Shan farm­ers protest Nao Pha dam project

The Myanmar Times - - News - THU THU AUNG thuthuaung@mm­times.com

WITH the fu­ture of the con­tro­ver­sial My­it­sone dam project ap­par­ently still in doubt fol­low­ing For­eign Min­is­ter Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s visit to China, lo­cal res­i­dents in Shan State are mak­ing their po­si­tion on sim­i­lar projects clear.

About 80 farm­ers from four town­ships demon­strated on Au­gust 21, call­ing on Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in her ca­pac­ity as state coun­sel­lor to block the pro­posed Nao Pha dam on the Thanl­win (Sal­ween) River. The protest took place at Kaung Cho village, Kon Kauk village tract, in Theinni town­ship, Shan State.

Res­i­dents of Theinni, Tang Yan, Kun­lone and Hopan town­ships are an­gry at what they call the lack of con­sul­ta­tion over the is­sue, which en­tails the con­struc­tion of a string of dams along the river.

“This area be­longs to the Shan peo­ple. We were given no in­for­ma­tion about this project. We in­sist on proper SNLD MP trans­parency,” said MP Nan Khin Htae Yee (SNLD; Theinni 1).

Pro­tes­tors say Kun­lone and Hopan town­ship farm­ers, al­ready strug­gling with flooded paddy fields, fear the pro­posed dams will bring more nat­u­ral dis­as­ters rather than the promised de­vel­op­ment.

Nan Khin Htae Yee has been lead­ing a pe­ti­tion cam­paign across Shan State in op­po­si­tion to the project, and has vowed to keep the is­sue alive in the re­gional hlut­taw.

In June, more than 20,000 res­i­dents of com­mu­ni­ties along the Thanl­win signed a pe­ti­tion to present to State Coun­sel­lor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, voic­ing their op­po­si­tion to the hy­dropower projects planned for the area. Most sig­na­to­ries were from Kun­hein town­ship, which is likely to be one of the worst-af­fected by flood­ing from one of the pro­posed hy­dropower projects.

The lo­cal Shan Net­work called on the state coun­sel­lor to consider “the im­por­tance of the Thanl­win River as the home of eth­nic mi­nor­ity peo­ples and as an in­valu­able source of bio­di­ver­sity and nat­u­ral re­sources”.

“The Shan State gov­ern­ment said the con­tin­u­a­tion of these projects will be sub­ject to the peo­ple’s will. We’re op­ti­mistic that the gov­ern­ment will sup­port us. They will lis­ten to our voice and look out for the lo­cal peo­ple,” said Nang Kham Mai, spokesper­son for the Shan Women’s Ac­tion Net­work.

The pro­posed Nao Pha hy­dropower project will take five-and-a-half years to build and will pro­duce an es­ti­mated 1200 megawatts, of which 90 per­cent will be ex­ported to China, as will most of the power to be pro­duced by the other pro­posed dams. The projects will have an es­ti­mated com­bined ca­pac­ity of more than 30,000MW, rep­re­sent­ing an in­vest­ment of at least US$30 bil­lion, ac­cord­ing to the Burma River Net­work.

‘We were given no in­for­ma­tion about this project. We in­sist on proper trans­parency.’

Nan Khin Htae Yee

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