Mrauk U: The hydropower project that will generate 500 megawatts of electricity on the Laymro River is now being readied for construction to start.
“The site is now being proposed for the upstream Laymro River near Khabwaychay Village in Paletwa Township in Chin State. We have visited the site and found that Chinese and Burmese engineers are erecting mile posts in the middle of the river. And we have also found leveling of the grounds near the site to build houses for the workers,” said a resident from Mrauk-U, who recently visited the site on a study tour.
The resident said he was one of a 16-member team from Mrauk-U that recently visited for their research on Khabwaychay Village, the proposed site for the hydropower project.
“We had never been to the area before and visited there to study. We had the opportunity to hold friendly talks with the local villagers there. They told us that their villages on the banks of the river are being ordered to evacuate and move to the hillsides. A minister of the Chin State government is said to have arrived in the area and given the relocation order in a meeting with elders from those villages. The majority of people living in that area are ethnic Chin,” he said.
He said that nearly 100 villages situated up and down stream of the project site on the river will be impacted and most of those villages may face relocation if the project is completed.
When contacted, a villager from Panmraung Village, one of the largest Arakanese villages situated downstream from the site, said, “We have not found any development relating to the project yet, but there are some people going to work there. Our village is very far away from the proposed site of the project, but it is near Mrauk-U and we have learned that the construction equipment is being shipped to the site via Mrauk-U.”
A local engineer also said the machinery and tools for construction of the project was sent by engine boats to the project site via Mrauk-U because the site can only be reached easily from there.
“It takes one and a half days to reach the project site in Khabwaychay Village from Mrauk-U by engine boat, but as it is easy to travel to the site only from Mrauk-U, the machinery and tools that will be used in the project construction are being shipped to the site via Mrauk-U by engine boats,” said the engineer.
The proposed hydroelectric dam on the Laymro River is known to be the largest facility in western Burma and will be constructed in partnership with the Chinese government.
Worries are growing among local residents in the village situated downstream that their livelihoods depending on the river will be ruined by the negative environmental impacts after the river is dammed for electricity production.
“There will be benefits for us if the electricity to be produced from the Laymro River is used for our Arakan State. But what we have heard is that the electricity from the project will be sold to Bangladesh. So, we local people here are disappointed with the project and also worry that our livelihood of cultivation dependent on the river will be ruined if the river will dry up after being dammed upstream,” said a woman from Minbya, on the bank of the river in Arakan State.
According to the engineer from Mrauk-U, the Burmese government has officially announced it will start constructing the hydropower dam at the end of the rainy season this year after doing studies and surveys on the river during the rainy season.