Shan farmers protest Nao Pha dam project
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