Wednesday, December 7, 2022

The Right to Gaze, But Not to Access – Sad Story of Keng Tong Residents

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A hydro power plant is built at the Keng Tong waterfall, a very beautiful and strong current waterfall. The big electric poles and tower lines are connected from the power plant, passing through the farms and mountains, to other cities in Myanmar.

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This hydro power plant project has been running for nineteen years, and there are still many villages which do not get access to electricity.

The Source of Electric Power for 19 Years Without Sufficient Power Supply

Even though Keng Tong township is where the hydro power plant is operating, the nearby residents have never had enough electricity.

“The capacity is insufficient. During the peak hours, we cannot use it. The generator used to distribute power to Keng Tong is not a big one. So, the power is not enough for every household. If possible, we would like to have enough electricity. We are the locals where the hydro power plant is built and operating; however, we do not have enough power,” a Keng Tong resident told SHAN.

The views of Keng Tong waterfall
The views of Keng Tong waterfall

During the 19 years of electricity production, there are still some villages in the areas where people do not have access to electricity.

Among the villages which do not have access to electricity are Nam Oum village, Nar Pone village, and Nar Kaw village and they are in the outskirts of Keng Tong.

Twenty villages from the nearest township of Keng Tong township, like Langkhur District and Mong Pan township, still do not have access to electricity.

“During the past 4 or 5 years, we had access to power. It could be the blackout or something I do not know these days. The street lights are all without power. The capacity is so low that the light is so dim – it cannot be used at all,” a woman resident from Keng Tong told SHAN.

According to the announcement of the military-owned television on 12 April 2022, there are two hydro power plants at Keng Tong waterfall, the current in progress power plant is built upstream of the waterfall and about 71.63 percent is done. After fully constructed, the plant will produce about an additional 51 Megawatts.

The second hydro power plant was started in 2012-2013, and it can restore water in 140,000 acres of land.

According to the project implementation, this plant is planned to finish by 2021-2022.

The report released by the Shan Human Right Foundation and Shan environmental group in 2014 stated that the new hydro power plant is constructed about 14 miles away from the city and if the dam is broken, many townships in Southern Shan State could be flooded.

“This current new power plant is built at Thet Mawk waterfall (the upstream of Keng Tong waterfall). The nearby farmers are not allowed to farm because of the new power plant. They built a new dam. I heard that the output electricity will be distributed to the triangle regions, eastern Shan State. The electricity wires are all connected. The distribution line is from Kholam township, and passes through the Salween river to the other side. The new power plant will not be distributed to the local residents,” a Keng Tong resident, Sai Naw (Not official name), told SHAN.

The waterfalls in Keng Tong township are well-known to the local travelers in Shan State for its strong current and beauty.

The Year Hydro Power Plant Started in Keng Tong Waterfall

Among the famous waterfalls in Keng Tong township, we cannot deny that Keng Tong waterfall is famous for its strong current.

The first hydro power plant was built on the well-known strong current and environmentally beautiful Keng Tong waterfall during the military government, General Than Shwe, on 15 February 2004.

Keng Tong waterfall
Keng Tong waterfall

Keng Tong town is located in Mong Nai township, Langkhur District, Southern Shan State.

During August 2020, it was stated on a Myanmar electricity website page that the military junta is building a hydro power plant on Nam Thein river, and the output is distributed to some of the townships in Southern Shan State and the military offices in Taunggyi District.

According to the statement released by the government, the Keng Tong hydro power plant was in use starting from 21 March 2019, and directly distributed to the Keng Tong regions, and to other cities through the Nam Sang main distribution power plant.

Before Implementing the Power Plant, The Military Conducted “Four Cuts” Warfare in Shan State

From 1996 to 1998, the military army was offensively attacking the newly formed Shan armed resistance groups, and the residents who were living along the Nam Thein river were targeted.

About 300,000 villagers from many villages in eleven townships were forced to move to the relocation camps being set up by the military junta along the roadsides.

According to a report, a total of 70 women including a five years old girl were raped by the military soldiers from Keng Tong region alone.

The military government conducted security clearance in the area, and started to implement the Keng Tong hydro power plant according to an analysis of a local.

“It was related to the “Four Cuts” military warfare. It is possible that the military wanted to make sure the locals did not protest against the power plant construction. Keng Tong is rich with logs, and a dam is also there – it could be related. Ward No. (6) was a big village in the past, but only 50 – 60 households are there now. They all fled to Thailand,” a Keng Tong resident anonymously told SHAN.

From 2005 to 2009, after the implementation of the hydro power plant construction, many fled to Thailand – only 10 villages out of 50 remained. It was mentioned in one of the Shan Human Right Foundation (SHRF) reports that three women in the area were raped and killed by the military soldiers.

Those injustice incidents still remain unsolved and disappeared.

Before the hydro power plant construction, Keng Tong waterfall was very beautiful with its green forest and environment.

7 waterfalls were flowing in the area, and it was one of the most attractive places where people usually came and visited.

Currently, no water is flowing because of the dam and due to the deforestation in the area, the weather condition has also changed drastically.

“We the residents do not have access to the electricity, we could only gaze at the electric poles and tower lines passing through us. The only thing we get are deforestation and the damage to our beautiful environment,” a Keng Tong resident who does not have access to electricity expressed the sad feeling to SHAN.

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