Signs of hydropower project’s return spark fears in Shan


Source: The Myanmar Times

Date: 9 March, 2018

Residents in the vicinity of the proposed Mong Ton Hydropower Project in Shan State have expressed alarm about the possible resumption of scheme following the visit to the site by executives from the China Three Gorges Corporation.

China Three Gorges Corporation is one of the main proponents of the project, which was halted in 2013 in the face of intense public opposition. The memorandum of understanding between the government and the company was signed in 2010.

Residents of Mong Ton township said on March 1 that seven officials of the China Three Gorges Corporation had visited the project area.

U Tin Maung Oo, permanent secretary of the Electricity and Energy Ministry, confirmed that the company sought permission from the ministry, through the Economic Department of the President's Office, to get security for 18 employees who wanted to visit the area.

"Their request mentioned that they would like to observe the project area and would like to bring along security," he said.

"The Ministry approved their request but they would still need permission from the Ministry of Home Affairs," he said.

A spokesman from the Electricity and Energy Ministry said he had no information.

"We can't answer yet if the project will be restarted," he said.

Daw Nang Wah Nu, spokeswoman of the environmental group Kyun Ta Htaung Myay Foundation, warned that civil society organisations in several states will continue opposing the project if it is restarted.

"If the projects would be completed, villages and the township will be flooded because of the dam that is going to be built and our Shan history and culture will disappear," she said.

Saw Tha Phoe, coordinatior of the Save the Salween River Network, stressed that the main lifeblood of agriculture in Mon, Shan and Kayin states is the Thanlwin River, and building a dam on it would adversely affect the livelihoods of tens of thousands of people.

He said that over 122 regional civil society groups have strongly opposed the project.

"If the project will restart, all organisations from Kayin, Shan and Mon states will protest again," he said.

For the project to proceed, one key element will be the construction of a concrete dam 241 metres high on the Thanlwin River.

The project hopes to improve both the capacity and reliability of electricity throughout Myanmar. It is expected to generate more than 34 billion KW hours of electricity annually.

The dam on the Thanlwin River would be 606 meters long, 241 meters high with a generating capacity of 7000 MW of electricity, which will also be sold to Thailand and China.

In cooperation with the Electricity and Energy Ministry, the main investors in the project, besides China Three Gorges Corporation, are China Southern Power Grid Co Ltd, Power Construction of China (Sinohydro), EGAT International Co Ltd of Thailand, and the International Group of Entrepreneurs Co Ltd.

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