ISSN 2330-717X

Burma: Work Continues At ‘Suspended’ Myitsone Dam Site


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

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One thought on “Burma: Work Continues At ‘Suspended’ Myitsone Dam Site

  • March 6, 2012 at 9:15 pm

    The World Bank estimates that forcible “development-induced displacement and resettlement” now affects 10 million people per year. According to the World Bank an estimated 33 million people have been displaced by development projects such as dams, urban development and irrigation canals in India alone.

    India is well ahead in this respect. A country with as many as over 3600 large dams within its belt can never be the exceptional case regarding displacement. The number of development induced displacement is higher than the conflict induced displacement in India. According to Bogumil Terminski an estimated more than 10 million people have been displaced by development each year.

    Athough the exact number of development-induced displaced people (DIDPs) is difficult to know, estimates are that in the last decade 90–100 million people have been displaced by urban, irrigation and power projects alone, with the number of people displaced by urban development becoming greater than those displaced by large infrastructure projects (such as dams). DIDPs outnumber refugees, with the added problem that their plight is often more concealed.

    This is what experts have termed “development-induced displacement.” According to Michael Cernea, a World Bank analyst, the causes of development-induced displacement include water supply (dams, reservoirs, irrigation); urban infrastructure; transportation (roads, highways, canals); energy (mining, power plants, oil exploration and extraction, pipelines); agricultural expansion; parks and forest reserves; and population redistribution schemes.


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