Myanmar's Myitsone Dam Project Stalled: Chinese Advantage - Jamestown (2023)

Introduction: China's Stalled Dam Project in Myanmar

On January 12, the Embassy of the People's Republic of China (PRC) in Myanmar issued a statement warning Myanmar that "the confidence of Chinese businessmen to invest in Myanmar would be "seriously undermined" (global times, February 21st). Fifteen days before the declaration, the Ambassador of the People's Republic of China to Myanmar, Hong Liang, visited the Kachin capital Myitkyina, where he met with local Kachin groups and religious leaders to express support for the revival of the controversial project of Chinese-backed dam. Hong reportedly warned them against opposing Chinese projects, including the Myitsone project in Kachin state (O Irrawaddy, January 9th). PRC officials have visited the homes of Kachin villagers to rally support for the project (O Irrawaddy, 13. September 2018).

The $3.6 billion Myitsone dam project is a joint venture between China and Myanmar: Myanmar's Ministry of Electric Power and a national conglomerate, Asia World, and the state-owned China Energy Investment Corporation of the People's Republic China signed a memorandum of understanding in 2006; Subsequently, work on the project began in December 2009. In September 2011, amid protests over the social and environmental costs of the Myitsone Dam, Myanmar's then-President Thein Sein announced the cancellation of the project, citing the "will of the people". (Mizzima, 09/30/2011). Since coming to power in January 2016, Myanmar's National League for Democracy (NLD) has avoided making a decision on the future of the project. But with State Councilor Aung San Suu Kyi set to meet Chinese leaders on the sidelines of the upcoming Belt and Road forum in Beijing to discuss the Myitsone project, the NLD government must decide the fate of the project. before Suu Kyi left for Beijing (O Irrawaddy, 5th of April). This will not be an easy decision as the government is caught between increasing pressure from the PRC and the demands of the Myanmar people to stop the project.

Concerns and controversies surrounding the Myitsone dam project

The Myitsone project called for the construction of a dam approximately 3.2 kilometers south of the confluence of the Mali Hka and N'Mai Hka rivers, where the Irrawaddy River rises. The dam was to have an installed capacity of 6,000 megawatts (MW).[1]Under the original agreement, 90% of the electricity generated would be sold to China and the rest would be available for Myanmar to use for free (Burmese border, November 29, 2018). The deal has been heavily criticized in Myanmar: according to Khin Khin Kyaw Kyee, a senior fellow at the Myanmar Institute of Strategy and Policy, many Myanmar citizens see it as a "one-sided" deal, mostly pro-China, with few benefits. . .. to Burma. There are also concerns that China will seize control of one of Myanmar's "most important water sources", making the country "more vulnerable" to Chinese pressure.[2]

In addition, there are concerns about the social and environmental costs that the local population will have to bear. The mega dam is expected to flood 766 square kilometers (km) of land in Kachin State, and more than 15,000 people are likely to be displaced and deprived of their livelihoods. Flooding will destroy the area's rich biodiversity, disrupting agricultural and fishing land both in the immediate area and downstream. An additional concern is that the dam is in an earthquake-prone area, and damage to the dam in the event of an earthquake could lead to flooding of Myitkyina, which is 40 kilometers downstream (Kachin Development Network Group, 12.09.2016).

Opposition to the Myitsone project is widespread in Myanmar. A 2017 survey by the Yangon School of Political Science found that 85% of people in Myanmar oppose the construction of the dam (Burma time, January 3, 2017). Opposition to the project became a national campaign as early as 2011.[3]There are several reasons why the dam has become a national concern. For one thing, it was Myanmar's military junta that ruled in favor of the project, and the details of the deal have never been made public. The Myitsone project entered the agenda of the pro-democracy movement and gained support across the country. In addition, the dam's location has raised cultural concerns: it is close to the source of the Irrawaddy River, Myanmar's livelihood and the heart of its culture. The people of Myanmar revere this area as the cradle of their country and civilization (Kachin Development Network Group, 09/12/2016). This cultural connection to the Irrawaddy evokes strong emotions in all Myanmar people and sparked opposition to the dam project from Myanmar citizens.

Furthermore, the PRC's bullying of Myanmar into the Myitsone project has not only angered the people of Myanmar; It has also shifted opposition to the project from a movement focused on environmental and social costs to one focused on the project's impact on Myanmar's sovereignty (O Irrawaddy, April 1st). So it's not just the Kachin community that opposes the Myitsone project. His opponents include people of "more than one ethnicity or ethnic group": people from all walks of life, with different ethnicities, and from different geographic regions oppose the dam project.[4]In recent months, Myanmar's civil society has been working to unify the campaign against dams. For example, on April 1, civil society activists, writers, and environmentalists from across the country gathered in Yangon to strategize against the dam project. They formed a national committee to coordinate the campaign and warned the national opposition government if it decides to go ahead with the controversial project (O Irrawaddy, April 1st).

Chinese interests in the Myitsone dam project

It was the hydroelectric capacity of the Myitsone Dam and its value to China's Yunnan Province that initially prompted the PRC to go ahead with the project. The electricity generated by the dam was considered useful for the industrialization and development of Yunnan. However, in recent years, Yunnan has developed greater electricity production capacity and even exports its surplus. Chinese analysts say the PRC's interest in the Myitsone dam is waning and therefore Beijing has reportedly taken a "softer stance" to revive the dam project. Apparently, he is interested in pursuing Myanmar "for damages for breach of contract terms, rather than simply restarting the project" (IPP Verification, April 1st).

Why has China increased pressure on Myanmar in recent months? According to an Indian businessman in Yangon, the Myitsone project now serves as a "swap chip" for China. By lobbying Myanmar for the Myitsone project, he hopes to "get concessions for other projects in Myanmar" including the Kyaukphyu deep-water port and several smaller hydroelectric projects.[5]

The suspension of the Myitsone project concerned the PRC not so much because of the "loss of access to hydroelectric power, but because of the loss of face suffered." Beijing was angry that Myanmar, despite its "extreme dependence" on China, "dared to snub its sponsor" by canceling a Chinese-backed project. The importance of this "loss of face" factor has grown in recent years, particularly in the context of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), as China "does not want other BRI members to think they can suspend or cancel a project anyway". severe consequences."[6]

The dilemma facing the Myanmar government

As the Kachin campaign against the dam gained momentum in 2010/11, it was not difficult for the NLD to take a position on the controversial Myitsone project: it was then a party fighting against the military regime and joining the demands of the Kachin activists. been quick to cancel the project, pointing to the government's unpopular policies and opaque decision-making. However, since the NLD came to power in 2016, it has not abandoned the project or clarified its position. In fact, it has not even published the results of a report from a 20-member commission it created to review the dam project and its impact (O Irrawaddy, March 14).

The NLD government faces a dilemma: if it cancels the Myitsone project, it will be forced to pay $800 million to China and face China's wrath. It would also undermine investor confidence in Myanmar and could harm the country's economic recovery (global times, February 21st). Myanmar's dependence on China, which had decreased after democratization and subsequent improved relations with Western countries, has increased in the past two years in the context of the Rohingya conflict. Western countries have criticized the NLD government's handling of the Rohingya conflict, and Myanmar needs China's support to prevent Western criticism and actions in global forums such as the United Nations Security Council. Given this dependency, the Myanmar government cannot afford to anger Beijing by shutting down the Myitsone project.

On the other hand, giving the green light to revive the Myitsone project would make the NLD government in Myanmar unpopular. Going against the will of the people jeopardizes the government's legitimacy and could harm the NLD's electoral performance in next year's general elections. Protests against the decision could break out across the country, affecting Myanmar's stability. Importantly, the revival of the project is "highly likely" to unleash "another wave of anti-China sentiment" in Myanmar, affecting the future of BRI projects in the country.[7]

chinese calculations

There are signs that the NLD government is considering a change in policy: in late January, U Thaung Tun, Myanmar's minister for investment and foreign trade affairs, said his government was considering reducing the size of the dam and moving it or offer China an alternative project. (Mizzima, January 30th). However, he did not explain the government's preference.

The NLD government appears to be preparing the public for its decision. On March 14, Suu Kyi called on people to be more open-minded and see the Myitsone project from a broader perspective. Speaking to residents of Pyay in the Bago region, he said the government will make a final decision on the project after considering political, social, economic and environmental concerns. Looking at it from just one angle would lead to the wrong decision, she said. Importantly, Suu Kyi stated that his government would not cancel a project approved by his predecessor simply because that project is inconsistent with current government policy (O Irrawaddy, March 14).

The government is apparently considering reviving the Myitsone project, possibly with changes to its size and location to address public concerns. While the changes may allay local fears to some degree, they are unlikely to reduce widespread opposition to the project. Any decision to go ahead with the project is seen in Myanmar as giving in to Chinese pressure and thus undermining Myanmar's sovereignty. Kachin activists have also repeatedly stated that they will accept nothing less than the total cancellation of the Myitsone project.

The question remains whether the PRC wants to continue with the Myitsone project. After reducing Myitsone's power demand in Yunnan, it could reject Myanmar's compromise offer in Myitsone. China may have calculated that while Myitsone could supply more power, a larger Chinese role in the Kyaukphyu port would strengthen its strategic and economic interests, in which case it can be expected to demand financial compensation for the stalled power project. the dam, even if it pushes for concessions on the Kyaukphyu project. Regardless, it remains the "China Advantage" in the dispute between China and Myanmar over the Myitsone project.

Dr. Sudha Ramachandran is a freelance researcher and journalist based in Bengaluru, India. He has written extensively on South Asian peace and conflict, political and security issues.the diplomat,asian timesand the Jamestown FoundationTerrorism Monitoring.

Walnuts:

[1]The Myitsone Dam is one of seven dams and the largest planned on the Irrawaddy River and its tributaries. The seven dams will have a total installed generating capacity of 21,600 megawatts.

[2]Author interview with Khin Khin Kyaw Kyee, Senior Research Fellow at the Myanmar Institute for Strategy and Policy, April 12.

[3] ibid.

[4]ibid.

[5]Author interview with an Indian businessman from Yangon, April 12.

[6]ibid.

[7]Khin Khin Kyaw Kyee, n. 2.

FAQs

What is myitsone dam project in myanmar? ›

History. The Myitsone Dam is part of the Confluence Region Hydropower Project (CRHP), which includes seven dams with a total installed capacity of 20,000 MW. CRHP alone accounts for 41% of the total power capacity called for by a 30-year strategic plan.

What is the famous dam in Myanmar? ›

The Tasang Dam

What is the biggest dam in Myanmar? ›

The largest of these hydro power projects is the 7,100 megawatts (9,500,000 hp) Tasang Dam on the Salween River, which is to be integrated into the Asian Development Bank's Greater Mekong Sub-region Power Grid. A groundbreaking ceremony for the Tasang Dam was held in March 2007, and China Gezhouba Group Co.

How many dams are there in Myanmar? ›

There are almost 200 large dams in Myanmar. Myanmar (Burma) has a large hydroelectric power potential of 39,000 megawatts (52,000,000 hp), although the economical exploitable potential is about 37,000 megawatts (50,000,000 hp).

What is the Myanmar project? ›

Under the Myanmar Community Resilience Project (MCRP), the World Bank will be supporting World Food Programme's (WFP's) proposed interventions within the scope of its life-saving food and nutrition assistance to conflict-affected populations in Myanmar.

What is the purpose of the Three Gorges Dam project? ›

The main objective for the dam is to supply water for the largest hydroelectric plant in the world and to help control the devastating floods that plague the lowlands downstream from the dam. The epic scale of the dam project is matched by the level of controversy it continues to generate.

Which dam is biggest in world? ›

Three Gorges Dam, China is the world's largest hydroelectric facility. Accroding to Wikimedia, the Three Gorges Dam is a hydroelectric gravity dam that spans the Yangtze River by the town of Sandouping, in Yiling District, Yichang, Hubei province, China.

What is the 3 largest dam in the world? ›

List of largest dams
RankNameCountry
1Tarbela DamPakistan
2Fort Peck DamUnited States
3Atatürk DamTurkey
4HoutribdijkNetherlands
17 more rows

Which is the oldest dam in country? ›

Kallanai (also known as the Grand Anicut) is an ancient dam built by Karikala of Chola dynasty in 150 CE. It is built (in running water) across the Kaveri river flowing from Tiruchirapalli District to Thanjavur district, Tamil Nadu, India.

Which is the longest dam in country? ›

The Hirakud Dam is located in the state of Orissa. It is the longest dam in India with a total length of 25.79 km. It is also in the list of the longest dams in the world. The Hirakud Dam is situated on the river Mahanadi.

Which country has largest dam number? ›

China is the country which has the largest number of hydroelectric dams.

Which country has best dams? ›

Canada is the top country by total dam capacity in the world.

What is the 10 biggest dam in the world? ›

Three are located in Russia and another three in Canada, while the others are found in Africa and South America.
  • Kariba Dam. ...
  • Bratsk Dam. ...
  • Akosombo Dam. ...
  • Daniel Johnson Dam. ...
  • Guri Dam. ...
  • Assuan Dam. ...
  • W.A.C. Bennet Dam. ...
  • Krasnojarsk Dam.

What are the two largest dams? ›

Kariba dam is the biggest dam in the world by reservoir capacity, Image courtesy of Sokwanele – Zimbabwe. Bratsk Dam in Siberia has a water storage capacity of 169.27 billion cubic metres, Image courtesy of Michael Fludkov. Akosombo dam, which creates the Lake Volta, has 144 billion cubic metres of storage capacity.

Why China is important for Myanmar? ›

Access to Myanmar's ports and naval installations provide China with strategic influence in the Bay of Bengal, in the wider Indian Ocean region and in Southeast Asia. China has developed a deep-water port on Kyaukpyu in the Bay of Bengal.

Why is it called Myanmar now? ›

As for the country's name, the commission decided to replace the English name "Burma" with "Myanmar", for three reasons. First, Myanma is the official name of the country in the Burmese language, and the aim of the commission was to have English place names aligned with Burmese place names and pronunciation.

Is Myanmar heading to civil war? ›

Onset of formal resistance

In the same announcement, Min Ko Naing asked the international community for recognition over the junta. The National Unity Government then declared the formation of an armed wing on 5 May, a date that is often cited as the start of the 2021–2023 Myanmar civil war.

What are the pros and cons of the Three Gorges Dam? ›

China's Three Gorges Dam is the largest hydroelectric dam on the planet.
...
Multiple Perspectives on the Three Gorges Dam.
ProsCons
The dam controls the Yangtze River floods, saving lives and homesLoss of fish and extinction of the river dolphin
The dam is a major source of renewable power, replacing coal as a source of powerFlooding of good farmland
5 more rows

What are some advantages caused by Three Gorges Dam? ›

On one hand, the benefits of the Three Gorges Dam are flood control, power generation, navigation, aquaculture, tourism, ecological protection, environmental purification, development-oriented resettlement, transfer of water from southern China to northern China, and water supply and irrigation.

What are two benefits of the Three Gorges Dam? ›

The Three Gorges Hydropower Complex Project, commonly known as the Three Gorges Project (TGP), is the essential backbone engineering project for rectifying and developing the Yangtze River, producing significant integrated benefits, including flood control, power generation, and navigation facilitation.

What's the biggest dam in the US? ›

World's Tallest Dam

Hoover Dam is 726.4 feet (221.3 meters) tall. Today, Hoover Dam still ranks in the top 20 of the tallest dams in the world, but only in the concrete gravity and arch categories. Many other rock and earthfill dams have surpassed Hoover in height.

What is the deepest dam in the world? ›

Parker Dam is a concrete arch structure commonly called the 'deepest dam in the world'.

What dam produces the most electricity? ›

Three Gorges Dam: The world's largest hydroelectric plant

The Three Gorges Dam has a generating capacity of 22,500 megawatts (MW) compared to 14,000 MW for the Itaipu Dam.

Is Hoover Dam the largest dam in the United States? ›

Rising 726.4 feet, Hoover Dam was the world's tallest dam when it was built in the 1930s. These days, it's the second-tallest dam in the U.S., having been surpassed by the 770-foot-high Oroville Dam in Northern California in 1968.

What is the smallest dam in the world? ›

The smallest dam in the world is assumed to be the Inks Dam on the Colorado River. However, it is 97 feet (29.4 meters) tall and 1,550 feet (472 mt) long.

What dam holds the most water? ›

5 Dams in the U.S. that Hold the Most Water
  • Hoover Dam (Nevada/Arizona): 8.95 cubic miles.
  • Glen Canyon Dam (Arizona): 8.53 cubic miles.
  • Garrison Dam (North Dakota): 7.05 cubic miles.
  • Oahe Dam (South Dakota): 6.98 cubic miles.
  • Fort Peck Dam (Montana): 5.52 cubic miles.
Oct 23, 2020

What is the most beautiful dam in the US? ›

Hoover Dam, Nevada, USA

The concrete arch of the Colorado River in the United States is also known as the Hoover Dam. It lies at the border of Arizona and Nevada. It is 220 meters high (the second highest in the US) and 379 meters long. The dam lake is 185 km long and 180 meters deep.

Which is the oldest dam still in use? ›

Quatinah Barrage / Lake Homs Dam, Syria

The Quatinah Barrage or Lake Homs Dam, located in Syria, is the oldest operational dam in the world. The dam was constructed during the reign of the Egyptian Pharaoh Sethi between 1319-1304 BC, and was expanded during the Roman period and between 1934 and 1938.

What is the US famous dam? ›

Hoover Dam is the most famous dam in the US. It was constructed during the Great Depression, beginning in 1931, and was completed in 1936.

What is the dam project of Ferdinand Marcos? ›

The construction of the Magat Dam and appurtenant structures was authorized by P.D. 693 signed on May 7, 1975 by the late President Ferdinand E. Marcos. The Dam was constructed in 1978 and was inaugurated by President Marcos on October 27, 1982.

Why are dams being built on the Mekong River? ›

As Southeast Asia adapts to climate change, reservoirs developed for hydropower and flood-control dams can be useful in irrigation projects, and have the potential to assist with water supply given dramatic changes between the dry and wet seasons.

What is Rama dam? ›

The Rama Dam is a concrete-face rockfill dam located at the confluence of the Rama River, a tributary of the Neretva River, about 4 km from the city of Prozer in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The dam was built between 1964 and 1968 with the main purpose of producing electricity.

What is Samoa Alaoa multi purpose dam project? ›

The proposed Alaoa Multi-Purpose Dam Project (AMDP) (the Project) will develop a multi-purpose dam coupled with a run-of-river type of small hydropower plant (SHP), with an indicative capacity of 0.26 megawatts (MW) in the upstream areas of the eastern branch of the Vaisigano river in Apia, Samoa.

What was the most destructive dam project? ›

Banqiao: the dam that washed away

In the world's biggest dam disaster, the failure of China's Banqiao Dam killed an estimated 171,000 people in 1975. In more than 100 cases, scientists have also linked dam building to earthquakes.

What is the largest dam removal project in the world? ›

The Klamath River drains an arid basin that straddles two states. It flows from Upper Klamath Lake in the high desert of south-central Oregon, crosses the California state line, and empties into the Pacific Ocean. Tearing down four of its dams won't just open up habitat to boost salmon populations.

Which is the largest dam project in the world? ›

Three Gorges Dam, China is the world's largest hydroelectric facility. Accroding to Wikimedia, the Three Gorges Dam is a hydroelectric gravity dam that spans the Yangtze River by the town of Sandouping, in Yiling District, Yichang, Hubei province, China.

What is the problem with China and the Mekong River? ›

Environmentalists and experts blame 11 dams China has built on the Upper Mekong within its borders, which they say are contributing to historic flooding and droughts that have damaged fish spawning areas and upended people's lives.

What are the two main problems that the Mekong River is facing? ›

The cumulative impacts of climate change, overfishing and hydropower dam development are having detrimental impacts on the many people who rely on the Mekong.

What is the largest dam in the Free State? ›

The Gariep Dam, in the Free State, is the dam with the largest storage capacity ever built in South Africa. Constructed in 1972, it stores water from the Orange River in a 100 km-long dam with a surface area of 374 km2. The dam can store about 5 500 million cubic metres (m3) of water.

Why do we dam water? ›

People build dams to control water—to make sure the right amount is at the right place at the right time. River water rises behind dams, forming artificial lakes called reservoirs. The stored water can be used to generate electricity or to supply water for homes and industries, for irrigation or for navigation.

Which is the largest dam in world by storage capacity? ›

1. Kariba Dam. Built between 1955 and 1959 on the Zambesi River between Zambia and Zimbabwe according to the plans of French architect André Coyne, Kariba is the biggest. It is an arch dam, 128 metres high and 579 metres long that has a reservoir capacity of 185 billion cubic metres of water.

What was one of the largest dam project during the Great Depression? ›

Hoover Dam is a concrete arch-gravity dam in the Black Canyon of the Colorado River, on the border between the U.S. states of Nevada and Arizona. It was constructed between 1931 and 1936 during the Great Depression and was dedicated on September 30, 1935, by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

What dam was built on the world's largest river to control it for economic reasons? ›

The Three Gorges Dam is a hydroelectric gravity dam that spans the Yangtze River by the town of Sandouping, in Yiling District, Yichang, Hubei province, central China, downstream of the Three Gorges.

What is the dam project in Samoa? ›

Summary. The proposed Alaoa Multi-Purpose Dam Project (AMDP) (the Project) will develop a multi-purpose dam coupled with a run-of-river type of small hydropower plant (SHP), with an indicative capacity of 0.26 megawatts (MW) in the upstream areas of the eastern branch of the Vaisigano river in Apia, Samoa.

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