The Chinese company behind the construction of the controversial Myitsone Dam in Kachin State is trying to rally Kachin residents who live near the dam site to support the project.
Representatives of China Power Investment (CPI) have visited the homes of residents who have been relocated to an area near the dam’s construction site, according to an article by the Kachin News Group (KNG).
President Thein Sein suspended the dam’s construction on September 30, 2011 amid opposition by environmentalists and local residents.
The KNG said villagers who were relocated to Aung Myin Thar Sanpya, said CPI representatives visited them in their new homes from July 1-3.
One man told KNG that a CPI representative told him if agreed to support the dam project, they would help him and not to worry about after the project is finished.
The villager told KNG, “The new house they gave us looked beautiful from the outside but inside it was poorly constructed. It’s so bad we can’t even stay there. When we lived in Tang Hpre [the dam project] we made enough money to feed a family of 10. Here we can’t even afford to feed one child here because there is no work and we can’t farm. We told the CPI representatives, Chinese people only have one child but we may have 10 children. It’s simply not possible to raise them here.”
The man said residents thought they would be able to return to their land since the dam project was suspended, but the government has ordered them not to return.
The Myitsone Dam was under construction on the Irrawaddy River by Burmese government contractors Asia World. If completed, it will be the 15 largest hydroelectric dam in the world and provide between 3,600 to 6,000 megawatts of electricity, most of which would be transferred to Yunnan Province in China.
According to the Kachin Development Networking Group (KDNG), Chinese workers can still be seen at the dam site in living quarters.
On March 12, Mizzima reported on ongoing talks between China and Burma regarding the status of the Myitsone Dam suspension.
China Power Investment Corporation president Lu Qizhou was quoted in the state-run China Daily newspaper as saying discussions with Burmese government leaders were going on over the suspension, and China would like to restart the project as soon as possible after Burmese concerns are dealt with.
The Burmese government has made no statement about ongoing talks about the dam project.
A Burmese conservationist who was involved in the anti-Myitsone Dam campaign quickly voiced strong objections to a resumption of the project.
“I think their action, the discussion to resume the project, is offensive,” he said. “Although they talk about democracy, their actions are not in accord with their words.”
He said rare species of flowers, rare plants, rare butterflies and animals live in the Myitsone Dam area. “We can’t exchange that precious location for a dam that can damage the environment,” he told Mizzima.
Activist Win Cho urged the Burmese government to halt the project.
“We protested against the project in the past,” he said. “We believe that our objections were proper, so it’s sure that we will object to it again. When our government really resumes the Myitsone Dam construction, we will confront it.”
Dr. Phone Win, a conservationist and director of Mingalar Myanmar, an NGO, said experts, researchers and conservationists should conduct transparent studies before the government makes a final decision.