A statement released by the International Commission on large Dams (ICOLD) last week, has confirmed that the Chinese state-owned firm behind the stalled Myitsone hydroelectric project is pushing ahead with plans to conduct a new study on the dam.
ICOLD's statement released on June 30 denied recent Chinese media reports indicating that the Paris based organization would in fact be performing the study for China Power Investment (CPI) “in order to dispel Myanmar people’s doubts” about the project. ICOLD, a self-described NGO that “provides a forum for the exchange of knowledge and experience in dam engineering” receives much of its funding from the global hydroelectric industry and has been accused by environmentalists of serving as the hydroelectric power industry's international lobby group.
It remains unclear however if the Chinese Commission on Large Dams (CHINCOLD) a leading member of ICOLD will instead be conducting the new study. The Chinese group is dominated by senior executives from CPI including the firm's Deputy General Manager Yong Tian who serves as a Vice-President of CHINCOLD’s board. Two other senior CPI executives are also on the CHINCOLD board. In turn ICOLD's President Dr. Jinsheng Jia is also a Vice-President with CHINCOLD.
Reached for comment Seng Mai, a spokesperson for an environmental organization opposed to the dam the Kachin Development Networking Group (KDNG), criticized the new study as naked attempt to overturn the will of Burma's people and restart the dam. “CPI wants the dam to go ahead and is doing everything they can to make sure it happens”, she said.
Seng Mai noted that CPI still maintains a working presence at the dam site and has stepped up lobbying efforts to convince displayed villagers the dam will be good for them. “We don't want the Myitsone dam or the other 6 dams CPI wants to build along the upper Irrawaddy”, she said.
On September 30, 2011 Burma's President Thein Sein announced that construction on the Myitsone dam would be officially suspended during his term in officer. Despite Thein Sein's announcement, none of the 2,000 Kachin villagers forcibly relocated to make way for the dam at the confluence of the Mali Hka and N’Mai Hka rivers have been allowed to move back home.
The planned 152-meter high Myitsone dam was to be the first in a series of seven on the Upper Irrawaddy that according to the dam’s opponents will dramatically affect the lives of millions of people who live downstream, including in the Irrawaddy delta, home to two thirds of Burma’s rice production.