Locals Protest Meeting on Myitnge Hydropower Project

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Local people living in areas that would be affected by proposed hydropower dams on the Namtu/Myitnge River in northern Shan State protested on Thursday against a meeting held to discuss the impact of the project.

The meeting took place at the Mountain Star Hotel in the state capital Taunggyi and was organized by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group headquartered in Washington, D.C.

“We oppose the IFC meeting because there are still many clashes in the area where they want to build the dams,” said protester Nang Lao Kham, who is a resident of Panglong, a village on the bank of the Namtu River.

According to Nang Lao Kham, the protesters sent an open letter to the IFC to highlight three reasons that local people are opposed to the project.

“There is still a conflict going on in northern Shan State, so this is not the right time to build a hydropower dam. Also, only the authorities from Naypyitaw have any decision-making power over the project—our own state chief minister has no say, and neither do the people of Shan State. And dam construction will damage the environment, which will cause local people to suffer,” said Nang Lao Kham.

Shan State River Watch, a local environmental group, also released a statement in opposition to the meeting.

“We want them to stop all work on the dam, including ground surveying. There are many clashes in the area at the moment and many local people have fled their homes. The area will be under water after the dam is constructed. The people should not have to suffer because of the dam when they are already suffering because of the civil war,” Sai Khur Hseng, who works with Shan State River Watch, told NMG.

According to the group’s statement, the IFC’s assessment of the Namtu/Myitnge river basin is being funded by Australian Aid and implemented by the Swedish Engineering Consultancy Company (SWECO).

In its 2018 “Strategic Environmental Assessment of the Myanmar Hydropower Sector,” the IFC called the Namtu/Myitnge project a “priority” for hydropower development in the country, despite ongoing conflict and community opposition to the project.
Shan State River Watch has repeatedly called for a moratorium on all new dams in ethnic areas until civil war is ended and there is a new federal constitution in place that would recognize the right of ethnic people to protect their natural resources, including rivers.

Sai Khur Hseng said that four large dams are being planned on the Namtu/Myitnge River, including the Upper Yeywa Dam, which involves companies from Switzerland, Japan and China and is currently under construction in northern Shan State’s Kyaukme Township.