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Burmese president awaits key report on Myitsone

The potential site of the Myitsone Dam (Photo Credit: skyscrapercity)

A second report covering the Myitsone dam project on the Irrawaddy River will soon be submitted to the Burmese president for his consideration on whether the controversial hydro-power project should be restarted.

A member of the commission for reviewing the Chinese-backed mega-dam, who spoke to DVB on condition of anonymity, said today that the commission had begun drafting its second report.

“Although the president didn’t specifically request us to submit second and third reports, the commission feels it has an obligation to do so due to the fact that the first report was incomplete,” he said.

The first report was submitted to President Htin Kyaw on 11 November 2016; however no information was released to the public on the recommendations of the commission.

Maung Maung Win, the deputy minister for Planning and Finances, said last month that the commission was still scrutinising the details of the hydropower projects in Kachin State, and that the government will permanently cancel the dams if they would not benefit the Burmese people and the country.

“We [the government] will offer compensation if the projects are cancelled,” he said.

In 2006, the then ruling military government in Burma entered into a joint venture agreement with state-backed China Power Investment (CPI) and Asia World, a Burmese conglomerate.

The military government and the Chinese state firm had agreed to build a giant dam at the confluence of the Irrawaddy River, with six supporting dams on its arteries. The mega-dam was expected to produce between 4,600 megawatts and 6,000 megawatts of electricity, most of which would be transferred to Yunnan in southern China under the terms of the contract.

In 2009, residents from the villages of Tan Hpre, Pa Tan and Myitsone were relocated to make way for the development.

The project was suspended in 2011 by then-president Thein Sein, who cited widespread public opposition to the mega-dam.

Contributing to Myitsone’s unpopularity were concerns about the dams’ environmental impacts and the terms of the agreement that would see some 90 percent of the electricity generated sent to China.

DVB tried to contact CPI, but it could not be reached for comment. However, the company released a statement after the submission of the first report in November, saying it would continue to cooperate with the commission’s investigation.

The controversial dam was on the agenda when Burmese Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi met with Chinese leaders in Beijing last year. Suu Kyi declined to make any definitive statement about the dam, saying that she too would have to wait for the results of the commission’s review.