Environmentalists mark anti-dam day

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Shan Herald Agency for News 15 March 2010

By Hseng Khio Fah

At a ceremony to “lengthen the life of the Salween”, hundreds of environmentalists and local villagers along the Salween from both Thailand and Burma gathered to continue protesting against any dam projects on the Salween basin, on 14 March, the International Day of Action Against Dams.

On 13-14 March, many nongovernmental groups, civil society groups, environmentalists from Thailand and Burma including Salween Watch and the Burma Rivers Network, held a traditional ceremony praying prolonged life of the Salween for all living things to be able to rely on it forever. It also called for unity to protect the river.

It was held on the bank of Sob Moei, where the Moei joins the Salween.  The place is 40 km from the Hat Gyi dam, which is one of the joint Thai-Burma planned dam projects on the Salween. There were over 500 participants, a participant told SHAN.

The Salween is the longest free-flowing river in Southeast Asia and many dam projects are being planned to be constructed in its basin. The proposed dams are Ta Sang in Shan State, Wei Gyi, Dagwin and Hatgyi in Karen State.

The Hat Gyi dam (600 MW) project was implemented in the late 2007 and expected to be finished by 2013-14 despite protest from the rights groups citing the project has a bad impact to environment and is also causing human rights violations, forced relocation to the villagers along the project areas.

In mid February, many civil groups from Thailand sent a letter to the Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to stop working on the project. In addition, the letter also said, “the government should inform local villagers of what kind of impacts they will be facing if the dam were built and what benefits they could expect.”

And the project was ordered to delay for a short time after the petition by the rights groups. Nevertheless, the groups will keep working until villagers are able to access the information, said a Thai environmentalist, Ms Suni Chaiyaros.

“It means we have achieved one success. However we would need to work until the project stops,” she said.

An environmentalist from Burma also said, “We will join hands with any groups to stop the dam projects not only on the Salween but also on the Mekong.”