A Kachin group today criticized the new corporate social responsibility report on the controversial Irrawaddy dams, calling for a locally-led development process, not one benefiting only China.
The Upstream Irrawaddy Confluence Basin Hydropower Co. (ACHC), part of state-owned Chinese Power Investment (CPI) launched its “Irrawaddy Dams Corporate Responsibility Report” in Yangon last month, asserting that the seven dam Irrawaddy-Myitsone project is good for Kachin State and all of Burma.
Despite national opposition to the dams due their negative social, environmental and economic impacts, CPI’s report claims that the dams will modernize Kachin State, transform the local economy and improve local Kachin culture.
“Chinese companies should not determine how people in Burma live,” said Tsa Ji of the Kachin Development Networking Group (KDNG). “We need to determine our own development path that benefits local people”.
KDNG has been calling for the complete cancellation of the Myitsone dam project, which was suspended in September 2011, following the breakdown of the cease-fire in Kachin state in June that year.
KDNG has expressed concern that attempts to restart the dam will further fuel conflict, as the issue of natural resources is a key driver of the war. In addition, construction of the mega-dam will also anger communities downstream in central Burma who have also opposed the project.
Specifically KDNG has the following responses to CPI’s new CSR report.
CSR Report: During the construction and concession periods, the Myanmar Government will gain about 54 billion US dollars of income by means of tax payment, free power, and free share, accounting for 60% of the total revenues of the Ayeyawady Projects; The income for investors will be 35 billion dollars, accounting for 40% of the total revenues of the Ayeyawady Projects;
KDNG: According to the current 2008 constitution, the central government in Naypyidaw owns and manages all natural resources and so will control all of the project income. The people of Kachin state are currently seeking constitutional reforms to provide increased control over local lands, rivers and other natural resources. Therefore proceeding with this project before a political settlement to these issues is reached will further fuel conflict in this war torn area.
CSR Report: ACHC has always acted as a responsible company, and constantly integrated the international development with social responsibility performance, always followed the principle of transparency, fairness and integrity.
KDNG: The 7 dam Irrawaddy project has been shrouded in secrecy from the beginning with no free, prior and informed consent of impacted communities. In addition, there has been no detailed information regarding financial transactions before and during the project commencement and regarding the ongoing role of the Burmese military stakeholders who originally approved the project.
CSR Report: As Myanmar does not have such large demand of electricity in the near future, it can only be largely exported to other countries.
KDNG: Burma needs a nationwide debate and consensus about its energy choices and energy plans prior to any export of energy to neighboring countries
CSR Report: The construction of the Myitsone Project will adjust the runoff effectively during the dry and rainy seasons, stabilize the river channels and slow down the sedimentation of the Ayeyawady River (…) This will play a positive role in irrigation, shipping, tourism as well as resisting sea water intrusion in the middle and lower reaches.
KDNG: The Myitsone dam will be a hydroelectric dam, not an irrigation dam and as such the water will only be released downstream according to the energy needs of the operator and main customer, China. Judging from experience of downstream effects of Chinese hydro dams on the Shweli as well as the Mekong River, Burma can expect even less water during the dry season, potentially worse flooding during the rainy season and unexpected water surges at any time.
CSR Report: Some workers who are engaged in hunting, logging, mining and gold mining could change their traditional professions to participate in the hydropower construction and management. This will be very helpful to lower down the ecological threats faced by the Ayeyawady River and improve the protection of regional ecological environment.
KDNG: Experience of other dams in Burma as well as during the construction of the 7 dam Irrawaddy project has shown that logging and gold mining vastly increase with dam construction projects. In the first stage of the Myitsone project, local people were forcibly relocated and then large scale mechanized gold mining and logging projects began which destroyed large areas surrounding the Myitsone as well as polluted the Irrawaddy river.
CSR Report: The livelihood of relocated residents within the project construction area will be restored to the level not lower than their original status.
KDNG: Although CPI states the living standards of relocated villagers will be “restored,” a report by affected villagers, “Model villages are not a model” (June 2013) clearly demonstrates that this is false, as they can no longer farm and are largely dependent on CPI food handouts.
CSR Report: We respect the will of the PAPs (project affected persons) (…) ACHC is to take full consideration of stakeholders’ expectations and demands in the process of decision making and operation (..) ACHC has attached great importance to the stakeholders’ rights to know and to participate…
KDNG: CPI commenced the Myitsone dam project without informing local people or seeking their consent. Their will was not respected when their primary school was shut down, when they were forced from their homes, when their revered Myitsone site was desecrated, or when their numerous public appeals – to both Burmese and Chinese officials – were repeatedly ignored.
CSR Report: The construction of the Project will form a more attractive new [Myitsone] landscape combining the natural and human characteristics, which will be of great importance for promoting the development of local tourism and service industry.
KDNG: The Mali Zup [Myitsone] is the legendary birthplace of the Kachin and an important symbol for all the people of Burma and it is unacceptable this national site will be submerged and redesigned to fit this Chinese electricity export project.
Tsa Ji – +95 9401538249
Ah Nan – +66 848854154