Life on Myanmar’s Irrawaddy River Threatened by Proposed Chinese Dam

Millions of Burmese citizens live along the banks of Myanmar’s Irrawaddy River, often called the cradle of Burmese civilization. These residents depend upon the waterway for their livelihoods. But in 2011, several villages near the proposed Myitsone Dam were forced to pack up their belongings and relocate to government camps. Ever since, those who would be affected by the dam’s construction, sponsored by Chinese investment, have been voicing their dissent over the project. The Irrawaddy is a crucial plank in China’s massive One Belt, One Road investment initiative. China hopes to construct what it calls the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor, connecting China’s southwest with Myanmar’s coastal regions, and a key pillar of the plan is the Myitsone Dam. Thanks to local protests over fears of massive flooding and ecological disruption, the project has been on hold since 2011 over opposition from within Myanmar. The Burmese government has also been reluctant to move forward with the dam. For government officials, including head of state Aung San Suu Kyi, Chinese investment leads to anxiety over Myanmar’s sovereignty and growing Chinese influence. But for the people living around the planned location for the Myitsone Dam, it’s a matter of survival.

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