Doc­u­men­tary raises alarm over Shan re­gion threat­ened by Sal­ween dam

The Myanmar Times - - News - THU THU AUNG thuthuaung@mm­

AC­TIVISTS yes­ter­day re­leased a 30-minute doc­u­men­tary as part of a cam­paign against a mega-dam in cen­tral Shan State.

The doc­u­men­tary, called Drown­ing a Thou­sand Is­lands, in­cludes lo­cal peo­ple from the re­mote Kun­hing area voic­ing their con­cerns that the pro­posed Mong Ton hy­dropower project will ir­re­vo­ca­bly dam­age the Sal­ween River.

Last month, the gov­ern­ment an­nounced they would con­tinue with hy­dropower projects along the Sal­ween, spark­ing fierce op­po­si­tion from Shan po­lit­i­cal par­ties and armed groups.

“We need to pre­serve the Pang River, a hid­den gem of the Sal­ween. This trib­u­tary is home to unique aquatic ecosys­tems. The Mong Ton project will de­stroy this won­der­ful nat­u­ral her­itage area,” said Sai Khur Hseng, an en­vi­ron­men­tal ac­tivist.

Ac­cord­ing to Ac­tion for Shan State Rivers, the film took six months to make.

The Kun­hing area of cen­tral Shan has been off-lim­its for years due to eth­nic con­flicts. From 1996-1998, the Tat­madaw en­gaged in a scorched earth cam­paign in the re­gion, dis­plac­ing over 300,000 peo­ple in cen­tral Shan and killing hun­dreds in Kun­hing.

Many refugees who fled to Thai­land dur­ing this time have still not re­turned.

Though the fight­ing has ceased, the lo­cal vil­lagers of the Thou­sand Is­lands area are still threat­ened, now by the con­struc­tion of a dam which would sub­merge the en­tire area.

Kun­hing town­ship MP Daw Nang Khin Saw said, “I have raised con­cerns about the Mong Tom dam and its ef­fects to the [re­gional] par­lia­ment but they replied that we need to raise our con­cerns with the na­tional gov­ern­ment.”

“We, the SNLD [Shan Na­tion­al­i­ties League for Democ­racy] politi­cians, are try­ing to stop the dam on be­half of the lo­cals,” she added.

Daw Nang Khin Saw as well as Shan, Mon And Karen ac­tivists say that the project car­ries risks of prop­erty de­struc­tion and death caused by flood­ing and earthquakes.

It is es­ti­mated that 50,000 lo­cals from 137 vil­lages would be dis­placed by the project.

If built, the Mong Ton hy­dropower dam will be the largest hy­dropower project in South­east Asia. It will pro­duce over 34.7 bil­lion kWh of power an­nu­ally, 90 per­cent of which will be ex­ported to China and Thai­land.

In ad­di­tion to the Yan­gon screen­ing, the film was also launched at pub­lic screen­ings in Taung­gyi and Chi­ang Mai, as well as on Thai Pub­lic Broad­cast­ing Ser­vice TV.

The doc­u­men­tary can also be viewed on Shan State Rivers’ Face­book page.

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