Three Gorges Probe

Thai-Burma dam planned over troubled waters

(May 5, 2002) ‘By agreeing to help build a large dam in military-ruled Myanmar, Thailand’s state-run power utility has laid the groundwork for a potential water war in an area already troubled by ethnic conflict and human-rights abuses.’

(Excerpt)

Bangkok: By agreeing to help build a large dam in military-ruled Burma, Thailand’s state-run power utility has laid the groundwork for a potential water war in an area already troubled by ethnic conflict and human rights abuses.

The Hat Gyi hydroelectricity dam will be built in five to six years, Kraisi Kanasuta, president of the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT), said this month, with hardly a hint of the many problems that may lie ahead.

The planned dam will be the first of five that EGAT and the Burmese junta hope to build across the Salween river and is expected to generate 1,200 mw of power.

But even before the ink dries on the memorandum of understanding that EGAT signed with the State Peace a Development Council (SPDC), as the Burmese military regime is officially known, environmentalists and human rights groups have fired a salvo questions.

What plans, for example, do EGAT and its Burmese partner have to conduct the mandatory environment impact assessment (EIA) to gauge the extent of damage that the dam could cause in Burma’s Karen State, which lies along Thailand’s western border?

One group of environmental activists, ‘Salween Watch’ has expressed its concern, in a statement, about the “secretive process involved in the planning and implementation of these mega-projects.”

Others said that the volatile nature of the area – where the Burmese army is locked in a decades-old conflict with the Karen National Union (KNU), a rebel group of that South-east Asian country’s Karen ethnic Community – will make it impossible for a proper EIA to be conducted.

“There is fighting still going on there. I don’t think the SPDC will be in a position to conduct a proper EIA before building the dam,” Lau Eh Roland, deputy director of Karen River Watch, a coalition of Karen environmental and human rights groups, told IPS.

Already, there are signs of protest along the banks of the Salween River that Rangoon’s junta and EGAT will find difficult to ignore. Notices have been put up, supposedly by the KNU at regular intervals, declaring their opposition to the damming of the Salween in the Karen State.

Inter Press Service, May 5, 2002

Categories: Three Gorges Probe

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