16 Sep 19 - Source: Myanmar Times - The Shan people are opposing a study by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, because it promotes the building of dams on the Namtu River, according to Action for Shan State Rivers, a local non-governmental organization.

Civil organisations refused to participate in a "stakeholder" meeting sponsored by the IFC in Taunggyi township, Shan State, on Thursday to discuss its Cumulative Impact Assessment on the Namtu River basin, according to the NGO.

Sai Khur Hseng, a member of the Shan Sapawa Environmental Organisation, said that the IFC had stated clearly that the Namtu is a "priority" for hydropower development in its Strategic Environmental Assessment of the Myanmar Hydropower Sector in 2018, despite opposition from local communities to the construction of new dams.

"The IFC meeting in Taunggyi is just a box-ticking exercise in preparation for dam-building on the Namtu, and we want no part of it," he said. Action for Shan State Rivers is a coalition of community-based groups committed to the protection of rivers in Shan.

The meeting in Taunggyi last Thursday was chaired by a state level representative of the Ministry of Electricity and Energy, and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation.

The IFC study is being funded by Australian Aid, and is being implemented by the Swedish engineering consultancy company SWECO.

Shan community groups have called for a moratorium on all new dams in ethnic areas until armed conflicts in these areas have been halted, and until there is a provision in the constitution that gives ethnic people the right to protect their natural resources, including rivers.

The group also called on Switzerland, Japan, China, Norway and Austria to stop their companies' involvement in the planned construction of dams on the Namtu. Since 2010, the government has been planning to construct four dams on the river with a combined capacity of 1200 megawatts to address the country's growing demand for energy.

The Upper Yeywa dam is already under construction on the Namtu by Chinese, Swiss and Japanese companies, despite its location in an active conflict area. Thousands of villagers would be displaced if the dam is completed, according to Action for Shan State Rivers.

The Deedoke, Middle Yeywa, and Namtu dams are also planned for the Namtu. The 735-MW Middle Yeywa dam will be built by Norway's state-owned SN Power in Nawngcho township in Shan.