Engineers are secretly surveying for dams planned by China hydropower giant Datang on the Salween and its tributaries in Karenni State under the armed guard of Burma’s junta, according to local researchers.
The Karenni Development Research Group (KDRG) launched today a campaign publication exposing how three planned dams proceeding in secret will block waterways across the state, tightening the junta’s control and causing further widespread disruption to the war-torn population.
A giant 600 MW dam on the Salween at Ywathit, nearly 60 kilometers from the Thai town of Mae Hong Son, will flood upstream to Shan State across large areas forcibly depopulated during ongoing offensives by the junta’s troops. The 130 MW dam on the Pawn River in the heart of the state will particularly impact the Yintale people who now number just 1,000. A 110 MW dam on the Thabet River to the north of the Karenni capital of Loikaw is also planned.
“We’re not allowed anywhere near the dam site” said one local villager from Ywathit. “Some Chinese with strange equipment travel there with soldiers, but we don’t know what’s going on.”
It is unknown how the electricity from the dams will be used but local people fear they won’t receive any. The Karenni have bitter experience from the Burma’s first major hydropower project at Lawpita which had devastating impacts but gave local people no benefit.
The Ywathit is one of seven dams planned on the mainstream Salween in Burma by Chinese and Thai companies. All of the dams are located in conflict zones and have already exacerbated local resentment and instability.
“How can investors think this is business as usual while armies are battling around them and people are fleeing for their lives?” said Thaw Reh of the KDRG. “They should wake up to the risks of these dams and immediately stop their operations.”
The Datang Corporation is a member of the United Nations Global Compact whose members commit to conduct business according to universally accepted principles of human rights, environment and labor standards.