Lawmakers, Civil Society Oppose Shan Hydropower Project

By Chit Min Tun 13 August 2018

YANGON — Shan State lawmakers and civil society organizations have called for a halt to a hydropower project being built on the Namtu River in Kyaukme Township, northern Shan State.

The project is being built in Upper Yeywa village in Kyaukme Township and so far is about 40 percent complete.

Nan San San Aye, a lawmaker of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) in the Shan State Parliament, said the water level in the river might rise up to 40 feet upon completion of the dam, which could submerge the village of Ta Long in Hsipaw Township.

“The whole village will have to be relocated when the project comes into operation. All of the farms will be destroyed. Villagers don’t want to move. We will stand by the people as we are elected by them,” said the lawmaker on Friday.

The village has over 200 households with more than 500 people. It has 174 acres of paddy fields and 184 acres of cropland.

The project was initiated by the Ministry of Electricity and Energy under President U Thein Sein’s government in the 2010-11 fiscal year. Infrastructure includes a diversion tunnel, main dam, and hydropower plant, according to the ministry.

The 280-megawatt hydropower plant will generate an annual supply of 1409 kWh, which will be distributed to the national grid, said deputy permanent secretary of the ministry U Htay Aung.

Though the project started in the 2010-11 fiscal year, local residents reportedly did not know about it until 2014, said Nan Khin Mar Aye from the Hsipaw Women’s Entrepreneurs Network.

According to a joint statement released by civil society organizations in Hsipaw Township on Aug. 8, the government is planning to build four hydropower projects along the Namtu River—three in Kyaukme District in northern Shan State and one in Mandalay Region.

“Authorities said the village is in a low-lying area and asked the villagers to relocate. I totally oppose this dam project. We can’t exchange the livelihoods of locals for a project that will only benefit companies and the government,” said Daw Nan San San Aye.

The company building the dam said it would help Ta Long villagers relocate to another village in Nan Ma Khaw village tract, and provide land in recompense.  However, Nan San San Aye said the proposed land is owned by other villagers and other land is not suitable for cultivation.

“The company has set a timetable for relocation, compensation and reclamation of land in its [corporate social responsibility] publication. But, it has not implemented it. They might not have completed field surveys of the village where it said it would give land in recompense. Those lands have owners,” said Nan San San Aye.

SNLD lawmakers in northern Shan State went to Ta Long village on Saturday and listened to the wishes of the people.

In 2016, a SNLD lawmaker asked a question about the dam at the Shan State Parliament. But, the Shan State government said it was unable to answer because the project was directly handled by the Union government.

The SNLD lawmaker from Hsipaw Township in the Lower House of the Union Parliament is planning to urge Parliament to halt the project, said Nan San San Aye.

Moreover, Shan civil society organizations are also planning to garner signatures of locals in 37 villages along the Namtu River against the project.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.