China-Burma Dam Project Goes Ahead amid Ongoing Conflict
31 August 2011: Burma’s authorities have granted China a go-ahead to continue construction of the ‘would-be’ biggest dam on the Irrawaddy River despite the ongoing armed conflict in Kachin State.
China’s biggest dam builder, Sinohydro Corporation, confirmed that the first stage of the Myitsone Dam will be completed as planned within this year, according to a report by the Kachin Development Networking Group (KDNG).
The KDNG’s statement today raised grave concerns over the massive scale of the dam and extent of the destruction at the confluence so far while the Chinese companies said they will do anything to complete the project.
As of today, more than 20,000 Kachin residents have fled to the China border following the armed clashes between Burma Army and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) on 9 June, breaking a 17 years of ceasefire.
“The churches in Myitkyina are overflowing with refugees too terrified to go home. We’re in the middle of a war but the Chinese dam builders are just speeding ahead,” said Ah Nan of the Kachin Development Networking Group (KDNG), a community group that has been monitoring the project since 2005.
The Kachin Women’s Association of Thailand has documented 32 cases of rape by Burma Army troops since the fighting began.
The China-Burma project, which was disrupted by the fighting, has resumed on a full scale construction since July, according to the statement.
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi also voiced her concerns earlier this month over protecting the Irrawaddy River from the planned mega-dams.
Burma’s Information Minister responded that a downstream environmental impact study of the dam would be carried out, saying “we will protect the Irrawaddy.”
Ah Nan said: “We must protect the Irrawaddy for the sake of the millions that depend on it. Burma’s military government has handed over our most important river to China despite its promises.”
China’s biggest dam builder, Sinohydro’s Bureau 11, is building phase I of the Myitsone dam while another Chinese hydro giant, China Power Investment Corporation, is the principal owner of the project.
The statement also remarked the Myitsone dam is one of a series of seven on the Irrawaddy and its upper tributaries which the Chinese government has announced as its largest foreign hydropower investment.
The Myitsone Dam, which will provide between 3,600 to 6,000 megawatts of electricity for Yunnan of China, is believed to be the fifteenth largest hydro-electric power station in the world if completed as planned in 2017.
Van Biak Thang