You are here

Burma Suspends Controversial Myitsone Dam

Burma’s President, Thein Sein, today sent a letter to Burma's parliament suspending construction of the Chinese-backed US$ 3.6 billion Myitsone Dam on the Irrawaddy River. This surprising announcement, if enforced, marks a major achievement for Burma’s civil society and local communities in Kachin State that have consistently opposed the construction of the Myitsone Dam because of its expected negative environmental and social impacts.

In May 2007, China Power Investment Corporation (CPI) signed an agreement with Burma’s government for the construction of seven dams on the Irrawaddy, N’Mai Hka, and Mali Hka Rivers in Kachin State, at a total cost of approximately US$ 20 billion.  At 152 meters high, the 6,000 MW Myitsone dam is the largest of these seven planned dams and, according to Burma Rivers Network, the construction of the Myitsone Dam will “impact millions of people downstream who depend on the Irrawaddy for agriculture, fishing, and transportation.  The dam will also destroy…one of the most significant cultural heritage sites for the Kachin people and an important landmark for all of Burma.”

Earlier this year, a controversial environmental impact assessment (EIA) conducted by CPI concluded “there is no need for such a big dam to be constructed at the confluence of the Irrawaddy River.” Civil society and local community opposition to the Myitsone Dam has crystallized over recent months, and pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been vocal in her criticism of the dam project and the importance of protecting the Irrawaddy River. 

The construction of the Myitsone Dam is also widely considered the latest catalyst in the recent eruption of armed conflict between the Burmese army and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), an ethnic armed group that controls large sections of Kachin State. Fighting around the Myitsone Dam erupted earlier this year when Burmese army forces entered KIA territory to secure the project site, displacing tens of thousands of people.

The suspension of the Myitsone Dam also reflects the success of Burma’s civil society; however the wider implication of the project’s suspension remain to be seen, particularly Burma’s relations and future negotiations with the KIA and China.

Hopefully, the turn in favor for the Myitsone Dam will result in a greater openness for local communities in Burma to debate the environmental, social, and economic aspects of other natural resource development projects, including the construction of dams on the Salween River as well as the construction of dual oil and natural gas pipelines stretching from the Bay of Bengal to China’s Yunnan Province

Chinese Translation

缅甸叫停备受争议的密松水坝

缅甸总统吴登盛今日致信缅甸议会,要求暂停中国投资36亿美元建设的位于伊洛瓦底江上游的密松水坝项目。这一令人震惊的声明,主要得益于来自缅甸公民社会以及克钦当地社区基于密松大坝建设可能带来的环境和社会的负面影响,所进行的坚持不懈地抗争。

2007年,中国水电投资集团公司与缅甸政府签订了关于在克钦境内的伊洛瓦底江以及恩梅开江、迈立开江建设7座水坝,累计投资额将达到200亿美元的合作协议。据缅甸河网报道,其中高152米,总装机容量为600万千瓦的密松水坝是七个拟建大坝中产能最大的一个。密松水坝的建设将直接影响到下游数百万世代依靠伊洛瓦底江作为耕种、渔业和交通的平民的生活。此外,大坝还会破坏克钦人民最重要的文化遗址,以及作为缅甸重要地标之一的区域。

今年年初,据中国电力投资有限公司进行的备受争议的环境影响评价报告显示,“没有必要在颇具影响力的伊洛瓦底江上,建设如此巨大的水坝。”公民社会和当地社区反对建设大坝的活动已坚持数月。民主党领导昂山素季也就大坝项目进行了批判,并强调保护伊洛瓦底江的重要性。

在建的密松大坝同时也引起了对近期爆发 的缅甸政府军与控制克钦大部分地区的少数民族武装——克钦独立武装(KIA)之间的冲突的关注。此冲突爆发于今年年初,是由于缅甸政府军进驻克钦独立武装控制区所引发,已导致数以万计的平民流离失所。

密松水坝的停建,反映了缅甸公民社会所取得的成功。但与此同时,项目停建背后隐藏的问题,特别是对于有关缅甸政府与克钦独立武装,以及与中国方面的关系和进一步的磋商还需要继续观注。有乐观人士估计,对于密松项目的停建也会为缅甸当地社区提供一个更加开放的环境来讨论关于其他自然资源开发项目所引起的环境的、社会的和经济的影响,包括在建的萨尔温江上的大坝,以及由孟加拉湾通往中国云南省的石油天然气管道项目