IFC and Myanmar Government Share Strategic Environmental Assessment Findings with Stakeholders

March 8, 2018


About 200 representatives from non-governmental organizations, private sector and government joined two final stakeholder engagements in Nay Pyi Taw and Yangon last month on Myanmar’s Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) of the hydropower sector, an initiative led by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation (MONREC), Ministry of Electricity and Energy (MOEE) and IFC, with support from the Australian Government. In Nay Pyi Taw, a multi-sector group from the Union, Region and State governments and in Yangon with a diversity of stakeholders.


In his opening speech, H.E. U Ohn Win, Union Minister of Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation (MONREC) said, “To implement the SEA practically, decision-makers and representatives from both government and non-governmental organizations need to work together to further sustainable development of the hydropower sector.”


Participants learned about the key findings and issues outlined in the draft study: Sustainable Development Framework for the Strategic Environmental Assessment of the Hydropower Sector, including the importance of protecting key mainstem rivers, sub-basin zoning configurations based on risk levels, and proposed implementation measures to develop new policies and procedures and to fill data gaps.


In Yangon, a panel of experts including representatives from MONREC, MOEE, World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF), Myanmar Center for Responsible Business, the World Bank, Norway and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) provided recommendations on how the SEA could be implemented and applied to future studies.


For many, the SEA is a milestone study for Myanmar as it could steer the direction of sustainable hydropower development. The study is the first to call for reservation of Myanmar’s mainstem rivers and to rate the 58 sub-basins as low, medium, and high-risk, based on environmental and social values, conflict and pre-existing developments.


“We learned from listening to the voices of stakeholders, and carrying out scientific studies under the SEA, that the mainstems of Myanmar’s key river basins are of major significance for their contribution to flows and connectivity,” said Vikram Kumar, IFC’s Country Manager for Myanmar, in his opening remarks. “Prioritizing environmental and social values and considering conflict have not been at the core of investment decisions to date in Myanmar’s hydropower sector. This is where we want to see this work catalyzing.”


The study offers guidance to decision-makers, the private sector and other interested stakeholders on less risky sub-basins to consider developing and which areas should be protected, such as high risk sub-basins and key mainstem rivers. However, these particular lower risk basins still need to undergo environmental and social impact assessments to determine impacts on the ground. The entire SEA study and process has placed basin-wide planning at the forefront of future development of the hydropower sector and aims to show the need to move away from project-by-project approaches to optimize existing and new cascades of hydro while minimizing environmental and social impacts.


Kumar also emphasized, "The SEA process is new for Myanmar, and we are striving to set the bar high for future studies. This SEA is a ‘first edition’ that should be updated as more data and information becomes available."


Out of 10.9 million households across Myanmar, about 4.3 million households, or about 34 percent of the population, have access to electricity. However, most urban dwellers in Yangon – about 81 percent – are connected to the grid, which means that people without electricity are primarily located in rural areas where other infrastructure facilities such as communications and roads are also in high demand.


“Electricity needs to be affordable, stable and reliable,” said H.E. Daw Nilar Kyaw, Minister of Electricity, Industry, Road and Transportation, Communication, Yangon Region Government. “Electricity also needs to be generated from an energy mix including hydro, solar, and wind,” she added.


H.E. U Ohn Win agreed, “While accelerating development in Myanmar, there should be a balanced mix between social, economic, and environmental concerns for sustainability.” He added, “We will focus on how to minimize environmental, social, and economic impacts that may arise from the implementation of hydropower projects based on the discussion points that came up at the SEA engagements.”


For more information on the SEA process, visit: