Mon group op­poses dam planned for Sal­ween River

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

MON ac­tivists yes­ter­day at­tacked dam projects slated for the Sal­ween River, re­leas­ing a re­port about the po­ten­tial neg­a­tive im­pacts.

“Given the re­cently re­newed plans by the Myan­mar gov­ern­ment and Thai in­vestors to build the con­tro­ver­sial Hat­gyi dam, our down­stream com­mu­ni­ties share ex­treme con­cerns with all the other com­mu­ni­ties along the Sal­ween about the im­pact of the dam on our liveli­hood and the en­vi­ron­ment,” said Mi Ah Chai, one of the lead re­searchers on the re­port by the Mon Youth Pro­gres­sive Or­gan­i­sa­tion.

The an­nounce­ment that 1360-megawatt Hat­gyi project would be re­sumed was made on Au­gust 12 by Min­istry of Elec­tric Power per­ma­nent sec­re­tary U Htein Lwin.

Po­ten­tial ef­fects could in­clude al­ter­ing the river’s flow, in­creased ero­sion, de­struc­tion of is­lands, dam­age to down­stream agri­cul­ture, re­duc­tion in the fish pop­u­la­tion, and dis­as­trous earth­quakes or bro­ken dams in this seis­mi­cally ac­tive re­gion, Mi Ah Chai added.

Damming of the Mekong has caused long-last­ing dam­age to the flood­plains and aquatic en­vi­ron­ments in Viet­nam, said Nan Hnin Yee, a leader of a Karenni civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tion. The seven Sal­ween River projects could pro­duce 10,000 megawatts, she said, but added that the en­vi­ron­men­tal trade-off would be se­vere.

Strate­gic en­vi­ron­men­tal as­sess­ments can­not guar­an­tee an earth­quake will not strike, said Mi Ah Chai. This is a real pos­si­bil­ity given the river’s lo­ca­tion along fault lines, she said, urg­ing gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials not to gam­ble with peo­ple’s lives.

“The newly elected gov­ern­ment should not re­peat the mis­takes of the past gov­ern­ment by ig­nor­ing the voices of the peo­ple,” she said.

Lo­cals near the sites of pro­posed dams in Shan, Kayin, and Kayah states have re­peat­edly protested the projects. CSOs from those states have pointed out that 90 per­cent of the power will go to China or Thai­land, while the dams will threaten food se­cu­rity for mil­lions of peo­ple.

“The Sal­ween dams will pro­vide no ben­e­fit for the lo­cal peo­ple, and will cre­ate ir­re­versible en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pacts to down­stream ecosys­tems,” the re­port by the MYPO con­cluded.

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

Sai Khay Seng, a Shan en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist, pointed out that the projects are of­ten pro­posed in ar­eas where ten­sions between the mil­i­tary and armed eth­nic groups are high. CSOs de­manded that mega projects be put on hold un­til a coun­try­wide peace deal is reached.

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