Kachin villagers forced off their ancestral land to make way for the construction of the Chinese financed Myitsone Dam protested Tuesday, calling for the cancellation of all hydro-power projects planned at the confluence of the Mali and N’mai rivers, and the source of the Irrawaddy River.
On the same day as the May 25 demonstrations in Myitkyina and Chipwi townships, an open letter was delivered to China’s State Power Investment Corporation (SPIC) office in Myitkyina ‘s Sitapru ward. SPIC has been pushing for construction to resume since the Thein Sein government announced its suspension in 2011 after facing widespread opposition.
“If the mega-dams are built on the confluence and upstream areas of Mali Hka and Nmai Hka rivers, the current river system will be completely changed and it will destroy the environment and ecosystem,” the letter said, causing many problems for the inhabitants living along the river bank. “Every ten years this river has serious floods, creating a dangerous situation and if the dam is built blocking the confluence and the tributaries of the Irrawaddy River..a hundred thousand people’s lives are at risk.”
The Myitsone Dam is a $3.6 bn joint venture between SPIC, the Burmese Government’s Ministry of Electric Power and Asia World Company. If built, it is expected to generate 6,000 megawatts, with ninety percent of power generated pegged for China.
“We want to return to our old village. This dam project has (negatively) impacted the lives of many women in the area,” a woman told KNG on the condition her name wouldn’t be published.
After villagers living near the dam site were forcibly relocated to Aung Myin Thar ‘model village’ where soil conditions are poor they say it has been a struggle to grow anything on the small plots the government provided.
According to the woman, they don’t have access to healthcare or quality education for their children. “We want the company to cancel all its projects and leave Burma. Currently, the dam project is just stalled, so nothing really changed,” she explained to KNG.
The open letter said: “The confluence is one of the most important cultural sites, which the Kachin people cannot let be destroyed as it is part of our Kachin people. The Irrawaddy River, the confluence, the Mali Hka and Nmai Hka rivers and the Kachin people, are inseparable. These rivers must flow freely and no one should destroy them and we will protect these rivers forever.”