Hundreds of locals and members of civil society organizations protested a meeting organized by the International Financial Corporation (IFC) in the Shan State capital of Taunggyi on Thursday, condemning the IFC’s investment in dams on the Namtu River.
The meeting, held at the Mountain Star Hotel, was on the “Cumulative Impact Assessment of the Namtu/Myintnge River and its Management.” Three hydropower dams have been built on the Namtu River in Mandalay Region, and two more are under construction in northern Shan State: the Upper Yeywa—or Ta Long—in Kyaukme Township and the Mo Tein—or Lee Lu—in Hsipaw.
According to Shan State Rivers Watch, pagodas, monasteries, villages, paddy fields, orchards and other historical sites will be submerged if the dams are completed.
“We protested against the IFC because the IFC is one of the investors in the construction of hydropower projects,” Myo Min Latt, leader of the former Nam Khong students’ organization, told SHAN. “Regarding dam construction, we oppose the World Bank, because the World Bank has given loans for dam construction. IFC is one of the partners in the dam construction.”
Villagers from the community of Ta Long in Kyaukme, as well as the townships of Hsipaw, Laikha, Mongnai and Mawkmai were present at the protest. Participating CSOs included the Mong Pan Youth Association, the Salween Brotherhood, and the Shan State Peace Task Force.
They sent an opposition letter to the IFC regarding the Taunggyi meeting before it took place, saying that the IFC was not taking into account the situation on the ground concerning the Namtu and that locals rejected the investment in hydropower because of the impact on communities.
“The area is still unstable and there are often clashes. I think it’s an unfair situation,” Win Htel Kaung Myat of the Shan State Peace Task Force said. “The political situation is still fragile. They are not considering the sensitive political situation in Shan State.”
Hundreds of people—most of whom are farmers—live in Ta Long village in Kyaukme Township, which the Upper Yeywa Dam threatens to flood. The villagers’ primary source of income is the sale of the citrus fruits they cultivate, with locals typically earning around 2 million kyat (US$1,300) annually. This livelihood would be lost of the Upper Yeywa Dam is completed.
In northern Shan State, where the dams are proposed, there are also more than 5,000 internally displaced people who have fled their homes since clashes between the Burma Army and the Northern Alliance of ethnic armed groups intensified after August 15.