The Burmese government will continue the controversial Manipura hydropower project in Chin State’s Falam Township this year, a spokesperson said.
According to Chin State’s municipal minister Soe Htet, nearly 200 million kyat has been allocated to the dam during the 2019-2020 financial year. An upcoming meeting on the project is scheduled for this month, the results of which will be forwarded to the Union government.
“The Union government already allocated 197 million kyat (US$133,055) for this project in 2019-2020 financial year. The Union irrigation ministry also allocated 50 million kyat ($33,770) for this project. We are still preparing to discuss the details of this project,” Soe Htet told Khonumthung News.
The previous government started the Manipura hydropower project in 2009, with the ground survey beginning in 2004. This project, which was around 20 percent complete, has been halted since 2011.
The Manipura hydropower project, located on the river by the same name near Saetaw village, is expected to generate 389 megawatts of electricity and will cost an estimated $805 million (1.2 billion kyat).
According to municipal minister Soe Htet, the Sein Enterprise Co. and the China Harbor Engineering Co. Ltd signed the memorandum of understanding for the dam and began the survey before the project was halted. It remains under discussion whether the Union irrigation ministry or Sein Enterprise and China Harbor will construct hydropower project as it resumes.
“Our Chin State needs hydropower. Sagaing and Magwe regions also need hydropower. Burma can only generate 50 percent of electricity in country. If this project is completed, electricity will be sent to the national electricity grid’s line for Chin state, Sagaing and Magwe regions,” minister Soe Htet said.
Mang Za Hkup, the secretary of Chin River Watch, said that the government must take full responsibility and accountability for this hydropower project and ensure that it does not harm locals.
“What are the impacts of this hydropower project? How will the government draft this project? Who is going to benefit from this project? We have to consider everything,” Mang Za Hkup told Khonumthung News. “People don’t really get benefits from projects in Burma, including from the projects in Chin State. The government needs to take full responsibility for all impacts if the hydropower project is built.”
There are two mega-dams under discussion in Chin State including Laymyo Myit hydropower project in Paletwa Township, which is expected to produce 622 megawatts of electricity, and the Manipura project. Currently, Chin State only covers 27 percent of the electricity distribution in Hakha, Falam, Thantlang, Kanpetlet and Mindat towns. The national electricity grid doesn’t reach Tedim, Tonzang, Paletwa and Matupi towns.