19 September 2014 | The Nation
The company that displaced 1.2 million people to build the world's largest dam in China has been given permission to build Southeast Asia's largest dam in Shan State, in partnership with a company owned by the son of a former minister, deputy minister of electric power Maw Thar Htwe said.
The Electric Power Ministry has granted permission to IGE Co and China Three Gorges Corporation to construct the dam on the Salween River, deputy minister of electric power Maw Thar Htwe told Parliament on Tuesday.
He was responding to a question from MP Nan Wah Nu, who represents a constituency in Shan State, about the planned 7,000-megawatt Mongton hydropower project.
Maw Thar Htwe said both companies would hold discussions with local communities about the environmental and social impacts of the project. "Their views will be taken into consideration," the deputy minister added.
A feasibility study on the project has already been conducted, Maw Thar Htwe said, adding that it had been submitted last year and that foreign consultants would be hired to assess it. If they deem that the project is feasible, thorough studies of the project's environmental and social impacts will be made and detailed findings will be submitted, he added.
A source, however, told Eleven Media that the Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forestry had already selected Australia-based Snowy Mountain Engineering Corporation to compile a report on the project's environmental and social impacts. The company has previously worked in Myanmar's hydropower sector.
Nan Wah Nu told Parliament that residents in the project area are alarmed about the environmental damage the dam will cause, as well as the direct impacts it will have on their lives. It will affect residents of low-lying areas from Kunhein Township to Tawkaw Bridge, he said, adding that people who live along the Salween River are very concerned about dams.
The dam, also known as the Upstream Thanlwin hydropower project will have a capacity to generate 7,000 MW a year.
Maw Thar Htwe said the cost of the project could not be estimated before its feasibility study is examined and approved. The project's profitability could not be estimated either, he added. He said that all electricity generated from the project would be for domestic consumption and only surplus electricity would be sold to neighbouring countries.
Nay Aung, the son of former minister of industry-1 Aung Thaung, owns IGE Company. It acquired permission from the government to build eight hydropower projects in partnership with Chinese companies. The 7,000 MW Mongton, 1,360 MW Hatgyi and 1,200 MW Naungpha projects are among the eight the firm plans to build.
The Mongton project is the second planned for the Salween River. The first is the upstream Thanlwin (Kwunlon) project, which will be built by Asia World Company and China's Hanergy Group Holding Limited. The contract for that project was signed in May. It will generate 1,400 MW, with 10-15 per cent of this going to Myanmar and the rest to China.
State-owned China Three Gorges Corporation built the Three Gorges Dam, the largest dam in the world. It is notorious for displacing more than 1.2 million people. It flooded 13 cities, 140 townships and 1,350 villages, and caused massive environmental damage that environmentalists say will worsen in the future.
A survey of 245 dams in 65 countries by an Oxford University economic geographer Bent Flyvbjerg concluded that their average cost and schedule overruns were 96 and 44 per cent, respectively. The danger of contractors cutting corners on construction to save costs is higher in developing countries, which increases the likelihood of more severe environmental damage, the study found.
It also found that power generation fell short of estimates.