|Hope for a Green Future in Myanmar|
In his first speech to parliament after nearly half a century of military rule in Myanmar, newly-elected President U Thein Sein caught the world's attention with his focus on ethnic reconciliation, human rights, and fighting corruption. But it was another pledge that caught the attention of conservationists. Thein Sein promised to "pay serious attention to conservation of forests and woodlands and take measures in various sectors to reduce air and water pollution, control dumping of industrial waste and conserve wildlife." Economic development, he declared, would proceed "in parallel with environmental conservation."
Six months later, he again surprised skeptics by announcing the suspension of the $3.6 billion Chinese-financed Myitsone Dam on the Irrawaddy River for the duration of his presidency. The mega-project would have created a reservoir over 12 times the size of Manhattan. Then last January, a Thai-backed 4,000 megawatt coal-fired power station at the Dawei Special Economic Zone was canceled. The Minister of Electrical Power cited the "fear of the adverse effects on the environment." Meanwhile, the previous Ministry of Forestry was renamed the Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forestry. Again, the new president had proposed bold environmental action.