Why Is India Doing a Bangladesh in Burma?

Stella Paul is an environment and development Journalist. Her blog is here.

Stella Paul

Just when protests against India’s 1500 MW Tipaimukh dam are growing louder and stronger in Bangladesh which it fears will rob thousands of fishermen of their livelihood, here comes another unsettling piece of news: India is building a dam in Burma’s northwestern Sagaing division which will displace half a million people.

The dam, called ‘Tamanthi‘, is coming up over  the Chindwin river.

According to Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) a pro-democracy media outlet, more than 2,400 have already been forcibly relocated since construction began in 2007. The figure, says a DVB report, is set to rise to 45,000, as both governments push ahead with the $US3 billion venture.

The project has outraged locals who have been protesting both within and outside Burma. Recently, a group of them protested outside the Indian parliament building in New Delhi. They also handed a letter to India’s National Hydroelectric Power Corporation, as well as the Burmese embassy in the Indian capital.

Following the recent suspension of the huge Myitsone dam in Kachin state, which was backed by China, the anti-dam sentiment in Burma is currently running high. Gauging that sentiment, V S Sheshadri, the Indian ambassador to Burma already wrote a letter to New Delhi in May this year, urging the government to pull out of the project.

According to ambassador Sheshadri, the project was affecting our image and creating wrong images about Indian companies. But well, nothing ever happened and the project is still on.

The question is, why?

The campaigning group Burma Rivers Network has the answer: the Tamanthi dam, which will create a reservoir the size of Delhi, is designed to produce 1,200 MW of electricity – the 20 percent that will remain in Burma. The rest – 80% of the power output – will come to India which the government wants to use in lighting up the North Eastern region. Vastly underdeveloped, the North East is on the radar of the government and it is unlikely to give up on.

But this makes me wonder, if power from Burma is what the government is banking upon, why is it then going ahead with Tipaimukh and the mammoth Lower Subansiri Hydel power project which alone is expected to produce 2000 mega watt of electricity?

Somewhere, the government is hiding facts. Meanwhile, Burma is fuming. As Avong Makury, a local says, “India being the largest democratic country in the world, why is she intentionally overacting it with this beastly junta government?”

Why indeed?

One reply to “Why Is India Doing a Bangladesh in Burma?

  1. The World Bank estimates that forcible “development-induced displacement and resettlement” now affects 10 million people per year. According to the World Bank an estimated 33 million people have been displaced by development projects such as dams, urban development and irrigation canals in India alone.

    India is well ahead in this respect. A country with as many as over 3600 large dams within its belt can never be the exceptional case regarding displacement. The number of development induced displacement is higher than the conflict induced displacement in India. According to Bogumil Terminski an estimated more than 10 million people have been displaced by development each year.

    Athough the exact number of development-induced displaced people (DIDPs) is difficult to know, estimates are that in the last decade 90–100 million people have been displaced by urban, irrigation and power projects alone, with the number of people displaced by urban development becoming greater than those displaced by large infrastructure projects (such as dams). DIDPs outnumber refugees, with the added problem that their plight is often more concealed.

    This is what experts have termed “development-induced displacement.” According to Michael Cernea, a World Bank analyst, the causes of development-induced displacement include water supply (dams, reservoirs, irrigation); urban infrastructure; transportation (roads, highways, canals); energy (mining, power plants, oil exploration and extraction, pipelines); agricultural expansion; parks and forest reserves; and population redistribution schemes.

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