Burmese Activist Issues Irrawaddy Appeal

Posted August 11th, 2011 at 12:30 pm (UTC-5)
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Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi says a joint Burma-China hydro-electric project is impeding water flow on Burma's largest river, the Irrawaddy, threatening rice production in a country that relies on the grain as a staple food and as a major export.

In an appeal issued Thursday, the Nobel laureate sided with environmentalists and ethnic minorities who are calling for a complete review of the controversial Myit Sone hydro-electric project. She attributes the project's perceived threats to “the lack of sound planning, failure to enforce necessary conservation laws and poor ecological awareness” in her impoverished homeland.

Earlier this week, Burmese state media quoted officials who denied any negative impact from the project, either on river flow or on the livelihoods of the local population.

But Aung San Suu Kyi's appeal notes that the project raises the specter of “horrendous devastation” because the dams will create vast reservoirs near seismic fault lines.

Her commentary also points to illegal logging along the waterway, and says dam construction has slowed river flow to a point that salt water has intruded into the river delta, threatening a population that relies on fresh water to grow rice.

Aung San Suu Kyi also notes what she calls “the tradition of mutual regard and friendship” between Burma and China, and says she believes both governments “would wish to avoid consequences which might endanger lives and homes.”