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An Open Letter in Support of the President of Myanmar’s Decision on the Suspension of the Myitsone Dam Project and a Call for a Review of the Hatgyi Dam Project in Kayin (Karen) State

By Karen Rivers Watch  •  October 13, 2011

Your Excellency President Thein Sein
Republic of the Union of Myanmar

Dear Mr. President,

We, the members of Karen Rivers Watch wish to express our appreciation of your government’s decision on the suspension of the Myitsone Dam project in Kachin State .  Karen Rivers Watch sees this decision as an important step towards the hope of a genuine change to good governance that, to use your words, puts priority on environmental conservation, clean government, democratic practice and the prevalence of law and order.

Karen Rivers Watch (KRW) is a coalition of Karen social organizations and individuals that researches and addresses the social, economic, cultural and environmental impacts of river development projects in Kayin (Karen) State.

In your message to the Pyitthu Hluttaw in September 2011, you stated that Other hydropower projects that pose no threat will be implemented through thorough survey for availability of electricity needed for the nation”.

However, deciding what is or is not a threat is always going to be controversial. Comprehensive and consultative assessments that cover all environmental and socio-economic impacts need to be conducted that include all relevant stakeholders and address the full impacts of the 64 hydropower projects, including those on the Thanlwin ( Salween ) River.

The case of the Hatgyi Dam is comparable to the Myitsone Dam because both projects are located in seismically-active, politically and ecologically sensitive areas.  Both dam-sites are on or close to active fault lines that are prone to earthquakes, as are many of the even larger dams planned upstream. Vital information regarding the Hatgyi Dam project has not been made public and there has been little consultation with affected communities and other relevant stakeholders.  The majority of people living in these areas disagree with the proposed hydropower project.

The Hatgyi Dam site is located in an active conflict zone 47 km from the confluence of the Thanlwin ( Salween ) and Moei Rivers in an area inhabited by ethnic Karen.  In this warzone, countless Karen have died, been maimed or displaced.  Many Myanmar soldiers have also been killed or disabled, along with two Thai employees from the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT).

Continuing to push for the implementation of the Hatgyi Dam will only exacerbate the displacement of war-torn communities and destruction of the rich and diverse ecological habitats found in this area. We are deeply concerned that all the problems and little to no benefit will go to local communities while most of the energy generated by this dam will be sold to Thailand .

Karen Rivers Watch believes that the cessation of conflict and the security of local communities in Kayin (Karen) State are mandatory before any further project development can take place in these areas. The projects should also incorporate fair and equitable benefit-sharing, transparency, accountability, impact mitigation and disaster planning.

Therefore, we urge the Myanmar government to:

  • cancel or suspend the Hatgyi Dam until a genuine political reconciliation is reached between ethnic groups and the Myanmar government.
  • conduct new comprehensive and consultative assessments (EIA, SIA and HIA) for the entire planned series of dams on the Thanlwin (Salween) that adhere to the principles of Free, Prior and Informed Consent before project development approval, and only following the resolution of conflict in the area.

Yours Respectfully,

Karen Rivers Watch

For press contact:
Paul Sein Twa (for English)
Ko Shwe (for Burmese)
Tel: +66 (0) 9005 16721

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This post is in: Business and Human Rights, Environmental and Economic Justice, Press Release

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