Burma: Kachin group slams China’s new CSR report on Myitsone dam
Kachin activists have slammed a new corporate social responsibility (CSR) report aimed at bolstering support for seven China-backed hydropower projects along the Irrawaddy River in northern Burma, including the deeply unpopular Myitsone mega dam.
The Upstream Ayeyawady Confluence Basin Hydropower Co. (ACHC), part of state-owned Chinese Power Investment (CPI), launched its “Ayeywady Dams Corporate Responsibility Report” in Rangoon in December, claiming the projects would be good for Kachin state and all of Burma.
But the Kachin Development Networking Group (KDNG) has called for a locally led development process.“Chinese companies should not determine how people in Burma live,” said Tsa Ji of KDNG. “We need to determine our own development path that benefits local people.”
China has led an aggressive PR campaign to re-open the US$3.6 billion Myitsone project – the largest of the seven dams -- which was suspended by President Thein Sein in 2011 following a public uproar over its social and environmental impacts. Ninety percent of its 6,000 MW electricity output is earmarked for consumption by neighbouring China, while locals are set to witness mass displacement and the flooding of an area the size of Singapore.
Despite national opposition to the dams, CPI claims that the dams will modernize Kachin state, transform the local economy and improve local Kachin culture.
The CSR report, which covers 2010-2012, says the projects will contribute about US$5 billion each year to Burma’s GDP, create thousands of local jobs and improve infrastructure in the conflict-torn northern state. It also claims that ACHC has invested US$10 million to conduct an environment impact assessment, $6.68 million for environment protection and $25 million to resettle displaced locals.
KDNG has been calling for the complete cancellation of the Myitsone dam project, since the resumption of violence between the military and ethnic minority rebels in June 2011. The group has expressed concern that attempts to restart the dam will further fuel the Kachin conflict, which was re-ignited following a territorial dispute near another China-backed dam.
China has vast natural resource interests in Kachin state, a mountainous region rich in hydropower, timber, jade and minerals, and has been blamed for mass land confiscations and human rights abuses against minority populations. Activists say that restarting the dam could also fuel the anger of downstream communities in central Burma who are opposed to the project and have campaigned to protect the Irrawaddy River.
Earlier this month, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi criticised the president for leaving the future of the Myitsone dam unresolved, accusing him of passing the buck to the next administration by pledging to suspend the dam only until the end of his presidential term.
At a press conference in Rangoon last month, the head of CPI's Burmese subsidiary, Li Guanghua said the Myitsone project would be managed in a transparent and accountable manner if reopened.
"The current government was elected by the people and I hope that the government that was elected by the people will make the right decision," Li told the press conference, according to RFA.
The quasi-civilian government came to power in a deeply flawed election in 2010, which marked the nominal end of military rule in Burma.
KDNG has published a detailed analysis of the CSR report. Both documents are available to download below.
Photo: Ethnic Kachins protest against the damming of the Irrawaddy River in Burma
Credit: Mungchying Rawt Jat (MRJ)