Stop Damming Burma's Rivers

Key Issues: 

14 March 2011

Statement  of the Burma Rivers Network on the International Day of Action for Rivers

Burma Rivers Network is calling on foreign investors to immediately stop plans to build large dams on Burma's major rivers and their tributaries, as these dams will have huge social and environmental impacts across the country, and fuel Burma’s decades-long civil war.

Over 25 large hydropower dams are being built or planned on all Burma's major rivers, including the Irrawaddy and Salween, with investment from neighbouring countries. Most of the power will be exported, even though only about 20% of Burma's population currently has access to electricity.

The planned dams are all located in ethnic regions, where Burma’s junta has been battling resistance armies for decades. Conflict has intensified since the sham November 2010 elections, as the junta has sought to force former ceasefire armies to come under their control. Increased fighting in Karen State, where the Hatgyi Dam is planned on the Salween River, has led to thousands of new refugees fleeing to Thailand. The junta is also building up troops in Shan, Karenni and Kachin States in preparation for new military offensives.

Areas around the planned dam sites, particularly along the Salween, are heavily militarized by the junta’s troops, who have forcibly relocated hundreds of thousands of local civilians, and commit ongoing systematic human rights abuses, including torture, killing and rape. Foreign engineers currently surveying for the dams are being escorted by the very same troops committing these abuses.

Investors rushing to build dams amid such instability are not only risking the lives of their personnel, but also their reputations, as it is impossible to adhere to meaningful dam-building standards when affected communities are silenced with violence.

The dams will not only permanently displace tens of thousands of villagers upstream, and destroy forests, fisheries and biodiversity, they will also impact water flows to the millions living in the Irrawaddy and Salween delta regions, which are the rice bowls of the country.

Many of the planned dams are also near active fault lines. Earthquakes could cause dam breaks that would devastate major cities situated only tens of kilometers below the planned dams.

We therefore strongly urge all foreign investors, particularly from China, Thailand, India and Bangladesh, to immediately stop their plans to build large dams in Burma.

Contact person (available after 1 pm on March 14): Sai Sai (+66) 821905079,   Ah Nan (+66) 848854154

To download: English