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Sixty Villages to be Relocated for Hydropower Project

Originally appeared in Mizzima

February 10, 2010

The Burmese military junta authorities are gearing up to relocate about 60 villages from the site of hydropower projects at the confluence of May Kha and May Likha Rivers, an environment group said.

The Kachin Development Networking Group (KDNG) said that the Asia World Company is constructing houses for villagers to be relocated from the project sites. Villagers have been told to move to this new place soon.

“We have heard that about 100 houses have been built and junta officials have already instructed local residents to move to the new place,” KDNG Chairman Awng Wah told Mizzima.

The Asia World Company built houses for project workers, conducted hydrology tests and other survey works downstream of Irrawaddy in early December 2009. The company built houses at the site near the Kyinkhan Line Ka Zup village.

The relocated villages upstream of hydropower plant projects include Tan Paye, Myit Sone, Kyein Khayan, Dau Pan, Khan Bu among others.

Moreover, Asia World Company, a partner of China Power Investment Corporation (CPI) in the hydropower projects, also built concrete roads in the valley near Tan Paye village and Inn Khai Lwan mountain range, and heavy concrete mixers near Oo Byit village, 13 miles from Myitkyina, capital of Kachin State.

Awng Wah predicted that thousands of Chinese engineers and skilled workers will arrive at the dam sites after the forthcoming Chinese lunar New Year or spring festival.

“The hydropower project is creating a lot of trouble for local villagers and will severely impact the environment and ecology. Worse there is the danger of heavy flooding if the dam collapses. Then the scale of destruction will be terrible,” he added.

Anti-dam activists estimated that about 20 villages between Myit Sone (the river confluence) and Myitkyina besides Myitkyina itself, which is about 27 miles downstream from the dam site, will be inundated if the dam breaks.

Given the potential of such large scale catastrophe, ethnic Kachin organizations in exile as well as the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), which has a ceasefire agreement with the Burmese regime, are protesting against the Myit Sone hydropower project.

“We have been opposing the project for over a year. Our central committee sent the objection letters to the authorities concerned as we continue opposing the project,” a regional development committee member of the KIO in Laiza, Kachin State told Mizzima.

Ethnic Kachin people in exile launched a worldwide campaign against the project on the 49th Kachin Revolution Day which fell on February 5.

The hydropower project comprises five dams on May Kha River and two more dams on May Likha River.  It is expected to generate 3,600 MW of electricity

The hydropower implementation department under the No. 1 Electric Power Ministry and the Chinese firm CPI concluded an agreement to build seven hydropower projects including Myit Sone. The expected total generation from these projects is 13,360 MW, the state owned ‘New Light of Myanmar’ reported in May 2007.

Six other hydropower projects are Chi Bwe (2,000 MW), Pa Shi (1,600 MW), Lar Kin (1,400 MW), Phi Zaw (1,500 MW), Khaung Galan Phu (1,700 MW) and Lai Zar (1,560 MW).

This is the biggest ever hydropower project in Burma. The second largest project is the Tahsan Dam project in Shan State with an installed capacity of 7,100 MW.

Though the precise investment in the Myit Sone project is not known, it could touch about USD 3.6 billion. The power generated is likely to be sold to China and has the potential of earning USD 500 million every year, according to a report prepared by the KNDG and released in October 2007.

The World Commission on Dams estimates that 40 to 80 million people have been relocated due to dam projects worldwide.

River Irrawaddy with two main tributaries called May Kha and May Likha, which originate from the Himalayan mountain range, is the main waterway in Burma and is about 1,450 miles long. The endangered Irrawaddy dolphins can be seen in this river.

View the original article here.

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This post is in: Business and Human Rights, Environmental and Economic Justice

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