Matters India reporter
Yangon, June 11, 201*: In a rare move the Catholic bishops of India’s neighbour Myanmar have jointly demanded the complete shutdown of the China-backed Myitsone Dam on Irrawaddy river.
Charles Cardinal Maung Bo of Yangon and 18 bishops from 16 dioceses of Myanmar signed the statement after a biannual meeting held in Yangon last week.
In a statement released on 8 June 2019, they affirmed their constant effort to “engage in constructive dialogue with the government and all the stakeholders, firmly holding the belief that peace is possible and peace is the only way to effective nation building.”
The bishops pleaded for all dam stakeholders “to review the Myitsone Dam project in Kachin State and stop it permanently” for the sake of the country’s people.
“[The] River Irrawaddy runs through the heart of our nation nourishing millions of our people, flora and fauna with water for livelihood and life,” the statement said.
They also stressed people’s sentiments stating, “To the people of Myanmar, the history of River Irrawaddy is intertwined with our joys and our sorrows.”
The bishops feared the resumption of the mega dam would further displace thousands of people.
The bishops further claim that “Scientists have identified serious fault lines below the rivers’ course and building a dam might expose the lines to greater pressure and consequent mega disasters.”
They fear, “The promised economic benefits that are thought to come from the dam are no match for the social and ecological disturbances that will certainly come.”
The US$ 3.8 billion dam project on the Irrawaddy, Myanmar’s premier waterway, was being built to provide hydroelectricity that would be used almost exclusively in neighboring China.
The dam’s construction has already resulted in some 3,000 people being relocated from their homes to newly built villages.
The military-backed government of then president Thein Sein suspended construction in September 2011, but China has vigorously called for work to resume on the project.
Last April, Cardinal Bo sent letters calling for a permanent end to the dam to Myanmar’s President Win Myint, State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi and military chief Gen. Min Aung Hlaing.
Cardinal Bo also sent a letter written in the Chinese language, last April to China’s President Xi Jinping. END