Burma ends dam project


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The Independent Online

Burma's government has announced an end to work on a multibillion-dollar dam project on the Irrawaddy river, right, that activists say would displace thousands of people and threaten the ecology of one of the world's major water systems.

In a statement read out on his behalf before the country's fledgling parliament, President Thein Sein said work on the Chinese-backed Myitsone hydro-power dam project in the northern state of Kachin was to be suspended because it was "against the will of the people". He said no work would proceed as long as he remained in his post.

"We have to honour the wishes of the people and we have to consider and settle the concerns of the people," the statement said.

The decision threw activists and campaigners off balance. For months they had been waging a battle against the dam, saying it could have untold environmental and human costs.

The opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, who was freed last year after seven years of house arrest, was among those who voiced concern, suggesting that at least 20,000 people would be affected.

Last night campaigners said they were encouraged by the government's announcement, but pointed out that the 6,000- megawatt Myitsone dam, which would have flooded an area the size of Singapore, is one of seven dams being planned in Burma on tributaries of the Irrawaddy, all of which could have a considerable impact.

The 152-metres long, 152-metres high dam, built at a cost of £2.3bn, was to have been a major source of income for Burma, with about 90 per cent of the electricity it produced sold to China. But campaigners said the project would force many people from their homes.