August 29, 2016

Statement by the Committee for Shan State Unity (CSSU) on plans to build dams on the Salween river

1. The Salween is one of the longest free-flowing rivers in the world. Now, despite opposition from local communities, plans are going ahead to build the Kunlong, Nawngpha and Ta-hsang/ Mong Ton dams on the Salween in Shan State, the Ywathit dam in Karenni State, and the Hatgyi dam in Karen State, according to a statement by Shan community based organizations.

2. The main investors in the six Salween dams, which will produce 15,000 megawatts of electricity, are China and Thailand. If they are built, they will threaten the future of the ethnic communities relying on the river and the rich biodiversity of the river basin.

3. Before the State Counsellor visited China, the Myanmar government announced that the Salween dams would be built in order to fulfill energy needs. However, most of the electricity produced will be exported to China and other neighbouring countries.

4. The dams planned on the Salween (Nu) River in Yunnan province of China have been suspended by the Chinese government due to the fact they lie on an earthquake fault line. Now, the Chinese government is trying to get the chance to build dams on the Salween in Myanmar in order to fulfill its own electricity needs. The Myanmar government must seriously reconsider this.

5. Now the natural environment in Myanmar is fast being destroyed. According to reports by academics and research groups, Myanmar is now second place among the ten countries in the world which suffer most from natural disasters, and is also second place among the countries which will suffer most from the impacts of climate change.

6. Preparation to build the six Salween dams is not being carried out according to international standards. There is no transparency and no respect for the rights of the impacted communities. Even though it is the local people who will suffer most from the dams, most of the power generated by the dams will be for neighboring countries. Before the dams are implemented, full, transparent information must be given to the people, in order to get their consent.

7. During this time when trust needs to be built between the government and the ethnic armed groups in order to promote peace, it is important to stop these large dams. Disputes over ownership, use and benefit sharing from natural resources are one of the main sources of conflict. Until there is a negotiated settlement of this issue, moving ahead with these large projects will fuel conflict. Therefore, we strongly condemn the fact that the government is moving ahead with these dam projects while conflict continues in the ethnic areas.

8. Large dam projects threaten people’s lives, property and homes, and also destroy the ecological system. Just as the government has decided to review and suspend the Myitsone dam, we strongly urge the government to review the dam projects on the Salween river. If the Salween dams go ahead against the wishes of local ethnic communities, we will join with all the ethnic people, civil society groups and environmental groups in opposing the dams.

The Committee for Shan State Unity is comprised of Shan political parties and armed groups, including the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD), the Shan Nationalities Democratic Party (SNDP), the Shan State Progress Party (SSPP) and the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS).

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