Myitsone Dam protests will impact Myanmar economic development: expert

By Xie Wenting Source:Global Times Published: 2019/3/31 20:43:40

The confluence of the Ayeyarwady River and the Mali and the N'Mai rivers. The Myitsone dam was to be located a mile downstream of this point. Photo: Yu Jincui/GT

A campaign aimed at putting an end to the Myitsone Dam project is reportedly to be held in Myanmar's Yangon on Monday, which Chinese experts said will exert a negative influence on the Southeast Asian country's economic development. 

Politicians and activists, as well as civil society representatives will gather in Yangon on Monday to protest against the Myitsone Dam, Frontier Myanmar magazine reported. 

In an interview with Frontier Myanmar, U Aung Soe Myint, a leader of the movement, said that they had invited NGOs, political parties and environmental experts from every state and region of Myanmar to join the protest. The group will also form an executive committee to devise strategies to campaign against the dam.

Gu Xiaosong, an expert on Southeast Asian studies at the Guangxi Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Sunday that the protest is driven predominantly by political reasons.

"Some organizations are incited by certain Western forces which are trying to damage China-Myanmar relations. It is not really out of concern for the environment as they have declared," Gu said, adding that most ordinary citizens who were instigated to join the protest have no idea of the real situation. 

The dam, which was suspended in 2011, has cost Chinese financiers and contractors dearly. It is one of the key issues to be addressed between the two countries.  

On March 14, when Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi met people in Pyay Township in Bago Region, she said that the country's progress was very slow because some people did not look at what they can give, only looking at what they can get. She called for this situation to be changed.

She said that the government determined projects from political, economic and social angles, according to a statement on the official website of the State Counsellor's office.

Suu Kyi also called on people to be open-minded about megaprojects, including the Myitsone Dam and other projects. She said that Myanmar would face isolation if governments that come to power do not respect the agreements reached by previous administrations, the Myanmar Times reported. 

According to Gu, the dam will bring locals practical benefits which have not been promoted enough among the general public. 

After completion, it could help fix Myanmar's long-standing power shortages and create numerous jobs for the local communities. 

As for the environmental concerns, Gu noted that China has amassed enough experience in preserving the environment when developing large projects like this. 

"These people are using environmental concerns as a front to hide their ultimate ulterior motive," he said. 

Fan Hongwei, an expert on Myanmar issues at Xiamen University in Fujian province, told the Global Times previously addressing the dam issue properly concerns the Myanmar government's credibility and its ability to provide a healthy environment for foreign investors amid challenges.  

Alternatives have been raised by the Myanmar side since January. Thaung Tun, chairman of Myanmar's investment commission, listed options from scaling back the Myitsone Dam or moving it to a different location to offer the operator an alternative project, Reuters reported.


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