Locals Petition Parliaments to Stop the Damming of Shan State’s Namtu River

One of the companies behind a recently collapsed Lao dam also drew up the designs for the Upper Yeywa Dam under construction in northern Shan State.


Friday, August 24, 2018

Petition letters signed by locals opposing Shan State’s Upper Yeywa Dam on the Namtu River were sent to the Union level Parliaments on Thursday.

The letters demand a halt to the construction of the hydropower dam in Kyaukme Township in northern Shan State, which is expected to fully submerge the village of Talong, in Hsipaw Township. The area is home to more than 600 people and hundreds of acres of farmland.

“We sent petition letters to 30 departments, including the Upper and Lower houses and the ministries and other departments. They have the signatures of local villagers from Talong,” Talong resident Nang Lao Kham told NMG. “We have demanded since 2014 that the government stop this project. We have made many requests—to the Shan State government, state MPs, and department officials—to stop this project. Our demands have not been effective. That’s why we sent petitions to Naypyidaw,” she said.

Eleven lawmakers visited Talong on August 11 to observe the dam project and its potential impacts. Locals delivered the letters to the Union level Parliaments through the MPs they met earlier this month.

Nang Lao Kham explained that locals are demanding a “stop to all hydropower dam construction on the Namtu River” because of the disastrous consequences they fear could accompany such projects.

“We will lose houses, gardens, paddy fields, and other things. If something is wrong with this dam, Hsipaw town will be underwater, too,” Nang Lao Kham said.

Since the Upper Yeywa Dam’s construction began in 2008, the petitions state that “there has been no accountability” and that it was not until 2014 that locals were informed that they would be displaced by the initiative and began organizing against it.

However, they state that their past petitions—to former President U Thein Sein as well as to MPs under the current National League for Democracy administration—have been ignored.

The group Action for Shan State Rivers released a statement on Thursday “completely support[ing]” the demands of the Talong villagers and act of sending petition letters to the national legislature.

Spokesperson for Action for Shan State Rivers Sai Khur Seng pointed out that one of the companies behind the Xe Pian Xe Namnoy Dam in Lao PDR—which collapsed on July 23, causing dozens of deaths and stranded thousands—also drew up the designs for the Upper Yeywa Dam: Swedish firm AF Consult.

“This hydropower dam should not be built because local people strongly oppose it. The aim of releasing this statement is to stop all dam projects on the Namtu River,” Sai Khur Hseng said.

There are four planned hydropower projects on the Namtu in Shan State, with the Upper Yeywa Dam being the biggest. Companies from China, Switzerland, Germany and Japan are backing the initiatives.