Hun­dreds of Shan farm­ers protest Up­per Yeywa dam

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

MORE than 1500 farm­ers from 19 town­ships gath­ered on the banks of the Namtu River in Thibaw/Hsi­paw town­ship, Shan State to call for the can­cel­la­tion of the Up­per Yeywa dam on Novem­ber 27. It was the third such protest of 2016.

The hy­dropower pro­ject, lo­cated in Kyaukme town­ship to the south, is one of four new dams planned for the Namtu River. It is slated for com­ple­tion in 2018.

Sai Thum Ai, a spokesper­son for the Shan State Farm­ers Net­work, which or­gan­ised the protest, said the farm­ers are re­new­ing their calls for an im­me­di­ate can­cel­la­tion of the dam be­cause of the ac­tive nearby fight­ing be­tween the Tat­madaw and eth­nic armed groups.

“Con­trol of nat­u­ral re­sources is a root cause of the con­flict in Burma. If the govern­ment pro­ceeds with new dams on the Namtu River against the wishes of lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties, this will only fuel the fight­ing in north­ern Shan State,” he said in a state­ment re­leased yes­ter­day.

Ac­cord­ing to the state­ment, the Yeywa dam, which is be­ing built by Chi­nese, Swiss, Ger­man and Ja­panese firms, will cre­ate a 60-kilo­me­tre-long (37-mile) reser­voir, flood­ing Hsi­paw town­ship and sub­merg­ing the homes and lands of about 650 Ta­long vil­lagers. They urged the com­pa­nies to halt con­struc­tion.

Sim­i­lar protests against the pro­ject were staged in March and Septem­ber.

In Septem­ber, Shan Na­tion­al­i­ties League for Democ­racy state MPs Nang San San Aye (SNLD; Hsi­paw 1) and Nang Khin Htar Yee (SNLD; Theinni 1) raised is­sues about trans­parency, ac­count­abil­ity and re­spon­si­bil­ity re­gard­ing con­tro­ver­sial dam projects in Shan State. The law­mak­ers called for clar­i­fi­ca­tion on the dams’ pos­si­ble im­pacts.

“The an­swer we got back is so un­clear,” said Sai Thun Ai. “They say that the govern­ment will take care of the lo­cals but they do not say how or when.”

Sai Thun Ai pointed out that the Shan State Hlut­taw did not have any con­trol over the projects.

“Our SNLD can­di­date asked ques­tions about the projects,” he said. “They could not give a clear an­swer. The Union govern­ment con­trols ev­ery pro­ject.”

The Shan State Farm­ers Net­work also sent an open let­ter to State Coun­sel­lor Daw Aung San Su Kyi and the govern­ment, call­ing for the dam’s can­cel­la­tion.

“We did not get any re­sponse from the govern­ment,” said net­work spokesper­son Nang Lao Kham.

Tat­madaw troops reg­u­larly pa­trol Ta­long vil­lage. They are posted on a hill­top over­look­ing the dam site, but they are caus­ing fear among lo­cal res­i­dents, the net­work’s state­ment said. In Oc­to­ber, 2000 vil­lagers fled their homes just 20 kilo­me­tres east of Ta­long vil­lage af­ter an at­tack by the Tat­madaw.

The Shan State Farm­ers Net­work is also de­mand­ing a re­duc­tion in the Union govern­ment’s power over state re­sources. They want lo­cals to have a right to own their re­sources in their eth­nic state.

Civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions are de­mand­ing that the Yeywa pro­ject be halted at least un­til a coun­try­wide peace deal is worked out.

When asked about the sta­tus of hy­dropower projects slated for Shan State, State Min­is­ter for Elec­tric Power, En­ergy and Con­struc­tion U Zarni Aung told The Myan­mar Times, “Some projects have started run­ning and some are still be­ing tested.”

Photo: Sup­plied

Farm­ers protest the pro­posed Up­per Yeywa hy­dropower dam in Shan State’s Hsi­paw town­ship yes­ter­day.

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