Chiangrai Times – Villagers’ networks and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in several areas in the Thai North have voiced strong opposition to seven power mega projects over pollution fears. Representatives of the northern Thai villagers’ networks and NGOs including from Mae Hong Son, Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai have expressed concerns over the construction of Hatgyi Dam in Myanmar, and for using their neighbourhoods as a passage to transport lignite from a mine in Myanmar to the Thai North.
Montree ChantaWong, a spokesperson from a northern Thai NGO, said that the seven power projects — planned by Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) — include one in which power will be purchased from dams to be built in Myanmar and Laos, and ones where new power plants will be constructed, among others.
The groups have proposed alternative power plans to the relevant authorities which they claim could provide sufficient power supply in northern Thai for the next 18 years.
The groups also called on the government to address problems concerning power supply systems in Thailand and to take the communities’ needs into consideration in order to help cut power production and costs. — BERNAMA
Salween Dams-International Rivers
From its headwaters in the mountains of Tibet to its estuary in Mon State, Burma, the Salween River, known as the Nu River in China and the Thanlwin River in Burma, supports almost 10 million people. As the longest undammed river in mainland Southeast Asia, the Salween River sustains rich fisheries and fertile farmland that are central to the lives of many ethnic minority communities living along its banks.
Seven dams are proposed for the Salween’s mainstream in Burma, which threaten these communities’ livelihoods, many of whom are already suffering under Burma’s junta. The dam cascade has been planned in complete secrecy, with no participation from affected communities and no compensation or resettlement plans.
The Salween dam cascade is composed of the Kun Long/Upper Thanlwin, Nong Pa/Nawngpha, Tasang, Ywathit, Weigyi, Dagwin, and Hatgyi dams (see map). The proposed dams are located in active civil war zones. Since project preparation began, there has been increased militarization at the dam sites that has been linked to the escalating abuse of local populations. Ethnic minority groups are not only being systematically and forcibly moved from their homes, but also robbed, tortured, raped or executed. At the Tasang Dam site area and floodplain alone, over 60,000 people have been forcibly relocated.
Among the major environmental costs of the cascade, the Hatgyi Dam will flood two wildlife sanctuaries in Karen State, the Tasang Dam will flood pristine teak forests, and the Weigyi Dam will inundate parts of the Kayah-Karen Montaine Rainforests, Salween National Park, and Salween Wildlife Sanctuary.
The dams are being developed by companies from Thailand, China, and Burma. In June 2006, China’s largest hydropower company, Sinohydro Corporation, announced an agreement with Thailand’s electricity utility, EGAT, to jointly develop the Hat Gyi Dam. In July 2008, China Southern Power Grid Corporation (CSG) then signed an agreement with Sinohydro to develop the Salween River Basin, focusing on the Tasang Dam. Once completed, the projects – with an estimated price tag of at least US$10 billlion – will export all their electricity to Thailand.
In December 2007, over 50,000 people, including villagers from the proposed dam sites, signed a petition calling on the Chinese government to halt the construction of Chinese dam projects in Burma until international best practice standards are met. International Rivers is supporting the work of the Salween Watch Coalition to keep the Salween River free of dams.