Bishops slam Chinese dam: Peace, development and sustainability in danger

The Myitstone dam would be the first to block the Irrawaddy River, the cradle of Myanmar civilization. Beijing presses for the reopening of construct

Jun 10, 2019

YANGON: Stop the construction of the Myitstone dam to ensure peace in the region, sustainable livelihoods for millions of farmers and a future based on prosperity: the Bishops' Conference of Myanmar (Cbcm) today issued an appeal, in which it invites  the government and China to review the massive project at the confluence of the Mali and N'Mai rivers.  

In the northern state of Kachin, the two rivers merge to form the Irrawaddy.  Controlled by the China State Power Investment Corp., the 6,400-megawatt plant - worth US $ 3.6 billion - would be the first dam to dam the river, considered the cradle of Myanmar's civilization.

 "Our request - explain the bishops - is not only for the people of the State of Kachin, but for all our brothers and sisters in all parts of Myanmar, whose history is the same as that of the sacred mother Irrawaddy.  .  [...] With a spirit of cooperation and urgency to promote lasting peace in Myanmar, we release this declaration, hoping that our cry of hope can contribute to greater harmony in our Motherland ”.

Activists, representatives of political parties, religious leaders, civil movements and citizens of the Kachin community have repeatedly expressed their opposition to the project.  The Card  Charles Maung Bo, Archbishop of Yangon and president of the Federation of Episcopal Conferences of Asia (FABC), called it "a death sentence for the people of Myanmar." The international isolation that followed the humanitarian crisis of the Rohingya, has  pushed Myanmar to depend more and more on China's political and economic support. In the past few months, the hesitations of Aung San Suu Kyi have raised concerns that her government may soon succumb to Beijing's pressure.

"The people of Myanmar - declare the bishops - showed unity in resisting foreign powers that intend to exploit the vulnerability of the country, exerting international pressure.  The Burmese defend the principle that Myanmar's natural resources belong to its people and that their informed consent is a prerequisite for any sustainable agreement on resource sharing;  as well as for any good sustainable relationship with our neighbors ”.

In their appeal, the bishops cite "the catastrophic effects" that the dam would have on people's lives and the "mutilating wound" that it would inflict on the flora and fauna of the Irrawaddy.  "For a lasting peace in the region - they say - the Irrawaddy river must be left intact.  The promised economic benefits would not compensate  the social and ecological disturbances that would surely arise.  [...] Peace thus becomes a distant dream.  [...] We, as bishops, will continue to work with the people of Myanmar, the government and other stakeholders to build a nation based on peace and understanding.  Our goal is the greatest good for all people.  The dam will certainly deviate from this objective".--Asia News

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