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Salween Rally Calls on Burma’s Neighbors to Halt Dam Plans

By Burma Rivers Network  •  March 15, 2010

Hundreds of villagers from both Burma and Thailand joined affected peoples from around the world in marking International Day of Action for Rivers yesterday as plans by China, Thailand and India steam ahead to dam all of Burma’s major rivers.

Five hundred farmers and fisher-folk gathered on the Salween River and shared their concerns about the impending construction of five massive dams planned on the river with performances and prayers to protect the Salween. Various networks of people affected by dams in Thailand from the Mekong, Mae Ping and Prae joined the event to support Salween villagers.

The activities come amidst recent debates around the transnational impacts of dams on the Mekong River which is experiencing its lowest water levels in over 15 years.

In Burma, over twenty mega dams are planned on not only the Salween but also the Irrawaddy, Chindwin, and Sittaung rivers, as well as their tributaries. All of the dams are currently being planned, constructed, and financed by neighboring countries and most will provide electricity to those neighbors.

Thailand and China each have environmental and social standards which inform the dam building process yet they are not being applied to their dam projects in Burma. In December 2009, the Prime of Thailand announced that further studies were needed to assess the environmental impact of the Hutgyi Dam on Thailand. In May 2009, Premier Wen Jiabao halted the construction of the Liuku Dam on the Salween in China pending further study of social impacts.

“Our neighbors’ governments are following standards and calling for more impact studies to reduce the risks of dams in their countries. They should follow their own standards in Burma as well” said Sai Sai, the coordinator of the Burma Rivers Network.

Several of the dam projects are located in armed conflict zones where civilians are facing forced labor, forced relocation and extra-judicial killing. The recent release of Burma’s new election law demonstrates the restrictive environment of public debate in the country. In this context there is no consultation with affected peoples and no participation in decision-making around dam building.

“The problems of the Mekong River are gaining recent international attention. We hope it highlights the need for consultation with affected peoples and for neighbors to work together toward a more sustainable development of rivers” said Kyar Pat, director of the Lahu National Development Organization monitoring developments on the Mekong in Burma.

Burma Rivers Network calls on neighbors, dam builders, and international financial institutions to recognize the experience of affected peoples and suspend dam projects in Burma until people are able to fully participate in project decisions, energy planning and projects are conducted transparently and assessments of energy projects that take into account alternatives to dams can be conducted.

To coincide with International Day of Action for Rivers, the Salween Watch Coalition is releasing an update of news from the planned dam sites on the Salween. It can be viewed at www.salweenwatch.org, www.burmariversnetwork.org

Contact: Sai Sai, +(66) 897557354

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

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