China Pushes To Restart Myitsone Dam

Network Media Group

January 4, 2019

After heavily investing in the Myitsone Dam, China re-engages discussions about resuming construction of the project stalled for many years.

The Chinese ambassador for Burma pressed to restart a contentious hydro-power dam project during a recent meeting with important Kachin political leaders in northern Myanmar.

“The Chinese ambassador said China wants to resume construction of the Myitsone hydropower dam construction, since it’s already heavily invested in the project,” said U Kwam Gowng Awng Kham, chairman for Kachin Democratic Party.

Planned near Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin State, the dam project has been a massive undertaking by the Chinese government, U Kwam Gowng Awng Kham said. With its suspension, China is going to keep trying to reboot the project.

The previous Thein Sein government suspended it in 2011 after the project received widespread opposition. If it’s completed it would generate 6,000 megawatts, making it the fifteenth largest dam in the world. Most of the dam’s output would be sent to China. It would cause extensive flooding, and because it’s planned on a fault line, there are legitimate fears an earthquake could damage it causing flooding that would inundate neighboring Kachin State capital, Myitkyina.

Since the NLD government came to power, China has been pushing for State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi to restart the project.

The objective of the Myitsone hydropower dam is for regional development, said U Kwam Gowng Awng Kham, but the negative impact a mega project of this kind will have on the environment would be huge. This is why Kachin and so many others across the country have been against it from the start.

Myanmar is still on the hook for money it owes China if the project is cancelled.

“We have to consider how we can pay the investment money back to the Chinese government,” U Kwam Gowng Awng Kham said.

During the meeting, the ambassador also brought up China’s One Belt, One Road and discussed industrial zones, regional development and the peace process.

“He (Chinese ambassador) said that it’s the best time for making peace. And it is the best time to sign the NCA (Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement).”

Other Kachin leaders present at the late December meeting included Dr Tuuja, leader of Kachin State Democracy Party and U Khet Htein Nan, head of Union and Democracy Party of Kachin State.