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Burma’s Government must Suspend All Dam Plans on the Salween River

By Karenni Civil Society Network  •  March 14, 2014

The Karenni Civil Society Network (KCSN) urges the Burmese government and companies from neighbouring countries to immediately suspend their plans to build hydropower dams on the Salween and other rivers in Burma. KCSN has learned that there are at least two large dams planned on the Salween in Karenni State.

There have been many meetings between the ethnic armed groups and the Burmese government since 2011 to discuss cease-fires and the peace process. The Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP) agreed to an initial ceasefire since March 7, 2012, but even after two years there has been no political progress to guarantee that the ceasefire is permanent.

Even though Karenni State is quite small, there are 22 Burma Army battalions stationed here, and the government has continued to construct the No 14 military training centre, despite opposition from local people, which has caused concern about the government’s sincerity towards the peace process. Since 2013, military training exercises from this centre have involved shelling of farmlands, killing livestock and making villagers too afraid to go out to their fields. Moreover, personnel from the training centre have committed sexual violence, including against a 10-year-old girl.

Even though it was agreed in ceasefire discussions that local community members would be consulted regarding any new mega projects, there has been no consultation with communities. The Nay Pyi Taw government has allowed international companies, Burma-based companies and the ethnic groups’ own companies to implement mega projects to exploit the natural resources, mountains and rivers of the Karenni people. This is equivalent to a new economic offensive against the Karenni people.

For example, a Chinese company and the Ashay Thanlwin (Eastern Salween) are using huge machinery and rafts to mine gold in the Salween River from north of Pasaung up to the Shan-Karenni border. The machines can dig up one or two tons of stone and sand from the river bed at a time. Local people are very concerned about damage to the reefs in the Salween waterway, declining fisheries and releases of mercury into the water, endangering local people.

“With the uncontrolled mining and logging along the Salween river, Karenni state will be destroyed within five years,” said a 50-year-old Karenni villager.

In late 2013, the Kayah State Electricity Minister and Transportation Minister held a public meeting in Pasaung about a planned dam on the Salween River near the Karen-Karenni State border. About 60 people attended the meeting, and the Electricity Minister later claimed that the local people supported the building of the dam. However, in reality the local people are very worried about potential flooding of their homes, agricultural lands and livelihoods along the Salween river bank.

It has also been learned from government sources that 25 Chinese engineers will return soon to the Ywathit dam site in the middle of the state. The Ywathit dam, to be built by China’s Datang Company, will produce 4,000 MW of electricity.

Therefore, today, on the International Rivers Day, the KCSN urges the Burmese government and all companies involved to suspend all the dam plans on the Salween River, including the Ywathit dam, as there is not yet a political settlement between the Burmese government and the ethnic nationality leaders including KNPP, which guarantees constitutional reform and protection of local people’s rights.

Media Contact:
Khu Mi Reh – Phone (Thai Mobile): 081 029 9570
Maw Thiri – Phone (Thai Mobile): 085 622 0971
Naw Ahmu – Phone (Myanmar Mobile): 09 3615 4190

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This post is in: Press Release

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