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China Speeds Ahead with Myitsone Dam Despite Civil War in Northern Burma

By Kachin Development Networking Group  •  August 31, 2011

Seven hundred Chinese laborers are working day and night shearing off hilltops, laying tunnels, and building embankments at the Myitsone, the source of Burma’s Irrawaddy River, in a race to complete the country’s largest dam on schedule despite ongoing armed conflict in the area.

Fighting erupted between Burma’s Army and the Kachin Independence Army on June 9, breaking a seventeen year ceasefire and spreading to ten townships. Widespread bombings, including on the main supply route to the site, and clashes near the Myitsone caused workers to flee back to China, but by July they had returned and full scale construction had resumed.

Company updates throughout July and August from China’s biggest dam builder, Sinohydro Corporation, confirm that Phase 1 of the Myitsone Dam is on schedule to be completed within this year. The dam is one of a series of seven on the Irrawaddy and its upper tributaries which the Chinese government has announced as its largest foreign hydropower investment.

A Sinohydro promotional video, Fierce Battle Myitkyina, produced in late May details the massive scale of the project and the extent of the destruction at the confluence so far. Interviews with Chinese engineers and administrators claim that all obstacles to the project will be overcome.

Today well over 20,000 Kachin state residents have fled to the China border and to towns, including the Kachin capital of Myitkyina 40 kilometers south of the dam site, as clashes continue. The Kachin Women’s Association of Thailand has documented 32 cases of rape by Burma Army troops since the fighting began.

“The churches in Myitkyina are overflowing with refugees too terrified to go home. We’re in the middle of a war but the Chinese dam builders are just speeding ahead” said Ah Nan of the Kachin Development Networking Group (KDNG), a community group that has been monitoring the project since 2005.

Earlier this month, Aung San Suu Kyi joined a groundswell of appeals to save the Irrawaddy from the planned mega dams, and called for a reassessment of the 6,000 megawatt Myitsone Dam. In response, Burma’s Information Minister announced that a downstream environmental impact study of the dam would be carried out, saying “we will protect the Irrawaddy.”

“Despite its promises, Burma’s military government has handed over our most important river to China” said Ah Nan of KDNG. “We must protect the Irrawaddy for the sake of the millions that depend on it.”

Sinohydro’s Bureau 11 is building phase I of the Myitsone dam while another Chinese hydro giant, China Power Investment Corporation, is principal owner of the project.

Download the press release in Burmese here.

Contact: Ah Nan

Phone  : (66) 848854154

Email   : kdngchn@gmail.com

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This post is in: Business and Human Rights, Environmental and Economic Justice, Peace and National Reconciliation, Press Release

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