Communities living along the Thanlwin River have requested that the new government stop dam projects on the river as the projects lack transparency support from the locals, according to an announcement from the Thanlwin River Protection Network on February 22.
The announcement said the dam projects initiated by the current government have been implemented without informing local residents, and they have been continued without negotiations. The government committed to implementing 18 dam projects in an agreement with China on February 2, 2016, the announcement said, which will sow discord between the government and the people and harm the peace process.
“The government, whose term will expire in a few days, signed an agreement with China to develop 18 dam projects. It is likely that the new government will have to follow the agreement. This will make the democracy process weak. Besides, it can harm the peace process as the projects will be developed in ethnic minority areas. We released the announcement to show the government that we are against the projects,” said Saw Thar Boe from the network.
Analysts said the main reasons to stop the dam projects are connected with climate change in Myanmar. The delta areas of the Thanlwin are located on a big fault, making it dangerous to build dams in those areas.
Moreover, the Mongtong dam project, the biggest hydropower project in South East Asia, threatens the lives of locals in Shan, Kayah, Kayin and Mon states. The announcement said locals face violations of human and civil rights. This may accelerate conflicts with ethnic armed groups and allow the army to expand its control over these areas.
The announcement continued that the Environmental Compliance Certificate issued by the government lacks transparency, and the locals have no trust in it because they were not asked to contribute to it.
The next government will have to stop the dam projects in order to keep its promises to guarantee ethnic minority rights and establishing a democratic, federal state.