Australian Company Under Fire over Myanmar Dam

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Tuesday, July 28th, 2015
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Australia’s Snowy Mountains Engineering Corp is facing mounting criticism over its role in a 7000 megawatt hydropower project in Myanmar.

The SMEC is undertaking environmental and social impact studies into the construction of the $US8 billion ($A11 billion) Mong Ton Dam, overseen by China’s Three Gorges Corp, in Myanmar’s eastern Shan State.

SMEC’s efforts to carry out local meetings and consultations on the project have met with significant local resistance.

The SMEC said in a statement it was striving to implement a participative, inclusive and transparent consultation process, and had tried to engage with civil society organisations on numerous occasions with limited success.

Town hall meetings to assess the project in Shan State have either been disrupted or cancelled because of protests over the Chinese-Thai project.

The Salween River, which runs through China, Myanmar and Thailand, remains free of dams.

Environmental group WWF Global says the river is home to more than 7000 species of plants and 80 rare or endangered fish.

The dam, at a height of 240 metres, would flood 676 square kilometres of farmland and forest in a region still recovering from years of conflict with the Burmese army. Activists say the dam will lead to the displacement of more than 300,000 people.

Pianporn Deetes, a spokesperson with US-based environmental group, International River, says communities believe there has been a lack of transparency in the assessment process.

“The villagers who are the real owners of the land and the rivers must be the ones who decide whether or not to build this dam,” Ms Pianporn said.

It comes as Australian Federal Police investigate the corporation over alleged foreign bribes.

An AFP spokesman  said the SMEC investigation was ongoing.

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