The Karenni Development and Research Group (KDRG) held a press conference in Chiang Mai on March 10 regarding joint China-Burma dam construction projects in Karenni State...
The Karenni Development and Research Group (KDRG) held a press conference in Chiang Mai on March 10 regarding joint China-Burma dam construction projects in Karenni State.
“Datang Corporation from China will build the Ywarthit Dam on the Salween River in Bawlakhe Township. The dam will generate 600 megawatts. A second dam will be built on the Pun River, and it will produce 130 megawatts. A third dam is going to be built on the Taphet River, north of Loikaw town, and it will generate 110 megawatts. There are 212 villages that will be affected, and 37,000 people who will face a lot of difficulties,” KDRG said at the press conference.
The dam and hydropower plant that is going to be built on the Salween River in Bawlakhe Township will cause flooding to some areas in the township, as well as in some areas of Shan State. According to KDRG’s statement, the Yintalae ethnic minority, which currently has a population of about 1,000 people living along the banks of the Pun, will be hardest hit with the consequences of dam construction on the Pun River.
“Ywarthit dam will be 120 meters high. If the dam is constructed, according to our calculations, water will reach to Shan State. We only hear that they will build the dam 120 meters high, but we cannot confirm it yet,” Taw Reh Poe, the director of KDRG, said.
“The Yintalae people have been living along the Pun riverbank in Bawlakhe Township. They also live along the banks of the Salween River. The dam that is going to be built is located in the Yintalae’s area. If the dam is constructed, the Yintalae people will not be able to continue living in the area. They will not be able to grow plants. Therefore, they will have to move to other places. As a result, the Yintalae race could disappear,” he added.
According to the statement, due to planned dam construction, local people will have to face many difficulties in their daily lives, such as blocked waterways, increased presence of the Burmese Army, forced relocation, and forced labor.
The Burmese regime and the Datang Corporation signed a memorandum of understanding for the dam projects in Burma on January 7 of last year. Since that time, Chinese engineers have come to the construction sites with Burmese Army personnel several times to measure the earth and water for the planned construction.
“We are not permitted to go to near the construction site. We see some Chinese people and Burmese soldiers with very strange devices who are going around the construction sites. I don’t know exactly what they are doing,” a Ywarthit villager from Bawlakhe Township said.
The Burmese junta has not announced how many megawatts of electricity will be generated from the hydropower plants. Likewise, the military government has not reported anything about how or where the electricity will be used. According to Taw Reh Poe, local Karenni people will not receive any benefits from the generation of electricity from rivers and land in their areas.
With the assistance of Japanese ODA (Overseas Development Assistance), the Burmese regime has already built Lawpita Hydropower Plants 1 and 2. Construction of Lawpita Hydropower Plant 2, which generates 168 megawatts, began in1960 and was finished in 1972. Lawpita Hydropower Plant 1, which generates 28 megawatts, was started in 1986 and finished in 1992.
During construction of these hydropower plants, a total of 26 villages—home to over 4,000 people—were forced to relocate. Ninety-five percent of the electricity generated by these hydropower plants goes to the northern and southern parts of Burma through electricity power grid lines. Only five percent of the electricity is used in Karenni State, according to KDRG’s 2008 report.
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