By KHINE KYAW
Hla Maung Thein, director general of the Environmental Conservation Department, said on the sidelines of a stakeholder discussion on Monday that the study should be conducted in all sectors, priortising on some key sectors that are critical to the nation’s economic growth.
“It is Myanmar’s first ever comprehensive study on a specific topic, covering all important aspects to mitigate potential impacts on the community at large. This sets a good example for all the other sectors to follow,” he said.
The official stressed the importance of foreign assistance in the expansion of nationwide study on various sectors.
“The government cannot do it alone. Obviously, we are still facing the lack of finance and advanced technology to carry out such a comprehensive assessment that costs a lot of fortune. So, we need to cooperate with donor organisations such as International Finance Corporation and Asian Development Bank to make it a success,” he said.
“We do need effective tools for the success of our policy planning. All the development projects need to be integrated into a broader consideration for environmental conservation,” he said.
“In this regard, SEA can help policy makers a great deal. That is why we will seek further assistance from IFC and other organisations to bring that practice into other areas.”
He said the initiative resulted from inclusive coordination. With the support of IFC and the Australian government, the SEA was led by two ministries -Ministry of Electricity and Energy and Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation.
It aims to ensure that hydropower development is guided by a more complete understanding of many other uses and values of rivers, which Myanmar wishes to retain. The study takes a basin-wide approach analysing trends and risks. Zoning plans have been developed to be used as screening tools to guide sustainable development.
However, it does not replace a rigorous project-level environmental and social impact assessment, he said.
Hla Maung Thein said hydropower could contribute to socio-economic development and environmental sustainability under effective policies.
“Sub-basins identified by the SEA as low-risk does not mean all projects should proceed,” he said.
Kyaw Kyaw Naing, a member of 88 Generation and Myeik District Electricity Advisory Committee, also believes the SEA would be useful for policy makers to set a comprehensive framework in support of the national electrification plans.
“I live in Thanintharyi Region where the national grid is yet to reach. We really thirst for electricity, though we do not support implementation of big dams in our region. We believe the SEA can guide where small-scale power plants should be built, thereby realising our hopes for access to electricity at a competitive price,” he said.
Vikram Kumar, IFC resident representative for Myanmar, said stakeholders need to be engaged. He said The SEA team has done 55 stakeholder discussions over the past 18 months.
He said IFC supported the initiative, as hydropower is critical to Myanmar’s energy mix,