CPI's Wang Qiyue said that work has
been suspended at all seven dams on the Upper Irrawaddy River
project—the main site being the 6,000-MW capacity Myitsone Dam at the
confluence of the N'Mai and Mali rivers which forms the source of the
Irrawaddy, and the other six smaller dams situated further upstream on
the N'Mai and Mali rivers.

He said that all Chinese personnel and equipment from the sites have
been returned to China, and only 80 or 90 staff remain at the main site,
all of whom work as security personnel.

His comments come following rumors that construction work was continuing
at the Myitsone site.

Asked whether CPI was anticipating a restart of the project once Thein
Sein's tenure expires in 2015, Wang said that CPI "expects and looks
forward" to that prospect, but conceded that the company did not know
what will happen in the near future.

He said that CPI has been given no official indication from the Burmese
government of any future policy regarding the dam.

In recent days, a flurry of military, commerce and trade talks have
taken place between the two countries.

On Monday, following a bilateral trade meeting with Burmese
counterparts, China's Vice Commerce Minister Chen Jian noted that
"several Chinese-funded projects, including a hydropower station and a
copper mine, have been abruptly halted or suspended" in recent years,
and he urged the respective Chinese companies to "work towards resolving
difficulties," according to a report by Xinhua News Agency on Monday.

NGO Burma Rivers Network (BRN) sent an open letter to China's Ambassador
to Burma on January 3, urging him to stop pushing for the restart of the
Myitsone Dam project.

Referring to an interview by Ambassador Li Junhua on the Golden Phoenix
website in November, BRN accused Li of ignoring local resistance to the
project, and of failing to recognize that the issue of ownership and
control of natural resources is a key cause of the current conflict.

"China was warned two years ago that the Myitsone Dam could fuel war,"
said BRN spokesperson Ah Nan. "Now that war is raging, how can China
still want to push ahead with the project?"

BRN also accused CPI of secretly commissioning its own Environmental
Impact Assessment (EIA) on the Myitsone Dam and ignoring the original
joint-Chinese-Burmese EIA "which stated very clearly that the Myitsone
Dam should be canceled and that the majority of local people were
against the project."

CPI Yunnan's senior representative Wang, however, acknowledged that a
second EIA was undertaken, but said that CPI was bound to conduct this
assessment under the instructions of the Burmese government. He said
that the EIA has been suspended due to the security conditions caused by
the Kachin conflict.

"We are trying to abide by international standards," he told Mizzima.
"We undertake [these environmental tasks] with the highest standards.
And we are trying our best to fulfill our social responsibilities [in
the local area]."

While original plans were laid to finish construction on the Myitsone
project by 2017, Wang acknowledged that, even if the dam were to be
restarted in 2015, it would take several more years thereafter to complete.

"Burma's economic development should be based on power supply," he said.
"The energy capacity of the average Burmese citizen is very low. The
government needs to address that."

CPI Chairman Lu Qizhou told Chinese media in 2011 that Burmese President
Thein Sein had, in February of that year, urged the company to
accelerate construction when he visited the project site, "so the sudden
suspension [in September 2011] is very bewildering."

Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has said that Burma must
honor its contracts with the Chinese companies.

She was recently appointed to chair the Investigation Committee assigned
to assess the Latpadaung copper mine project, which is contracted to the
Chinese firm Wanbao and financed in part by China's NORINCO group.

"Contracts have been signed on the Latpadaung copper mining project,"
Suu Kyi told reporters in November. "If unilaterally canceled,
compensation must be made. If Burma wants to stand up as a commensurate
country within the international community, it must keep its promises."

Following a meeting between the president of NORINCO and President Thein
Sein in late December, China's national news agency Xinhua reported that
the Burmese government had all but guaranteed the implementation of
Chinese projects in Burma.

For more background:

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