Thursday, June 2, 2011

Kachin State chief minister orders relocation of cross at dam site

Thursday, 02 June 2011 20:35 Phanida

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – The deadline to remove a cross has passed. Kachin State Chief Minister Lajun Ngum Sai ordered a Catholic church to relocate a cross from the Myitsone Dam project by May 30, according to local residents.

Agents from two construction companies, Asia World and China Power Investment (CPI) Corporation, told local residents to remove the cross by April. Later, the chief minister ordered that it be removed by May 30.

The government's model village for residents who were relocated from the area of the Myitsone Dam project. Photo: Mizzima

‘The chief minister also told us that he had to do this under pressure from higher officials. If we do not implement the order, Kachin people will have to suffer more in the future he told us’, a local resident told Mizzima.

The chief minister ordered the cross moved to a mountain on the western bank of the Irrawaddy River near Aumg Myin Thar San Pya (model) village. The cross is now located near Dau Pan village on the eastern bank of the river downstream of the dam site.

‘He said the new site is a good location, but local villagers said the beauty of the new site doesn’t matter to them’, said the villager. Villagers of Dau Pan have already relocated their homes to new areas, but they said they wanted the cross to remain at its original location, he said.

The 15-foot high cross is built on a reinforced concrete foundation.

‘Building and erecting the cross is part of our faith. It must not be moved. It is like the pagodas of the Buddhist faith’, a Catholic priest told Mizzima. Priests have sent a letter to the state government asking for the order to be rescinded.

The Myitsone Dam site has been a controversial project requiring the relocation of hundreds of families. It is close to Sagaing fault line and environmentalists have objected, warning that if the dam failed it could threaten villagers downstream of the dam.

Myanmar (Burma) seismic committee secretary and geologist Soe Thura Tun has said that the Sagaing fault line crossed the Enkhai Bwam Mountain on the western bank of the Irrawaddy River, about 14 miles downstream of the Myitsone Dam site.

The SPDC government’s No. 1 Electric Power Ministry and CPI began construction of the dam at the end of 2007.

More than 300 households from more than 40 villages in the dam area have been relocated to the San Pya (model) village built by the military regime downstream of the dam site. Residents have said that the new village makes it hard for them to sustain their livelihood.

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