Myanmar Proceeding with Controversial Dam

  • by:
  • recipient: Zaw Min, Electric Power Minister
Despite violent protests by environmental groups and ethnic minorities, Myanmar is blowing full-steam ahead with the controversial Myanmar-China Myitsone Hydroelectric Project on the Irrawaddy River.

At 1,348 miles long, the Irrawaddy River is Myanmar's main waterway. Flowing through many main cities, these waters provide a livelihood for millions of people by irrigating the country's main rice paddies. The proposed dam would be 500 feet high, creating a reservoir the size of New York City which would drown a site of cultural importance and cause over 12,000 people to be relocated. Additionally, the site lies close to a major fault line, an important fact which was not explored in any sort of environmental impact assessment.

Sign this petition to urge Electric Power Minister Zaw Min to halt the project until further work has been done to explore all environmental impacts, hydrological concerns, cultural damage, and seismic risks.
Dear Minister Zaw Min,

I am writing out of deep concern in regards to the Myanmar-China Myitsone Hydroelectric Project on the Irrawaddy River.

The Irrawaddy River is Myanmar's most significant geological feature, supporting millions of people as it travels through the nation and pours into the Indian Ocean. Although it is important to find viable sources of clean energy to power a nation moving into the modern era, this particular project has severe environmental impacts, hydrological concerns, economic and cultural damage, and seismic risks. It is common knowledge that the proposed project site lies very close to a major fault line, that over 12,000 people have already been displaced, and that a key cultural site would be flooded. The consequences of this lack of planning could be absolutely catastrophic, financially and on a human level.

The Biodiversity and Nature Conservation Association (BANCA) conducted an Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report in October 2009 that warned of "serious social and environmental problems" should the project move forward, and advised a site re-location. This document was not made public for two years, which is harmful to each and every potentially impacted Burmese citizen, which in this case numbers in the millions. "If the Myanmar and Chinese sides were really concerned about environmental issues and aimed at sustainable development of the country, there is no need for such a big dam to be constructed at the confluence of the Irrawaddy River," the report notes (p.40). "Instead two smaller dams could be built above Myitsone to produce nearly the same amount of electricity, hence respecting the Kachin cultural values which surpass any amount of the overall construction costs."

When taking a long view of Myanmar's future, conservation becomes more important than it may seem during this historical period of speedy economic growth. We urge you to learn from the tragic mistakes of other industrialized nations and start to implement stricter environmental review policies. Progress at the expense of irreplaceable ecological resources is not progress at all.


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