Rangoon (Mizzima) – No. 1 Electrical Power Ministry Minister Zaw Min on Monday said that the Burmese government would not stop the controversial Myitsone Dam project and it would be completed within eight years.
Burmese Energy Minister Zaw Min defends the Myitsone Dam project in a press conference on Sunday, September 11, 2011. Photo: Mizzima
At a press briefing on Sunday at the Railway Ministry in Naypyitaw, the minister said that electrification is in the “national interest” and the government would start building “as soon as the spring season starts.”
In reply to a question, the minister said it would be a step backward to stop the project.
The opening ceremony for the Myitsone Dam project near the confluence of the Maykha and Maylikha rivers was held in December 2009.
Zaw Min said that the state conducted a detailed study for the Myitsone Dam project by hiring the “Biodiversity and Nature Conservation Association” (BANCA) for US$ 1.25 million. An article written by the minister using a pseudonym of a “A Electrical Power Department Staff” appeared in the state-run “New Light of Myanmar” on August 9. The article said that 260 organizations including BANCA conducted surveys and studies from January to July 2009.
In replying to criticism that the dam project will benefit only China, he said, “If we had capital, we would build it ourselves. This is the first point. And then after building this project, who will use this power? We cannot use the current generation of 1,500 megawatts. So who will use this power? In the market economy, we must sell surplus power.”
He also wrote that the environment impact study report prepared by BANCA was kept secret by the government because it was a “trade secret” but it was leaked and now spread widely on the Internet.
In the article titled “With noble benevolence for a permanent legacy,” he said that the country would have a capacity of 18,400 megawatts from its hydropower projects within the next 15 years from projects to be built on the Irrawaddy River. The dam would prevent flooding in Myitkyina with a current frequency of once every five years to once in every 20 years, he wrote.
The concrete and rock-filled dam project will be 4,300 feet in length and 458 feet in height. An estimated 2,146 people living in the Myitsone dam project area were given 80’x60’ and 100’x120’ plots.
It’s estimated that the regular water flow will be decreased by 3.5 per cent in the monsoon season and will be increased by 16 per cent in the summer season, according to the studies. The average depth of the Irrawaddy River will be increased by 1.5 feet, the article claimed.
In replying to criticisms of the article, the minister said he told “my director general to say this article was written by him and not by me. There’s no one who has more experience than me (director general) in hydropower projects at the current time. So you (director general) claim you wrote this article otherwise it would not be good for them. [But] in fact, I wrote this article.”