Monday, January 31, 2011

Burmese to Get Just One Percent of Energy from Dams

Burmese to Get Just One Percent of Energy from Dams

by Sai Zom Hseng
Monday 31 January, 2011

Almost all of the electricity expected to be generated by hydropower
dams now under construction in Burma will be sold to China and Thailand,
with just one percent going to domestic consumers, according to
environmental watchdog groups.

During a recent seminar on the Thai-Burmese border, groups researching
the impact of the dams on rivers in Burma and neighboring countries
noted that Chinese companies are involved in all but one of 21 major dam
projects currently underway in Burma.

"Since China is the main investor in the dam projects, it will receive
most of the electricity. China will get 48 percent, while 38 percent
will go to Thailand and 3 percent to India. Only one percent will be
available for domestic consumption," said Sai Sai, the coordinator of
Burma Rivers Network (BRN), one of the groups that took part in the seminar.

The remaining 10 percent, he added, will be used by the Burmese military
and on large-scale development projects such as the construction of a
natural gas pipeline from western Burma's Arakan State to China.

According to BRN, the 21 dams being built in Kachin, Shan, and Karenni
states and Mandalay and Sagaing divisions will produce a total of 35,640
megawatts (MW) of electricity.

Following visits to Burma by Chinese officials late last year, Chinese
investment in the Tasang dam, located on the Salween River in Shan
State, is set to increase from US $6 billion to $10 billion, said Sai
Sai, who added that the dam will be the largest in the state when it is

While China is laying claim to most of the electricity being generated
by the dams, India is also investing heavily in other projects designed
to meet its own needs.

The Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project, which aims increase
India's trade with Southeast Asian countries and give it better access
to its isolated northeastern state of Mizoram, was also criticized at
the seminar for failing to take into account its impact on local people
and the environment.

"We're not saying the project should never be implemented, but it should
be put on hold until there is a more accountable government in Burma
that will think about the impact and the effects of the project," said
Aung Marm Oo, the director of the Arakan Rivers Network.

The project, which will involve the development of the Sittwe seaport in
Arakan State and the dredging of the Kaladan waterway to Paletwa in Chin
State, will be carried out by Indian state-owned and private companies
in cooperation with the Burmese regime, which will be responsible for
constructing a highway from Paletwa to the Burma-India border.

According to Indian media reports, the $110 million Indian-funded
project will be completed in 2014-5.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh has also staked a claim to a portion of Burma's
growing hydropower capacity. It plans to buy most of the electricity
that will be generated by four projects now under construction in Arakan
State, including the Laymro dam, which will become the largest in
western Burma with a capacity of 500 MW.

Some of the remaining electricity will be used to construct pipelines to
send natural gas from Burma's Shwe gas fields to China, according to
ARN's Aung Marm Oo.

ARN says that its research shows that the projects will deprive local
people of their land and livelihoods. Even in the preliminary stages of
the projects, there have been many cases of land confiscation and forced
labor, the group said.

Grace Mang
China Global Program Coordinator

phone: + 1 510 848 1155
skype: grace.mang

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