Thursday, August 17, 2017

Hydropower dams, major development projects suspended in Shan State: minister

The Naungpha hydropower dam is one of several major projects in Shan State that have been suspended until cost-benefit field analyses are performed, according to the state minister for finance and planning, U Soe Nyunt Lwin.

Projects related to coal-fired power, large-acreage and border development, and hotels – all approved under the previous government – are on hold until the assessments are complete. The Naungpha dam, a joint venture between local conglomerate IGE and China’s Hydrochina Corporation, and seven other hydropower projects are among the developments halted pending review.

The proposed Naungpha dam, sited on the Thanlwin River, was slated to generate 1200 megawatts of electricity, the vast majority of which would have been sold to China.

Experts will inspect the suspended projects and analyse their costs and benefits for the people and the nation, U Soe Nyunt Lwin said yesterday. Projects deemed beneficial on balance will be reapproved, though possibly with altered terms and conditions, after the results of the reviews are put forward for public consultation and weighed by the central government.

“Not just the rules and regulations but also the will of the people must be taken into account before the decisions are made,” U Soe Nyunt Lwin said. “The voice of the people is more important than documents.”

The projects will not be approved under the new government if they have a negative impact on the people, he said.

Some small projects may be reapproved and allowed to proceed in 2016, U Soe Nyunt Lwin said.

Environmental and social impact assessments are among those that will be required of all the projects.

For years, environmental and human rights groups have called for a halt to hydropower dam construction on the Thanlwin River in Shan and other states, citing uncertain impacts and accusing the projects of helping to fuel conflict.

Translation by Khant Lin Oo