It was notable, the Chairman of the Kachin Independence
Organization (KIO), Lanyaw Zawng Hra sent an official letter dated May 16 to Hu
Jintao, the President of the People's Republic of China urging China to stop
the controversial Myitsone dam construction on Irrawaddy River in Kachin State,
Northern Burma, Kachin News Group (KNG) said on 23 May, 2011.
In the open letter the KIO warned Myitsone and six other
hydroelectric power plant projects could lead to civil war between the KIA, the
armed wing of the KIO, and the Burmese Army because Burmese troops have been
deployed to the KIO control areas to provide security for the dam-construction
According to Kachin News Group, numerous complaint letters
concerning construction of the Myitsone dam have been sent to the Burmese and
Chinese governments by local people, the Kachin National Consultative Assembly
(KNCA) and the KIO. However, no action has been taken to tackle the worries
expressed by the Kachin community.
KIO's official letter to Hu Jintao says, "Except the Dam
Project in Mali-N'mai Confluence (Myitsone dam), we have no objections against the
other six Hydro Power Plant Projects. However, we have also informed the Asia
World Co Ltd to make a decision only after assessing the consequences of the
The Kachin Development and Networking Group (KDNG) has
warned publicly that the Myitsone dam construction is going to displace 15,000
neighboring Kachin natives and millions of people living downstream of the dam
construction location because of inundation.
According to the environmentalist group, thousands of people
have been forced to move from their home villages near the 6,000-megawatt dam
construction project site. The displaced
villagers have to struggle finding new livelihoods, adequate healthcare
services and education for their children at new villages, the watchdog group
In the past,
Kachin people had made an official plea to the former junta's boss
Senior-General Than Shwe to stop the project due to environmental damage. But
he always turned a deaf ear to the call. The junta boss regularly obeys the
rules of the Chinese authorities over the dam projects.
Construction at Myitsone began December 21, 2009, led by
China's state owned China Power Investment Corporation (CPI) in cooperation
with Burma's Asia World Company (AWC) and the Burmese government's No. 1 Ministry
of Electric Power. Remarkably, AWC owner is former drug lord Lo Hsing Han. As a result, the KIO warned CPI employees not
to enter its area in the dam construction sites north of the Mali-N'mai Rivers.
The reason was that KIO has stopped cooperating with the Burmese government
when the government discontinued the 1994 truce on September 1, 2010.
activists and researchers say the project will force Kachin villagers to
abandon their homes and could face inundation an area the size of Singapore,
all caused by the government's eagerness to satisfy China as it needs more
power for its growing industrial zones.
Burma River Network, the Irrawaddy River provides vital nutrients to wetlands
and floodplain areas downstream including the delta region which provides
nearly 60% of Burma's rice. Changes to the river's flow and the blocking of
crucial sediments will affect millions farmers throughout Burma and decrease
The watchdog network also pointed out that the dams will
forever change Burma's main river ecosystem and an important Asian river.
Eighty-four percent of the Irrawaddy River's water originates above the dam
sites and will be affected by these dams. The network said that the dam is
located 100 kilometers from a major fault line in an earthquake-prone area; if
the dam breaks, it will flood Kachin State's capital city of 150,000 that lies
just 40 kilometers downstream of the dam.
In a statement
issued on 11 August (Thursday), Burma's Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi said
the dam endangers the flow of the Irrawaddy River, which she described as "the
most significant geographical feature of the country." She warned that 12,000
people from 63 villages have been relocated, although an article in the government-run
New Light of Myanmar newspaper Wednesday reported that 2,146 people had been
ordered to leave their homes and relocated.
Suu Kyi has been calling on promoters of the Myitsone dam
project to reassess the plan, pointing out concerns that dams on the Irrawaddy
River damage the environment, decrease rice production, dislodge ethnic
peoples. Besides, it would hurt livelihoods of local communities and there is a
risk of possible destructive earthquakes.
that, taking into account the interests of both countries, both governments
would hope to avoid consequences which might jeopardize lives and homes," Suu
Kyi emphasized. "To safeguard the Irrawaddy is to save from harm our economy
and our environment, as well as to protect our cultural heritage," she added.
One can find an environmental impact assessment on
Thailand-based Burma Rivers Network web-site which was conducted by a team of
Burmese and Chinese scientists. The
945-page "environmental impact assessment," fully funded by China's CPI
Corporation and conducted by a team of Burmese and Chinese scientists,
recommends that the Irrawaddy Myitsone Dam not proceed. "There is no need for
such a big dam to be constructed at the confluence of the Irrawaddy River" says
dams has become also a rising political issue in China's relations with
countries in Southeast Asia, a region increasingly dependent on the watercourse
of rivers may perhaps reduce their capacity to irrigate paddy fields.