Villagers Protest Hydropower Dam – “This Is Our Land – We Want It Back…”

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Karen villagers whose lands were taken by companies to build a hydropower dam are angry and now want their lands returned.

The villagers from the Palet Wa region in Thandaung Township lost their homes and land to a hydro-power dam in Htantabin Township are protesting and demanding their lands are returned from the companies.

More than a 100 villagers and representatives from community-based-organizations demonstrated at Thaukyekat No.2 site to staged a protest on May 10 demanding the companies stop planning more dams, return their lands and instead build bridges for villagers’ to transport their crops.

Saw Doh Htoo, chairperson of the local’s land preservation and reclaiming committee set up by villagers spoke to Karen News.

“The [hydro-power] project has caused land confiscation in our area. So, we formed a committee to ask for our land back. We’ve heard that there are plans to build a new dam. We strongly oppose the plan, so we are protesting.”

Saw Doh Htoo said it was “important that information is shared with villagers related to the impacts of the dam – both the positives and the negatives.”

Villagers from Bawgali Gyi, Bawgali Galay, Kyauk Pon, Sa Bar Kyi, Htone Bo, Ku Pyaung and Naga Mout joined the protest together with representatives from the environmental advocacy group Karen River Watch.

Naw Elizabeth, a resident from Htone Bo village who lost her home when the village was flooded by the dam spoke to Karen News about taking part in the activities to get their land back.

“When the companies came and started their project, our whole village was moved. Now, we don’t have land that we can work on. We have no money to rebuild our homes. We were sued when we tried to come back and work on our land that was confiscated. We don’t want compensation anymore. We want our land back.”

Naw Elizabeth said that as rural villagers, they can only earn as a living from farming.

“We don’t know how to do business. We want our land back and to do our farming. I joined with other villagers in demanding our land back.

Information released by Karen River Watch, states that the hydro-power dam was carried out by a joint coalition of companies that include Asia World also known as Shwe Swan In Company, Kaung Myanmar Aung Company, Min Anawyahta Company and Ko Si Company.

Saw Tha Boe from the Karen River Watch spoke to Karen News about the dam.

“The project was put in place by multi-private companies. Electricity generated from the dam is sold to the government, but we don’t know who the government sells it on to.”

Saw Tha Boe said that Karen River Watch role is to help villagers to organize their protest and to pass on their message to the outside world through media.

The Thaukyekat No.2 hydropower dam project was started in 2006 – 10 of the villages were affected by the dam. Residents in 100 households from three of these villages, Htone Bo, Kyaukpasat and Naga Mout had to relocate their whole village.

This protest is not the first by the villagers. In April 2014 villagers held a prayer service at the dam site on demanding their land back and asking for bridges that served the needs of local residents be built.

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