Burma: Network calls for action for rivers
The Burma Rivers Network, comprising several organizations defending the communities in Burma against the effects of dams' construction, organized the international day of action for rivers and against dams to focus attention on a project undertaken by China, Thailand and Burma for building dams on the Salween River. The goal of the organization is to stop the plan that puts at risk not only the life of millions of ethic people in Burma whose livelihood depends on the river, but also the biodiversity the Salween basin is rich of.
33538 people from Shan, Karenni, Karen and Mon State and 131 civil society and political parties in Burma have signed a petition urging an immediate halt to the six dams planned by the Burmese government on the Salween River, including the Kun Long/Upper Thanlwin, Nong Pa, Man Taung and Tasang dams in Shan State, Ywathit dam in Karenni State and Hatgyi dam in Karen State.
The Salween River is one of the longest free-flowing rivers in the world, and is the lifeblood of millions of ethnic people in Burma. The six dam projects with a combined capacity of about 15,000 megawatts, planned by Chinese, Burmese and Thai investors, are threatening the future of these people and the rich biodiversity of the Salween basin. Although the ones who will be most affected by the projects are the local communities living along the river, the majority of the generated electricity will go to China and Thailand, leaving very little or no benefits for these communities. Already, communities in over 60 villages have lost lands and houses due to construction of access roads in preparation for the Kunlong dam in northern Shan State. Accelerated logging and mining by military crony companies is also taking place along the river in the potential dam flood zones.
Despite an ongoing conflict in the ethnic areas, which is causing increased militarization to provide security for surveying and construction and more abuses by the Burma Army against local civilians, the Burmese government is proceeding with the dams. In recent months fighting has also intensified in northern Shan State in areas near the Kunlong dam, the first being built on the Salween.
All six Salween dams are proceeding in violation of international dam building standards, which should ensure transparency and respect for rights of affected communities. The dam sites are strictly guarded, and local people have been given no information about the projects. Downstream communities remain ignorant about impacts on water flows, fisheries and agriculture, as well the dangers of potential dam breaks.
The network therefore urges the Burmese, Chinese and Thai governments, and the dam developers, including Thailand’s EGAT International Co.Ltd, China Three Gorges Corporation, Hanergy Holding Company, Hydrochina Corporation, China Datang Overseas Investment Co.Ltd, and Burmese crony companies -International Group of Entrepreneurs Co.Ltd, Shwe Taung and Asia World - to halt immediately their plans to dam the Salween River. It is especially urgent to halt these mega dam projects while the Burmese government and ethnic armed groups are embarking on a new peace process. Indeed, dispute over natural resources is a key driver of ethnic conflict in Burma, so it will only stoke further war if these projects proceed before this issue has even been brought to the negotiation table. Instead of destroying the mighty Salween River and creating massive social and environmental problems by building the dams, we urge all stakeholders to protect and preserve this vital biodiversity, which has sustained our ethnic communities for generations.
Burma Rivers Network comprises 15 members, including Shan Sapawa Environmental Organisation, Karenni Civil Society Network, Mon Youth Progressive Organization, Love Salween Group and Karen Rivers Watch.
Please click on the attachement to know which the organizations have endorsed the petition.
Saw Tha Phoe: +959420076282
Sai Khur Hseng: +95931068530
Ah Nan: +66848854154
Photo: Map of dams in Burma. Credit: Burma Rivers Network (http://burmariversnetwork.org/index.php/component/content/article/45-uncategorised/138-map)