BANGKOK, Aug 23 – Shan community calls for cease of Salween dams to prevent flood and conflict. Their call came shortly after Daw Aung Suu Kyi’s visit to China last week.
Shan community has shown their strong opposition to controversial hydropower dams on Salween River as Myanmar government announced to proceed dams projects to address energy needs. Their concern was raise during a press conference at The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand on tuesday. They said Naung Pha dam, one of five planned Salween dams developed by Chinese companies, was under preparation.
Most of the power generated by those dams will be exported to neighboring countries. Developed by Chinese state-owned Hydrochina, about 90% of 1,200-megawatts produced by Naung Pha dam will be exported to China while local people will have to bear cost of environmental impact, said Shan representative in press conference. Thailand is on the watch for power purchaser as its latest version of Power Development Plan proposes increasing of imported electricity from neighbor to 15-20%. Most of electricity will come from Laos and Myanmar.
The dam is located in war-torn northern Shan State, where long suffer in ongoing fight between Myanmar Army and ethnic armed groups.
Sai Khur Hseng, environmentalist base in Shan state, said that an Australian company Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation (SMEC) had been carrying on Environmental and Social Impact Assessment for Naung Pha dam with low level of local participation. Local community was informed about public consultation’s schedule just few hours in advance. He suspected that this move aimed to avoid widespread grassroots protest against the dam.
“SMEC website shows successful result of public consultation, and [says] locals also want it [the dam] as soon as possible. The truth is, since news of the survey leaked out, communities have been rallying to oppose the dam,” said Sai Khur Hseng.
On August 5, about 250 villagers from nine villages in Tangyan and Members of Parliament of Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) staged protest against the dam. Two weeks later, about 60 community leaders from Ho Pang, Kunlong, Tangyan, Hsenwi and Lashio and three SNLD members staged another protest in Hsenwi.
On August 17, groups of Shan community wrote an open letter to Suu Kyi, urging cancellation of all Salween dams. They warned that “selling off the Salween”, a vital artery of millions of ethnic people in eastern Myanmar, would undermine ongoing peace process.
Another Shan environmentalist, Nang Charm Tong, said war should be taken into account. “If Naung Pha dam is started to build, Burma Army will definitely reinforce its troops to secure the dam-site and launch operations to clear ethnic armed groups from the area. This will cause more conflict.”
She added that area of northern Shan State is in earthquake zone. Between Jul and Aug, three earthquakes are reported in Ho Pang township that sits near Nam Ting fault. The incident has raise fear for risk of dam failure. Dam will also flood local land and cause large-scale loss on livelihood, said Shan representative. Just last month, seasonal flood caused damage to thousands of acres of farmland, and last week wrecked local property in downtown of Ho Pang.
“If Naung Pha dam is built, rate of water drainage along Nam Ting [village] will be further reduced, meaning an even greater likelihood of flooding and damage to crops and homes in the Nam Ting valley,” said Nang Charm Tong.