CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 8 September 2018

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Call to block China resurrecting dam

NAYPYIDAW (UCAN): The incoming national League for Democracy faces a serious test over the stalled, Chinese-backed Myitstone Dam project in the Kachin State of the Union of Myanmar.

Around 90 per cent of the electricity that the dam was intended to produce was destined for use in China.

The foreign minister for China, Wang Yi, is reported to have said on March 8 that Beijing is trying to resolve the stalled dam project and it had confidence in the new government of Myanmar in dealing with the matter.

The military-backed government of the outgoing president, Thein Sein, ends its term on March 31 and the incoming president, Htin Kyaw, is to take office on April 1.

Thein Sein angered China when he suspended construction of the US$3.8 billion ($29.48 billion) dam on 30 September 2011, citing public outcry over the impact of the project on the environment and local communities along the Irrawaddy River.

In 2010, at least 2,000 people were displaced from their homes in Aung Myin Thar Village because of construction of the dam.

Prior to the elections in November, Aung San Suu Kyi, from the National League for Democracy toured the Kachin State and met with Christian leaders. The Nobel Laureate told them she would try to address the problems surrounding the dam, but made no promises.

The dam remains highly unpopular in the predominantly Christian area.

Former priest and member of the Upper House for the National Unity Party in the Kachin State, Je Yaw Wu, strongly opposes any restart on construction of the dam.

“We are ready to fight if the new government allows the project to resume, he said, adding, “The issue is not only the concern of local Kachins, but all people of Myanmar as the Irrawaddy River is the mother of us all.”

A member of the Lisu people, the 47-year-old spent his childhood at the confluence of the Mali and N’Mai Rivers, where the dam is being built.

“The National League for Democracy has vowed that it is the people’s party so they should listen to the voices of the people. A people’s government should not carry out (anything) against the will of the public.”

Yaw Wu played a leading role in the previous parliament over the suspension of construction of the dam, submitting a report to the government about its cultural and environmental impact, which contributed to the suspension of construction.

He reiterated that the area’s biodiversity and local cultures would be at risk if the project went ahead, saying that he also feared that the region’s natural resources would be exploited by China.

“The suspension of the dam project needs to be permanent as it is also related with our sovereignty,” Yaw Wu said.

A member of the Lower House, Peter Lama Naw Aung, from the Kachin State Democracy Party, also raised concerns about the impact the dam may have on the local community if construction is resumed.

 

“The government needs to pay attention to the will of the people. I will raise my opposition in parliament if there are any efforts to restart the dam,” he said.

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