China and Myanmar to discuss replacement for dam
Neighbours likely to seek new infrastructure works to compensate for loss of massive Myiestone hydropower dam in energy poor developing nation
China and Myanmar are looking to explore other infrastructure projects to counter the loss of a controversial hydro dam that may be abandoned during the Myanmar president’s six-day visit to China.
When Htin Kyaw kicked off his trip to China yesterday, the top item on his agenda was to discuss the handling of the Myitsone dam that has been suspended since 2011 in the face of public opposition.
Hua Chunying, China’s foreign ministry spokesman said at a daily press briefing yesterday that Beijing’s position on the controversial US$3.6 billion project remained unchanged and that it would promote cooperation between the two nations.
“China will keep communicating with Myanmar and solve the problem in a proper way,” Hua said.
Reports suggested China had shifted its position following a lengthy dispute with Myanmar over building the Myitsone dam, and might abandon the project in exchange for other economic and strategic opportunities.
Two senior Myanmar officials said Htin Kyaw would discuss a potential deal on the massive Myitsone dam, Reuters reported on Wednesday.
The alternatives included developing smaller hydropower projects and securing preferential access to a strategic port, according to the Reuters report.
Observers said China and Myanmar might reach consensus on alternative options as long as they could recoup the losses incurred by the Chinese company.
“Resuming the Myitsone dam is very unlikely, because it has became a symbol of Myanmar’s democratic success. It’s almost impossible to renegotiate with all related parties in Myanmar, ” said
Song Junying, a Southeast Asian affairs expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
“China might agree to build hydro dams in other places to compensate China and satisfy Myanmar’s urgent need for electricity, ” Song added.
Myanmar has one of the lowest rates of electricity consumption per capita in Southeast Asia. About one third of the country’s households are connected to the grid and the rest have either limited or no access to electricity.
Xu Liping, another Southeast Asia expert from the same organisation, said Beijing attached great importance to cooperation with Myanmar and would like to build more infrastructure to boost regional connectivity.
However, the Global Times tabloid published under the People’s Daily slammed the halting of Myitsone dam on Wednesday, saying China and Myanmar should have more room to communicate.