The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Myanmar (CBCM) has demanded a complete stop to the Myitsone dam project in Kachin state bordering northeast India.
On June 8 last, Bishops from all 19 religious’ territories in Myanmar included Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, Archbishop of Yangon, said that the Myanmar government must close the project and tell China in so many words that it cannot be revived.
“The economic benefits which can be gained from the Myitsone dam project were negligible in comparison with the destruction of society and environment and moreover it will make internal peace further away in Myanmar,” the CBCM statement says.
The bishops said that the proposed dam site was on a fault line under the riverbed of Ayeyarwady River and the building of a gigantic dam on this fault line will put intense pressure on it.
The Myitsone dam project agreement was signed by the erstwhile military junta, but later President Thein Sein suspended it during his tenure. The current NLD government has hinted resuming the project.
Belatedly, China has been increasing pressure on its southern neighbour to revive the controversial project.
Around 10,000 Kachins in late March staged a protest march in Kachin state’s Myitkyina calling for termination of dam projects both upstream and downstream on the Irrawaddy River.
While Myanmar is bound to suffer serious environmental impacts if the Myitsone Dam project goes ahead, China will take 90 per cent of the electricity produced, lead protester Steven Naw Awng said, explaining the reason behind the rally.
“The mega dam is not for us. But we will lose our lives and property because of it. So, we are all gathering to express our opposition,” Steven Name Seng said.
Myanmar President Office spokesman Zaw Htay said that the ruling National League for Democracy-led government would not make any secret government-to-government deal on Myitsone dam by leaving people in the dark.
He added that the government seriously considered the public opinion on this issue and also the government would focus on the agreement and commitment made with the Chinese government.