Sunday, 2 October 2016

Salween River is Being ‘Sold Off’ to China "

“While all eyes were on the Irrawaddy Myitsone dam, Burma has quietly sold off the Salween to China.”
Myanmar incurs wrath of civic groups as hydropower solutions remain its main priority
KHINE KYAW MYANMAR ELEVEN
YANGON August 24, 2015 1:00 am
MYANMAR'S Electric Power Ministry will go ahead with hydropower projects, the Minister for Electric Power, Industry, Science and Technology said last week amid reports of local resistance.
Nyan Tun U told the Confexhub's Myanmar Green Energy Summit that the government would fulfil its target to achieve universal electricity access by 2030. At present, only about 30 per cent of the population has access to electricity.
"We are comprehensively and systematically working on plans for sustainability, ensuring efficient and effective use of resources while considering protection of the environment. There is a very huge potential for the green energy sector in Myanmar. However, we need more investment and transfers of know-how," he said.
The tasks have been and will be carried out by Myanmar Electric Power Enterprise, a state utility, the ministry itself, local companies and joint ventures with foreign investors, he said.
The four main river basins - Ayeyawady, Chindwin, Thanlwin (Salween) and Sittaung - offer a combined capacity of up to 100 gigawatts of hydropower.
"At present, only 3 per cent of the country's potential has been developed and 26 per cent is under implementation. Small hydroplants are expected to develop more as a proper source for electrification of small villages," he said.
There are 35 small and medium hydropower stations across the country, generally ranging from one to 10 megawatts in capacity, generating 33.18MW in total. All of them were built by the government outside the grid system in order to supply electricity to rural areas.
As part of the national electrification programme, 386 reservoirs are expected to be implemented with total storage capacity of 19.40 billion cubic metres.
The minister also underscored the importance of other potential resources - wind, solar, biomass and other types of renewable energy.
Myanmar's per capita electricity consumption is the lowest in Asean, given the low electrification rate, low industry development and lack of investment. Yangon enjoys the highest electrification ratio of 67 per cent, followed by Nay Pyi Taw at 54 per cent and Mandalay at 31 per cent. The remaining rural areas are still poorly electrified with the average ratio of 16 per cent.
Strengthening the energy sector is critical for reducing poverty and enhancing medium and long-term development prospects. Plans for universal electrification must go ahead as it is an urgent requirement for social progress including health, education and other essential services, he added.
During the conference, Min Khaing, director of the ministry's Hydropower Implementation Department, said 29 hydropower projects that are expected to produce 31.62GW have been implementing on a joint venture scheme. Three hydro projects with installed capacity of 190.4MW are being implemented on the build, operate and transfer scheme.
"Hydropower projects will be in the form of public-private partnership. We are also holding public consultations for the sustainability of the projects. At the same time, we mainly focus on capacity building by uplifting skills and motivation of our staff," he said.
Civic groups have opposed the construction of six large-scale dams on Thanlwin River. Notably, they said the Mongtong, the biggest dam on the Thanlwin River, is unlikely to take place during this government's term due to public opposition, said a community representative.
Nang Kham Mai, coordinator of Action for Shan State Rivers, said more than 6,000 villagers from several eastern Shan State townships recently blocked attempts by Australia's Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation (SMEC) to conduct surveys for an environmental impact assessment and social impact assessment.
"We strongly oppose implementation of the dam as it will have huge impacts on more than 100,000 people living along the river. Even today, those living in eastern Shan State are worried about flooding. If the dam is built, our lives will be definitely at risk," she said.
According to Nang Kham Mai, in late July SMEC tried to conduct surveys in 14 villages in Mongtong Township. It could do so in only four.
SMEC field surveyors handed out cloth bags, bottled drinks and snacks to surveyed households. The bags were returned the next day with anti-dam posters.
Another issue hindering the project is the fact that SMEC can not enter the Wa Special Administrative Region. The company's representatives were in Pangshang, the capital of the region, but United Wa State Army leaders told them that the situation was too unstable and they should return in a few months to discuss the matter, said Nang Kham Mai.
Mongtong experienced fighting in June.
According to Nang Kham Nawng, coordinator of the Shan Sapawa Environmental Organisation, the area is now restricted - no one is allowed to enter it without prior permission.
Mongtong dam would encompass 640 square kilometres. More than 300,000 would be evacuated.
It would be one of the biggest dams in Southeast Asia with a height of 241 metres. It is among six dams earmarked to be built on the Thanlwin River, which covers Shan, Kayah and Kayin states.
Ninety per cent of its 7,000 megawatts capacity would be sold to China and Thailand while the remaining 10 per cent is set for domestic use.
Due to its gigantic size, the dam is expected to take 14 years to complete at the cost of about US$8 billion. Its major shareholders are the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand, China's Three Gorges Corp and Myanmar's Ministry of Electric Power and International Group of Entrepreneurs.
Saw Moe Myint, a mining consultant for the Myanmar Green Network and a retired general manager of the Mines Ministry, also opposes the proposed dam projects on the river including Mongtong.
He said that the plan to divert Thanlwin's water to other regions may result in serious environmental consequences.
"The dams are located in the vicinity of the Kyauk Kyan earthquake fault line," he said.
"In Mon State, local NGOs have been active in opposing the dam, but have found little support from the country's politicians".
The Salween is estimated to sustain up to 10 million people and thousands of species of plants and fish, including dozens of endangered species. It also at the heart of one of the largest proposed dam networks in the world.
At least 19 projects are planned, underway or completed along the river over an area stretching from the Tibetan Plateau to the Andaman Sea. To date, neither the promised economic benefits or the feared environmental and human consequences have been realised, with the construction of many dams slowed by protests and civil conflicts.
"If the dam construction continues, it will affect not only this region but everywhere along the whole Salween... The people living along the banks, the fishermen, the farmers, it will affect everyone."
Water diversion plan - - Feasibility study ordered for Salween water diversion project in Thailand
The project will draw the water from Nam Yuam, a tributary of Salween River, into the Bhumibol dam in Tak province which has the capacity to store up to 4,000 million cubic metres of water. Construction cost is estimated at about 50 billion baht.
Save The Salween Network Statement
Yangon, February 22, 2016
Plans to build dams on the Salween River, started by the previous military regime, have recently been accelerated by U Thein Sein’s government, which, on February 2, 2016, without informing or consulting Burma’s citizens, signed an agreement with China allowing implementation of 18 out of 29 hydropower dam projects planned by Chinese companies in Burma. This is not only going to create misunderstanding between ethnic peoples and the new government, but will also have impacts on ethnic armed groups and the current peace process.
1. Experts have pointed out that climate changes and natural disasters taking place in Burma can be linked to existing dams.
2. According to research along the Salween by earthquake experts, the building of dams will have seismically disruptive impacts on major fault lines, and should definitely not go ahead.
3. The Mong Ton dam, planned on the Salween River in Shan State, will be the largest hydropower project in Southeast Asia, and will threaten the lives, homes and property of countless communities in Shan, Karenni, Karen and Mon States.
4. The current Salween dam projects are not only violating the human rights and indigenous rights of local people, but are violating the civil rights of Burma’s citizens.
5. The Salween dam projects are fuelling tension and conflict between different ethnic armed groups. Government troops are also using the pretext of providing security for the dams to expand their presence in ethnic areas. This is threatening the peace process and the lives, homes and property of local ethnic peoples.
6. We do not believe in the process of granting the Environmental Compliance Certificate for the dams, as there has been no transparency and no proper consultation with local people in accordance with EIA/SIA rules and procedures, and local people will gain no benefit from the dams.
7. In accordance with the new government’s promise to guarantee ethnic rights and set up a federal democratic system, the Save the Salween Network urges the new government to stop all plans to build dams on the Salween River, as they will have disastrous impacts on the lives of countless ethnic communities in Burma.
Contact persons:
1. Mi Ah Chai 09255784905 (Burmese, Mon)
2. Saw Tha Phoe 09782639714 (Burmese, English)
3. Oattra Aung 09252171819 (Burmese, Karenni)
4. Nang Kham Naung 09428367849 (Burmese, Shan)
5. Ko Thein Zaw 09794316944 (Burmese)
Shan Activists Call on Suu Kyi to Halt Salween Dams
“We, the local ethnic populations, will be the one who suffer the negative consequences of these dams, and it is not likely we will get to enjoy the benefits. These dams will destroy our environment and our farmlands will be flooded,” the Shan activist said.
“[Suu Kyi] promised equal rights between all ethnic groups and the people of Burma, so we hope that she will keep her word. Everything is in her hands — she is the leader of the country, her party is leading the country, so everything is up to her.” 

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