More than five months after the Burmese government stunned the world by announcing that a massive China-backed dam project has been suspended, work is continuing at the construction site, according to a local civil society network.
The decision to shelve the Myitsone Dam project on the headwaters of Burma’s key Irrawaddy River was made by President Thein Sein after it was assailed by green groups and opposition parties over the dam’s environmental and social impacts.
But the Myitsone dam project “continues,” said the Kachin Development Networking Group, a network of civil society and development groups inside Kachin state, where the project is located.
It said an electric transformer was being built in Nawng Hkying village of Waimaw township near the Kachin capital of Myitkyina.
Some workers of the China Power Investment (CPI) Corporation, the lead company in the project, are still at the dam site and in Myitkyina, and there is still equipment at the dam site, the group said.
Road and bridge construction to deliver supplies to the half a dozen smaller dam projects is also continuing.
“Construction of six smaller dams, like Chibwe, is still being carried out” and “the company is moving away large volumes of the excavated earth from the dam project area into China in dozens and dozens of huge trucks, hoping to find precious metals or minerals,” Sar Gyi, a member of the Kachin Development Networking Group, told RFA.
The dam was to generate some 6,000 megawatts of power, most of which was to be exported to power-guzzling China, while creating a reservoir the size of Singapore with a depth of nearly 70 stories, affecting tens of thousands of people.
Non-governmental groups in Burma, where a vast majority of people have no electricity, are demanding that other Chinese dams planned or under construction in the resource-rich country be also reviewed or shelved.
Villagers relocated for the Myitsone project have not been permitted to go back to their old villages but despite this prohibition, they had returned since last week, the Kachin Development Networking Group said.
Critics say the Myitsone dam would submerge dozens of villages, displace more than 10,000 people, and destroy the ecology of the Irrawaddy, Burma’s lifeline and longest waterway. The dam is also close to a fault line, which could be hazardous in an earthquake.
Reported by RFA’s Burmese service. Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai