Hydropower development flows on to Western firms

Western companies will likely build the next set of hydropower dams in Myanmar, following years of Chinese construction dominating the industry, according to Ministry of Electric Power (MOEP) deputy minister U Maw Thar Htwe.

The previous military government had signed agreements for 60 hydropower projects, mostly with Chinese firms but also Thai and Indian companies, he said last week.

“The trend for hydropower project implementation is to turn to Western companies,” he said. “We are going to work only with international-standard companies who have reliable construction quality and financing.”

Although 60 agreements had been signed, only 37 are still continuing, as several were cancelled by the civilian government, said U Maw Thar Htwe.

Deals to create projects such as Htamanthi in Chin State, Lay Nyo 1 and 2 and Seintin in Rakhine State, as well as a few others were stopped.

“We will not allow these projects if they don’t complete environmental and social impact assessment surveys,” he said.

President U Thein Sein also halted the high profile Myitsone project in Kachin State in 2011 following public opposition over its potential impact.

However, Myanmar is also keen to address a chronic electricity supply problem partly through hydropower.

MOEP is planning several new hydropower projects with companies from Western countries in Europe and North America.

The Shweli 3 project is to be built by firm from the United Kingdom and France, while the Middle Yeywar and Bawgata projects will be built by Norwegian firms, and the Middle Paunglaung project will be handled by Austrian or British firms.

Future projects will also heavily consider Western companies, the deputy minister added.

However, the government also signed agreements with three Chinese firms and a Thai company to build four hydropower projects on Thanlwin river last year.

U Maw Thar Htwe made the remarks while speaking at a resettlement site for nearly 10,000 people, relocated following concerns over flooding from Upper Paunglaung Hydropower Project. Authorities said it was the first such large-scale relocation site in Myanmar.

The resettlement of 23 villages and the hydro project cost an estimated K320 billion (US$329 million) implemented by a Chinese firm but owned by MOEP.

The Upper Paunglaung generating station is to start testing next month, with the two Chinese-manufactured turbines on line by the end of the year. It has total installed capacity of 140 megawatts.


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