© Fides

Bishops of Myanmar Urge Halt to Dam on River Irrawaddy

‘Our plea is for all our brothers and sisters in the whole of Myanmar’

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«We Catholic Bishops of Myanmar, representing the Catholic Christians of 16 dioceses, earnestly request all the stakeholders to seriously reconsider the ill-conceived conception regarding Myitsone dam in Kachin State. Our plea is for all our brothers and sisters in the whole of Myanmar, whose life story is the story of our ‘sacred Mother’, River Irrawaddy.»
This is what is said in the official statement, sent to Fides News Agency, in which the Burmese Bishops’ Conference launched a heartfelt appeal to stop the construction of the Myitsone dam, in Kachin State.
The Bishops explain: «River Irrawaddy runs through the heart of our nation, nourishing millions of people, flora, and fauna with water for livelihood and life. To the people of Myanmar, the history of the Irrawaddy River is intertwined with our long history of joys and sorrows. Scientists have identified serious fault lines below the rivers’ courses and building a dam might expose the lines to greater pressure and consequent mega-disasters. A dam would drive millions of without a sustainable life and would provoke a humanitarian catastrophe of distress migrations of thousands. International agencies have also pointed out that Myanmar is the third most vulnerable area of natural disasters.»
The text continues: «The plan to build a dam on the River Irrawaddy River has received strong resistance from the civil society and the people of Myanmar. Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, Archbishop of Yangon, has already released two statements, poignantly pleading to treat River Irrawaddy as the sacred mother of Myanmar people. For a lasting peace in the region, River Irrawaddy River needs to be left intact. The promised economic benefits that are thought to come from the dam are no match to the social and ecological disturbances that will certainly come. Peace will become a distant dream. After decades of conflict, Myanmar deserves to rise to a new life, enriched with creative opportunities, rather than to life deprived of the abundant life-giving waters of the Irrawaddy».
The statement reads: «As the Catholic Church, we constantly engage in constructive dialogue with the government and all the stakeholders, firmly holding the belief that peace is the only way to effective nation-building. In this spirit of cooperation, we launch this appeal, to help promote lasting peace in Myanmar.
The $ 3.8 billion dam project on the Irrawaddy, Myanmar’s main waterway, aims to provide hydroelectric power to be used almost exclusively for neighboring China. The government of the then president Thein Sein had suspended construction in September 2011. With the prospect of resuming work, the civil society campaign to say «No» to the dam resumed in Myanmar.

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