Hsipaw Locals Stop Dam Company From Entering Village


Saturday, October 12, 2019

Locals in northern Shan State’s Hsipaw Township say that they are ready to stand against a planned hydropower dam on the Nam Ma River because of its potential impact on their livelihoods and environment.

The Yangon-based Unienergy Co. Ltd. plans to build a dam at the junction of the Nam Ma and Nam Paung rivers near Hseng Liang village in Hsipaw Township. Company representatives went to the area on October 10 to discuss the highly contested project with villagers, who blocked them from entering their village and in turn protested the dam.

“If they build a hydropower dam, orange farms and many trees which are nearby the river will be gone underwater,” Sai Thein Myint, who lives in the Nam Ma area, told NMG. “Many local people who are living on the banks of Nam Ma River will have to relocate their homes. I am sure these houses will be underwater after the completion of the dam construction.”

Locals said they had no desire to meet with Unienergy company staff and stand by their position against the project.

“Why we don’t want to meet them is because they will come to talk about construction of the dam. We already knew what they would say to us,” a local told NMG.

He went on to say that the company visited the area in 2017, as well as three to four times last year, and attempted to convince villagers to get on board with the dam.

“They want to explain to local people about the Nam Ma hydropower dam project. Our local people do not accept it,” the individual added.

The Shan State government and Unienergy Co. Ltd. signed a memorandum of understanding on August 14 regarding the construction of the dam, which would generate 25 megawatts of electricity when completed.

The government has already drawn up plans for or has started construction on four hydropower dams on the Namtu River, including the Upper Yeywa dam, which would generate 280 megawatts of electricity.

Organizations such as Shan State Rivers Watch have repeatedly stated that the hydropower dams are unwelcome in war-torn Shan State, and have called on investors to pull out of mega development projects, citing environmental and livelihood impacts and the ongoing civil war.