By Kyaw Zin Win
Yangon, Myanmar, March 21, 2016
National League for Democracy Spokesperson Zaw Myint Maung soothed local concerns on the future of the controversial dam, Myitsone.
He said yesterday that the new government would heed public opinion before making the next move and if the project does not win public approval, it would not be resumed.
“We have always faced questions on this. Anybody can say what they want. But as the spokesperson of the party, the o nly thing I can say is our policy is clear. We have special consideration for the people. We will not do it if people do not agree. Our chairperson Aung San Suu Kyi already mentioned it. We will aim for the development of the people,” he said.
Suu Kyi said during her election campaign in Myitkyina, Kachin State, that she had not seen the details of the Myitsone dam agreement and after studying it she would seek the people’s opinion to decide what to do.
With capacity to build 6,000 megawatt, Myitsone will be the fifteenth largest hydroelectric power station in the world. It is to be built by the Upstream Ayeyawady Confluence Basin Hydropower Co, a joint venture between China Power Investment Corporation (CPI), Myanmar’s Ministry of Electric Power and the Asia World. Due to strong opposition, President Thein Sein suspended the project in 2011.
Local concerns intensified recently after the Chinese ambassador to Myanmar Hong Liang said on March 4 that China would seek every possible way to resume the project by cooperating with the NLD. Reuters reported that the Chinese deputy minister for foreign affairs Liu Zhenmin said Beijing would urge the new government to resume the project, as it was still valid.
“It is an important cooperation project to implement between the two countries. In 2011, Myanmar postponed it but the contract is still valid. Cooperation is important for both countries. When the new government takes office, the Chinese government will continue to discuss ways to restart the project,” said Liu Zhenmin.
The comment stirred protest threats if the project is revived.
Environmentalist Win Myo Thu said: “This issue must be settled. The NLD said it would follow the people’s wishes. In order to do so, it needs principles. Depending on that principle, every possibility must be researched thoroughly. If it is cancelled completely, compensation should be given.”
NGOs and local people said that the giant dam would lead to the flooding of about 4,800 hectares, affecting 48 villages and people along the Ayeyawady (Irawaddy) River.