Dam forces relocation of 60 villages

Aug 26, 2009 (DVB), Over 60 villages in northern Burma have been ordered by the government to relocate to make way for a new dam on the country's major river, the Irrawaddy.

Local sources allege that the township council in Kachin state's capital, Myitkyina, on August 5 summoned authorities from over 60 villages north of the town and told them to move their villages.

The combined population of this area, at the confluence of the Irrawaddy and the N’mai Hka rivers, is estimated at 10,000.

"They didn't say exactly when we are to move but assured that we would definitely have to move," said a villager who attended the meeting with the township officials.

"They are now collecting statistics of the villages for the relocation plan."

He added that there are about 2000 acres of farmland in the area about to be destroyed when the building of the Myitsone dam starts.

Authorities are said to be making a list of those to pay compensation to, although villagers have complained that no compensation has yet been received.

According to advocacy group International Rivers, the dam would create a reservoir the size of New York City, submerging historical sites such as churches and temples.

The dam project is being jointly run through an alliance dominated by Chinese firms, including China Power Investment Corporation, China Southern Power Grid Co. Ltd, and the Yunan Machinery Export Import Company.

Also involved in the project is Asia World Co. Ltd, which is owned by Lo Hsing Han, a Burmese business tycoon and former drug trafficker.

Most electrical power generated from the dam's hydropower plant will go to China, despite campaigning groups complaining of regular electricity shortages in many of Burma's major cities.

Reporting by Thiri Htet San

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