New Delhi (Mizzima) – The Rakhine Nationalities Development Party (RNDP), a member of the Friends of Democracy group, says the approval of the Myitsone Dam project by Parliament is not enough to continue the project.
“I think it’s unfair if only the Parliament gets the right to make the decision. A big party dominates this Parliament, and nobody can guarantee whether the members of that party can decide freely,” RNDP General-Secretary Oo Hla Saw told Mizzima.
On Tuesday, the Friends of Democracy group, comprised of 10 political parties that contested in the 2010 election, released a joint statement, urging the government to invite independent experts to review the Myitsone dam project.
All interested parties should have time to review more complete information before a decision is made to continue the project, said Oo Hla Saw.
The Friends of Democracy group includes the RNDP, Shan Nationalities Democratic Party, All Mon Region Democracy Party, Phalon-Sawaw Democratic Party, Chin National Party, National Democratic Force, Democratic Party (Myanmar), Union Democracy Party and Democracy and Peace Party.
Oo Hla Saw said the views of MPs and the experts and other interested groups are essential.
“The MPs are not experts. MPs will cast their votes, but some of them might not clearly understand the effects of the Myitsone dam project. MPs are from various stratum of society,” said Oo Hla Saw.
The statement noted that the Myitsone Dam is close to the Sagaing Fault Line in an earthquake-prone zone. The Friends of Democracy group has also questioned the technical ability of the Chinese company carrying out the construction of the project.
The statement cited the collapse of the Banqiao and Shimantan dams in 1975 in China in which more than 200,000 people died. The two dams in Henan Province in central China were full when they collapsed because of heavy rain during Typhoon Nina.
Observers also said that China has built dams on the Mekong River, which have had adverse environmental impacts on the neighbouring countries of Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia, who also share the river.
In a statement, the group said the government should explain important state projects like Myitsone Dam, and include local residents when deciding important issues. The former junta initated the Myitsone Dam project and the new government is continuing the project.
Oo Hla Saw said that the new government should not act in the same fashion as the former military junta if it wants people to agree that Burma is moving toward a democratic system.
Burmese No. 1 Electrical Power Ministry Minister Zaw Min told a group of MPs in a small workshop on Saturday titled, “Impact of Hydropower Projects in the Irrawaddy basin on the Irrawaddy River and the natural environment” that the ministry would continue implementing the dam project in line with the decisions of Parliament and the adopted policies of the government within the framework of the law.
If the Myitsone project is completed, it will be the largest dam out of eight dams on the Irrawaddy River. It would generate 6,000 megawatts of electricity. Construction plans call for five massive embankments to be built along the Maykha River and two embankments along the Malikha River. The project area, including a reservoir, covers 18,000 square miles, and it is wider than the area of Singapore. Ninety percent of the electricity generated by the dam will be exported to China. The project, started in 2009, is a joint undertaking of the No. 1 Electrical Power Ministry and the China Power Investment Corporation.