Burma suspends Myisone dam

Environmental activists in Burma are cautiously welcoming President  Thein Sein parliamentary announcement to suspend construction of a  controversial hydroelectric dam in the north.


Although the Chinese-backed Myitsone dam project has been opposed by  pro-democracy groups and local residents, the rare government  concession came as a surprise to many.


The president said the project would be terminated because it is  against the will of the people, but no official documentation has been  issued to corroborate the announcement.


"If they really stop the project it is a victory of the people," said  Ahnan, a representative of the Thailand-based Burma Rivers Network who  like many in Burma goes by just one name. "But, we cannot trust at 

all. We don't see any official statement and we don't see any change  in the construction site, so we don't know is that really [a] stop or  not."


Activists have long criticized the project for a lack of transparency,  public consultation, and its potential impact on the unique  environment along the Irrawaddy River. Its construction also would 

have displaced thousands of villagers in an area where Burma  military has been clashing with ethnic Kachin rebels.


Unusually candid criticism of the project surfaced in the media and in  small street protests, and democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi wrote a  letter urging the dam's suspension.


But until Friday, authorities largely ignored those concerns and said  construction would go ahead.


According to Ahnan, Beijing, which backed the project and was expected  to purchase the electricity it generated, has yet to issue an official  reaction to new announcement.


The president said Burma would negotiate with the Chinese company  building the dam, but he gave no further details. China Foreign  Ministry spokesman Hong Lei on Friday had no immediate reaction to the 

decision, explaining that he needs to learn and verify the information.


Regardless of official confirmation that the project will indeed be  terminated, U Ohn of the Forest Resource Environment Development and  Conservation Association called the decision the best news of the year  for the biodiversity hotspot.


"I'm very glad to hear that this dam is going to be stopped," he said.  "We can get money from other, smaller dams in our areas instead of a  big dam which is very very devastating to the environment physically,  culturally, historically."


The $3.6 billion dam was the largest of seven being constructed by the  China Power Investment Corporation. Activists say the decision-making  process for all of the dams must be transparent, include public  participation, and consider the environmental and social impact on the  people.

source : Internationalrivers


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