NAYPYITAW, Myanmar, July 10 (UPI) -- Construction on Myanmar's Myitsone dam, a Chinese-funded project, is on hold but local opponents of the project say they fear it may be restarted.
The Rev. Thomas Gum Rai Aung in Tang Phre village, speaking to The Washington Post, warned the dam project, if completed, would cause massive flooding in the area.
The Myitsone hydroelectric dam was to be built on the Irawaddy River in Myanmar, formerly called Burma. The site is north of Myitkyina, capital of Kachin State in northern Myanmar.
Although the project is on hold, Rai Aung told the Post he has already lost his flock -- when Myanmar authorities two years ago forced thousands of ethnic Kachin to relocate to make way for the dam, as it was announced electricity from the Chinese-financed project would improve the livelihood of people in the isolated region.
Opposition to the project and its impact on the environment and ecosystem led to construction being halted. Activists fear the project could be restarted because of China's leverage with state officials, the Post reported.
The dam, a joint venture with the state-owned China Power Investment Corp., had been slated for completion in 2019.
Myanmar has for decades been under military rule, which had received much support from neighboring China. The country is currently under a military-backed civilian government that has won praise for reforms.
The Post said the dam would send 90 percent of the electricity generated across the border to China's southwestern Yunnan province in return for $17 billion over 50 years.
In a letter to the Myanmar government, opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi said 12,000 ethnic Kachin from more than 60 villages had been forced out of their homes and warned the Myitsone project poses serious environmental risks and could cause much devastation in the event of an earthquake.
The decision of Myanmar's new President Thein Sein to suspend the project was seen as a blow to China, the Post reported. But in Kachin, Myanmar's generals have ignored the president's calls to end hostilities, which have intensified, the report said.
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