Shan State Locals, MPs Call For Halt to Hydropower Projects on Namtu River

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The demands are in opposition to the Upper Yeywa Dam, which expected to drown a village and hundreds of acres of farmland.

Executive members from Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) branches across northern Shan State met locals in Hsipaw Township on Saturday and agreed to jointly demand an end to the damming of the Namtu River.

Eleven SNLD representatives from Hsenwi, Kyaukme, Mong Yai, Muse, Namtu, Nawngkhio, and Tangyan attended the meeting, which focused largely on the construction of the Upper Yeywa Dam on the Namtu in Kyaukme District. The delegation of MPs also met people from the village tract which will be affected by the hydropower project and visited communities and farms on the banks of the Namtu.

The Upper Yeywa is one of a series of five dams planned for the Namtu—also called the Dokhtawaddy River in Burmese. It is expected to create a reservoir that would drown the village of Ta Long, population 700, as well as all of its infrastructure and hundreds of acres of rice paddies and orchards.

“If we do not make a complaint about this dam construction project, companies will continue to build other dams on the Namtu River,” Sai Wan Leng Kham, an SNLD Upper House lawmaker, told SHAN. “The negative impacts…will upset the whole of Shan State.”

Sai Wan Leng Kham said that there was “no accountability” in the construction of the dam, because the public has no access to assessments of the project, which is supported by companies from China, Switzerland, Germany, and Japan.

According to the Shan Human Rights Foundation, no public consultation was conducted beforehand when dam construction began ten years ago; today many locals oppose a consultation because they stand against “any dam promotion.”

“We have to learn a lesson from the collapse of the hydropower dam in Lao PDR,” he said, referring to the July 23 disaster in Champasak Province that displaced thousands and left more than 100 people missing or dead. “Ta Long locals will have to move and set up new farms—they will have many difficulties. There will be many troubles in this area. That’s why we have to make our complaints again this first dam project successful,” the MP explained.

Because members of civil society and political parties frequently visit the Ta Long area, Sai Wan Leng Kham said that locals are well aware of the negative impacts of the dam, but their complaints have so far been ignored.

In February, a landslide occurred at the Upper Yeywa Dam construction site; locals told SHAN that they were worried about another collapse. They also said they had not yet received compensation for the loss of their land.

Other proposed dams on the Namtu are in Kyaukse Township in Mandalay, and Shan State’s Nawngkhio, Kyaukme, and Hsipaw townships.

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