Shan community representatives presented 23,717 signatures opposing the construction of plans to dams the Salween River to the Australian company doing the environmental and social impact assessments (EIA/SIA) for the Mong Ton dam in southern Shan State.
The Shan community representatives delivered their petition to the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation (SMEC) offices in Yangon.
The Mong Ton dam is the largest of the five dams planned on the Salween River.
The community group, the Action for Shan State Rivers, said in a media statement that “signatures were collected from people throughout Shan State, particularly townships adjoining the Salween, who are alarmed at Naypyidaw’s [the government] accelerated plans to dam their river to export hydropower.”
Action for Shan State Rivers said that the “SMEC has since March 2015 been conducting environmental and social impact assessments (EIA/SIA) for the Mong Ton dam in southern Shan State, the largest of five dams planned on the Salween in Burma. The 241meter tall dam will flood an area of over 640 sq kms, almost the size of Singapore.”
The Action for Shan State Rivers said that SMEC was “scheduled to complete its EIA/SIA this year, [but] has been blocked by local communities from surveying the main impacted townships, including Kunhing, whose renowned “thousand islands” in the Pang tributary will be submerged by the dam reservoir.”
The Action for Shan State Rivers, claim that the Australian company, SMEC had turned the villagers against them, “by blatantly promoting the dam in public meetings, downplaying negative impacts, and promising them electricity, even though the dam’s main purpose is to export power to China and Thailand.”
Nang Kham Naung, a Kunhing resident, was reported by Action for Shan State Rivers as saying that, “the Salween River is the lifeblood of millions of ethnic people in Myanmar. It is ours, and must not be sold by Naypyidaw and foreign companies.”
The Action for Shan State Rivers claim that SMEC had been stopped by an ethnic armed group, “despite being authorized by Naypyidaw [the government], SMEC has also been blocked by Wa armed authorities from surveying in their area, highlighting the insecurity of building dams in a conflict zone. The Salween runs through areas contested by numerous ethnic armed groups.”
The Mong Ton dam is a project managed between China’s Three Gorges Corporation, the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand, and Myanmar’s Ministry of Electric Power and International Group of Entrepreneurs.
It is estimated that the dam will generate 7000 MW of power, 90% of which will be exported to Thailand and China.