From the New York Times:
On Friday, following increasing popular agitation, the president halted work on a $3.6 billion hydroelectric dam being built by China on the Irrawaddy River to send power to Chinese provinces next door. This was a victory for Myanmar’s nascent environmental movement and the area’s minority Kachin people. That the president would stop a Chinese-backed project of this magnitude was the clearest sign yet that the country was at a turning point.
Success! Thanks in part to 24,731 Care2 members who signed the petition and expressed concern about this dam, the Mynamar government has stopped moving forward with construction plans!
When the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) was made for the $3.6 million Myitsone Hydroelectric Project back in 2009, the findings were astonishing. The dam was estimated to have major environmental, social and economic impacts on the surrounding communities. Completion of the dam would lead to deforestation, erosion, cultural resource eradication, ethnic minority displacement, large scale flooding and seismic risks.
The proposed dam, intended to be the size of Manhattan, would have forced more than 15,000 people in 60 villages to relocate. It would have also been right next to a major fault line, posing countless unnecessary risks. Despite recommendations to scrap this project in its entirety, the Myanmar government hid the contents of the report until this summer when it was leaked by Chinese environmentalists.
But, on September 30, newly elected president Thein Sein promised citizens of Myanmar that as long as he was in office, construction of the dam would be halted. In their coverage of the event, Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN) gave quotes from Sein’s official letter to Parliament. “As our government is elected by the people, it is to respect the people’s will. We have the responsibility to address public concerns in all seriousness…So construction of Myitsone Dam will be suspended in the time of our government.”
This is a major victory for citizens of Myanmar who are finally feeling a sense of hope for their government and for their country. President Thein Sein has also opened doors for Myanmar to become allies with other countries.
From the Economist:
The government’s decision to suspend the dam comes at a time when it is also showing more willingness to engage with the West. Barack Obama’s special envoy to Myanmar was there in September. The regime has even been hinting that it might release at least some of its 2,000 political prisoners.
President Thein Sein’s radical decision has put many at ease and eager for more changes.
Care2 wants to send a huge thank you to all who signed the petition to help stop the construction of the dam!
Photo credit: iStock
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