China's state-owned National Petroleum Corporation said Tuesday it has begun construction of a pipeline in Burma for transfer of Middle East oil.
Officials say construction work started Monday on Burma's Maday Island in the Indian Ocean. The oil and gas pipeline will run through central Burma to China's southwestern Yunnan province. It will transfer oil from the Middle East and Africa as well as natural gas from Burma's Shwe fields.
Chinese officials did not say when the oil pipeline would be ready for use. But they said it will be capable of carrying 84 million barrels of oil per year.
Rights groups have criticized the project, saying it will harm local people and bring in huge revenues to Burma's ruling military.
Critics have said the controversial project could provide Burma's military leaders with at least $29 billion over 30 years.
Last week, more than 100 organizations from 20 countries have signed a petition urging China to halt the pipeline project in Burma. The petition organized by the Shwe Gas Movement says the project will pose serious risks to the environment and to regional security. It says the project could also pose a financial risk to China and hurt its image.
The pipeline is part of China's investment in neighboring Burma as it seeks to gain greater access to foreign energy to fuel its fast-growing economy.
Some information for this report was provided by Reuters.