MANDALAY — Action for Shan State Rivers (ASSR) said on Monday that locals were saddened by the meeting of the International Finance Corporation (IFC) concerning the controversial hydropower projects on the Salween River in Shan State.
“Despite disagreements, the IFC held a stakeholder discussion in Taunggyi on Monday, without representatives of impacted locals or local civil society organizations (CSOs) present,” said Sai Khur Hseng, an ASSR spokesperson.
The ASSR said the discussion was part of a series of meetings to finalize a countrywide strategic environmental assessment (SEA) for hydropower development projects on the Salween River, including Naung Pha dam, which alarms the locals.
The Naung Pha dam, located between Lashio and Hopong townships, is similar to other planned hydropower dams in the region, an armed conflict zone.
“Locals, including us, and many other local CSOs, have been against the hydropower projects and the dam building on the Salween River for many years. We were angered and saddened by the ignorance of responsible organizations like the IFC,” said Sai Khur Hseng.
Six large hydropower dams are planned to be built along the river in Shan, Karenni and Karen states, which would collectively generate 10,000 megawatts of electricity. Most of the electricity produced from these hydropower dams will be exported to neighboring countries, mainly China.
“Since these projects will not benefit the local communities, we do not want them. For developing our region, there are many things to do other than building hydropower dams and selling the powers to other countries,” he added.
The locals have been against hydropower development on Salween River for many years, urging for transparency, and concern for natural disasters, as well as environmental and social impacts. Since the dams and hydropower plants projects are located within armed conflict zones, another concern is stability and peace in the region.
“The IFC should have called off its assessment as soon as possible, for it is just for the benefit of the Naypyitaw government and hydropower corporations, against the wishes of local communities,” said Sai Khur Hseng.
“In addition, we want full transparency on these projects. And also, we would like to tell them to think about the armed conflicts and peace in the region,” he added.
Earlier this month, the Myanmar Alliance for Transparency and Accountability (MATA) issued a statement and called for transparency regarding the building of hydropower dams on the Salween River and in the Irrawaddy’s Myitsone hydropower projects.
The MATA statement suggested the government develop solar and bio-fuel power instead of planning hydropower and coal power projects, which could impact the environment and social stability in the respective regions.