Fate of Salween Dams remains unclear
18 March 2013
By Rosie Gogan-Keogh
Some 2,000 internally displaced people and villagers from the Wei Gyi
area gathered on March 14 by the Salween riverbank to protest continued
plans to construct six hydroelectric dams on the river.
The ceremony, which included prayer services by a Buddhist monk and a
Christian pastor, was also attended by community leaders from Dawei, who
themselves are resisting massive development projects in their area.
One day earlier, the environmental NGO Salween Watch released a report
outlining the current status of the Salween River in response to an
announcement made by Myanmar's deputy minister for electric power in
late February that six controversial dam projects on the river had been
"With a combined installed capacity of 15,000 MW, the projects will
include the Upper Salween or Kunlong Dam, the Mai Tong or Tasang Dam,
Nong Pha Dam, Mantawng Dam (on a tributary), Ywathit Dam, and Hatgyi
Dam. The investment will come from five Chinese corporations, Thailandï¿½s
Electricity Generation Authority of Thailand (EGAT) International Co Ltd
and three Burmese corporations," said the Salween Watch report.
The river is one of the world's last free-running rivers and runs from
the Tibetan Himalayas through Myanmar and Thailand to the Andaman Sea.
Numerous companies have expressed interest in harnessing the river's
power; however, many of the 13 proposed dam projects have come under
criticism as severe human rights abuses have been reported in the
militarized dam sites, including land grabs, forced labor and rape.
Several of the dams are being planned in areas where continuing
conflicts are occurring between ethnic resistance groups and the Myanmar
army and their construction is said to undermine any potential ceasefire
The Salween Watch report states that this month alone more than 1,000
Myanmar troops were sent to Nong Pha Dam, fueling fears of a new
large-scale military offensive in the area.
In 2009, the Myanmar army launched an offensive when local people
resisted the construction of the Kunlong Dam forcing 30,000 people to
flee across the Chinese border.
According to Karen human rights groups, in mid-2009 the Myanmar army and
Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) attacked the Karen National Union
(KNU) based in Pa-an.
"As a result, about 3,500 villagers, mostly women and children, fled
across the Thai border into the Tha Song Yang district of Tak. This was
the largest influx of war refugees from Karen State into Thailand in a
decade," states the report.
A Karen environmental activist, Paul Sein Twa, commented: "The Burmese
[Myanmar] government should show their sincerity by halting all
large-scale development projects pending genuine peace talks and
political reform. Only this will ensure protection of community rights.
Right now, private investors are stifling the hopes of the Karens for a
Speaking on Thursday at the ceremony on the riverbank, Naw Phyo Phyo of
the Karen Womenï¿½s Organization said that Naypyitaw and foreign investors
must desist from implementing any development project, including dams,
during this fragile ceasefire period, as genuine peace is not yet
"Current development projects will only benefit a few peopleï¿½ mainly
governments and investorsï¿½but local people like us will face huge
challenges, including permanent loss of our lands, displacement, hunger
and severe flooding. This will have many negative impacts on our
environment and our livelihoods," she said.
Another community leader, Pati Saw Ko, said, "We all want development,
but development must not bring suffering and difficulty for local
Read the full Salween Watch report here:
Push to build big dams undermines peace process in Karen State
14 March 2012
(Mizzima) ï¿½ The push by investors to proceed with large dams in Karen
State areas of Burma is threatening to undermine ongoing cease-fire
negotiations between the Karen National Union (KNU) and the Burmese
government, says Karen Rivers Watch.
The increased presence of Burmese troops around dam sites and "blatant
disregard for concerns of impacted communities are heightening tensions,
and throwing into doubt the governmentï¿½s sincerity in conducting
cease-fire talks," according to a statement issued on Wednesday. Karen
Rivers Watch is a coalition of community-based organizations working to
promote sustainable river development.
Two months after an initial cease-fire agreement between the KNU and the
government, military tensions have risen around the planned Hatgyi Dam
site on the Salween River in Karen State, located 48 kilometres from the
Thai border. Unusually large amounts of supplies sent in to Burmese army
camps securing the dam site, and the planned deployment of a new
battalion in the area, prompted the local KNU commander to reinforce
troops around the Burmese bases since last month, the statement said.
Since 2009, the KNU has called for a halt to the dam project until there
is a viable peace in Burma, but under pressure from Chinaï¿½s Sinohydro
Corporation and the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand, the
KNU agreed in December 2011 to allow further surveys for the dam.
However, they did not give approval for increased Burmese troops, the
statement said. Cease-fire talks have so far failed to establish
agreements regarding troop movements on both sides.
"At this fragile stage of the cease-fire process, pushing ahead with the
Hatgyi Dam will reignite conflict and derail the talks," said Saw Paul
of Karen Rivers Watch. "Investors are sabotaging the hopes of Karen
people for lasting peace."
Growing local resentment against dam-builders is putting increased
pressure on KNU to take protective action, irrespective of ongoing
cease-fire talks, the statement said.
In February 2012, KNU troops arrested and fined workers of the
Chinese-backed "Myanmar Nature Energy Wave," demanding they stop
building the Dah Thway Kyauk Dam, which will flood five Karen villages
near Dawei in southern Burma.
Similar resentment is building against the Italian Thai Development Plc
(ITD) for pushing ahead with the Taninthayi (Tenasserim) Dam, which will
export power to Thailand, and the Ka Loat Hta Dam, which will store
water for the Dawei Special Economic Zone.
Local KNU units sought to block ITDï¿½s operations in 2011, but have since
been pressured to allow them to continue survey work.
"The Burmese government should show its sincerity by halting all
mega-development projects in ethnic areas until there is genuine peace
and political reform which guarantees the rights of impacted
communities," Saw Paul said.
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