India scraps two hydel projects in Myanmar

June 6, 2013

Devirupa Mitra

The New Indian Express

New Delhi: Following talks with Myanmar, India has scrapped two controversial mega hydropower projects, which were designed to be showpieces for bilateral ties with the strategic South-Eastern nation -- chiefly due to opposition from local groups over its environmental impact and the huge expenditure involved.

With these mega projects, India had hoped to get a toe-hold in Myanmar’s hydro-electric sector and supply electricity to the North-Eastern states. It would also have given a higher strategic profile for New Delhi in Yangon, where Beijing dominates the major infrastructure sectors. But, after years of feasibility studies, the two projects planned in Northern Myanmar have been shelved.

“Taking into consideration questions raised with regard to the economic viability of these projects and potential social and environmental impact, both sides have agreed to suspend any further action on them at present,” said official sources.

The two projects began in October 2004, when then Senior General Than Shwe first visited India, following India taking a U-turn on its Myanmar policy in the late nineties.

During the landmark visit, the 1200 megawatt Tamanthi project and the 642 megawatt Shwezaye project on the Chindwin river, were announced by India to court Myanmar’s former military junta.

After signing a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in 2004, the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) completed a pre-feasibility report, which was completed in 2005.  In September 2008, another MoU was signed for further studies to establish the technical and commercial viability of the projects. The report submitted in 2008 estimated a massive expenditure of `26,375 crore for executing the Tamanthi project, alone.

When Than Shwe visited India again in July 2010, both sides decided to ink a memorandum of agreement within a year.  The final detailed project report (DPR) presented by NHPC to the Ministry of External Affairs in 2012 found that while the bigger Tamanthi project was technically feasible, the expenditure would be astronomical.

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