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Junta Forcibly Acquires Relocation Consent for Myitsone Dam

Originally appeared in Mizzima

March 4, 2010

Villagers in Tan Hte village near the hydropower project site at the confluence (Myitsone) of May Kha and May Likha, tributaries of Irrawaddy River, the main waterway and lifeline of Burma, have been forced to give their consent to relocate by signing on a consent paper by Myitkyina township officials, a Kachin social group said.

The Kachin Democratic Network Group (KDNG) said that Myitkyina Township Peace and Development Council (TPDC) members forced Tan Hte Village PDC Chairman U Aung Bahn to give his consent to be relocated by signing on a consent paper on February 7.

“Myitkyina TPDC members told him that they acting on the orders of the Home Ministry. He was threatened him with arrest and imprisonment if he refused. He signed,” KDNG Chairman Awng Wah told Mizzima.

This happened even as local authorities are preparing to relocate about 60 villages from the Myitsone Hydropower Plant project site in Kachin State.

Twenty two village elders from Tan Hte village signed and sent a 10-point proposal including the right to choose their relocated site and right to compensation on 28 September last year to Kachin State PDC Chairman.

“They rejected our demand and forced us to sign the consent paper. The villagers have said that they will not abide by the relocation programme in this way. The elders are extremely wary of moving from where they have lived for many years,” he said.

The hydropower project will be implemented by China Power Investment (CPI) in collaboration with domestic company Asia World, which built quarters for project workers in early December 2009 and conducted hydrology and water survey tests in downstream Irrawaddy River. They also built houses near Kyin Khan Lone Ka Zwap village, over 20 miles upstream from Myitkyina, for relocated villagers.

Over 1,000 people living in over 200 houses in the villages of Tan Hte, Myitsone, Kyein Kharan, Dawn Pang, Pa Khan Bu are to be relocated.

“This is gross violation of human rights. There is a way of getting consent from locals. Forced relocation will have negative consequences later for the project,” Awng Wah said.

The CPI signed an agreement with junta’s No. 1 Electric Power Ministry in May 2007. The proposed dam site is in May Kha and May Likha confluence, 27 mile upstream from Myitkyina.

This project alone will generate 3,600 MW of electricity of a total of seven dams –five on May Kha and two on May Likha tributaries.

Anti-dam activists estimate that about 20 villages between Myitsone and Myitkyina downstream from the site will be flooded if the dams collapse.

Many Kachin people at home and abroad, Kachin Student Union, Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) and Kachin in exile are protesting against the massive and dangerous dam project.

Kachin people in exile signed a petition protesting against the dam project and appealing to halt it on 28 January and sent it to Chinese Prime Minister Wan Jia Bao through Chinese embassies in Thailand, India, Singapore, Britain and New Zealand.

Only the Chinese embassy in Singapore responded saying that itwould forward the petition. There has been no response from Chinese PM Wan Jia Bao and other embassies.

The agreement between junta’s No. 1 Electric Power Ministry and CPI is to build a total of seven hydro projects in Kachin State including the Myitsone project. State owned ‘New Light of Myanmar’ has reported that the total power generated will be 13,360 MW from these power projects.

The other six power projects are Chi Bwe (2,000 MW), Pa Shi (1,600 MW), La Kin (1,400 MW), Phi Zaw (1,500 MW), Khau Galan Phu (1,700 MW) and Lai Zar (1,560 MW).

The Myitsone hydropower project is the biggest in Burma and the second largest will be the proposed dam site in Tasan in Shan State, which is expected to generate 7,100 MW of electricity.

The investment in the Myitsone hydropower project is not known yet but may touch about USD 3.6 billion. The power generated is likely to be sold to China and can earn about USD 500 million per annum, a KNDG report released in October 2007 said.

The World Commission on Dams estimated that 40 to 80 million people were relocated against their will because of worldwide dam building projects.

The tributaries of Irrawaddy River, May Kha and May Likha, originated from the Himalayas. Irrawaddy is the biggest waterway in Burma and is about 1,450 miles long. Endangered river dolphins live in the river.

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

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