Junta kick starts construction of Chipwi hydropower project (feature)


Public football ground seized for helipad
The Burmese military regime is constructing three helipads on the public football ground in the mountainous small city of Chipwi near N'mai River also called N'mai Hka in Kachin where hydroelectric power is to be generated in eastern Kachin state in northern Burma, said local sources.

A resident of Chipwi told KNG, "We have only one football ground but it is now been confiscated for three helipads for the military regime. The helipads are being constructed with concrete three feet thick."

The construction of helipads started in October. Choppers of military officials of the junta will touch down here. The helipads will be in use by the regime's northern command headquarters (Ma Pa Kha) based in Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin state, added residents of Chipwi.

According to a local resident, minister Brig-Gen Thein Zaw of the Post, Communication and Telegraph ministry and the new Kachin state or Northern Command commander Maj-Gen Soe Win visited Chipwi at least once during the last two months.

Activities at the Chipwi hydropower project
The Chipwi hydropower project is being jointly implemented by China's China Power Investment Corporation (CPI) and the Burma-Asia World Company since early 2007.

At the moment, there are over 500 workers where over 200 workers are from CPI and the rest are from Asia World Company are working daily around the Chipwi hydropower project site, said locals.

Experts and workers in the two companies are now mainly focused on constructing a small hydropower plant in Chipwi stream which will produce necessary electricity for constructing activities of bigger hydropower plants in the N'mai River, the second largest river in Kachin state, locals added.

According to eye witnesses and residents of Chipwi, the workers of two companies' are drilling tunnels inside the mountains for delivering water from Chipwi stream by using power shovels, drilling machines and trucks.

On the other hand, inspection activities on the Chipwi hydropower project in N'mai River have not stopped and the regular inspection activities are underway around the project site, said locals.

According to the junta-run newspapers, the Chipwi hydropower project plans to generate a total of 2,000 MW of electricity.

At the same time, the CPI and Asia World Company are also making inspections at Myitsone in Irrawaddy River also called Mali Hka in Kachin language, 17 miles north of Myitkyina for the hydropower project which will generate a total of 3,600 MW of electricity.

General impact on locals
People in Chipwi city depend on government jobs and land farms. However, the farmers are now faced the problem of losing their land to the hydropower project.

Local farmers said, they have not worked in their land farms properly since the hydropower project started early 2007.  Most land farms are placed under the inspection areas and some farms are dug up by power shovels and some are converted into roads.

Local farmers have not been compensated by the CPI or the Asia World Company. They cannot grow rice in the farms and are now losing land farms, said residents of Chipwi.

Moreover, the Asia World Company has delayed paying monthly salaries of local workers who work for the company for two or more months.  Local workers cannot leave the company because their National Registration Cards (NRCs) are kept by the company, added a local worker.

Besides, several restaurant owners in Chipwi are also facing problems because of lack of money to run their restaurants because the workers in Asia World Company regularly eat in their shops without pay but make verbal promises.

The Asia World Company is yet to pay for the cost of food served at the meetings with commander Maj-Gen Soe Win and Minister Thein Zaw in Chipwi last October and November, said residents.

The Asia World Company is delaying paying the cost of food for even their workers and the meeting with military officials of the junta to the local restaurants for the last six months, said sources close to restaurants owners.

Meanwhile, the local authorities under the Burmese ruling junta have ignored the problems of Chipwi residents and are supporting the activities of the two companies, according to residents of Chipwi.

(Nawdin Lahpai is editor of Kachin News Group, KNG)