October 04, 2011
President of Myanmar, also known as Burma, Thein Sein, said the suspension on the dam was needed because it was clear the $3.6 billion hydroelectric project was 'contrary to the will of the people'. Although Myanmar has long been ruled by a military regime known for its crackdowns on political speech and dissension, outside observers say a new government, that held what were considered by most outside observers fraudulent elections last year, appears to be trying to change tactics.
The Kachin people, an ethnic minority in Myanmar, would have been among the most impacted by the dam. The political and military Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) had also warned the Myanmar government that if the projects proceeds it could lead to armed conflict.
Numerous Myanmar NGOs worked on the issue. According to International Rivers, a global NGO, local environmental NGOs were key in pressing the government to drop the project.
"In Rangoon, a brave and strong group of environmental NGOs—aware of the irreversible damage that the Myitsone project would cause—spent months organizing and persuading the highest levels of Burma's new government that the people could not be ignored and that not enough was known about the project," according to a blog by Grace Mang, China Global Program Coordinator with International Rivers.
Environmental groups were concerned about the impact on fish populations and the economic impact on local communities, as well as flooding and soil enrichment all down the river.
Renowned Myanmar democracy activist and international figure, Aung San Suu Kyi, also came out against the project, calling on 'concerned projects to reassess the scheme'. After the government's decision, Suu Kyi, the US, and the EU praised the Myanmar government's change of heart.
To date seven dams are planned on the Irrawaddy River by China in order to feed its growing depend for energy. Ninety percent of the power generated by the Myitsone Dam would have gone to China.
The Irrawaddy River is Myanmar's largest.
Peru cancels massive dam project after years of protests
(06/16/2011) Three years of sustained community opposition have brought down plans for a massive dam on the Madre de Dios River in Peru. Yesterday the Peruvian government announced it was terminating the contract with Empresa de Generación Eléctrica Amazonas Sur (Egasur) to build a 1.5 gigawatt dam, known as the Inambari Dam. The dam was one of six that were agreed upon between Peru and Brazil to supply the latter with energy.
Violent protests follow approval of massive dam project in Patagonia
(05/16/2011) The wild rivers of Patagonia may soon never be the same. Last week, Chile's Aysén Environmental Review Commission approved the environmental assessment of a five dam proposal on two rivers. The approval, however, is marred in controversy and has set off protests in many cities, including Santiago. Critics say the series of dams will destroy a largely untouched region of Patagonia.
Opposition rises against Mekong dam as governments ponder decision
(04/13/2011) As the governments of Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam ready to meet on April 19th to decide whether or not to move forward on the Xayaburi Dam, critics of Mekong River hydroelectric project have warned that the dam will devastate freshwater biodiversity and impact the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands, if not more. Last month a coalition of 263 organizations from 51 countries released a letter in opposition of the dam’s construction.