Protect the Thanlwin River (Editorial)

Key Issues: 

24 September 2014 | Eleven


The Thanlwin River, also known as the Salween River, is 1,750 miles long and is one of the world's longest rivers. It begins in the mountains on the east side of the Tibetan Plateau and flows into Myanmar after passing through China’s Yunnan Province.  It flows through Shan State, Kayah State, and Kayin State before flowing into the Gulf of Mottama. The Thanlwin River passes through 700 miles of Myanmar.

For a famous river similar to the Ayeyawady River, those who live along it have been worried about the construction of hydropower projects on the Thanlwin River. Local company IGE and Chinese government-owned China Three Gorges Corporation have been given permission to operate the Upper Thanlwin (Mantong) – the biggest hydropower project in Southeast Asia. The companies' failure to release the negative and positive impacts according to environmental and social impact assessments has fuelled anxiety.

Another dam, the Upper Thanlwin (Kunlong), will be constructed by Asia World Company and a Chinese company on the Thanlwin River. Myanmar will only receive 10-15 per cent of the 1,400-megawatt hydropower project for free and the Chinese company will get the rest.

The public's worry against the impacts of dam construction has increased after dams were built on the Ayeyawady River. For developing countries like Myanmar, the construction of the dam projects may cost more than estimated so there is an added danger of substandard materials being used in the construction. For example, China Three Gorges Corporation, which will be building the Upper Thanlwin (Mantong), is responsible for building the world's largest hydropower dam, Three Gorges Dam. This dam is infamous for displacing 1.2 million people relocate and flooding 13 cities, 140 towns, and 1,350 villages. Authorities should take heed that projects that lack transparency and have not been announced in advance can cause suspicion and mistrust among the public.

Now, the local residents from the ethnic regions passed by the Thanlwin River and social organisations are cooperating in collecting signatures from residents living along the river to send to the President's Office, the Chinese Embassy, and the Thai Embassy.

Thus, Myanmar Eleven believes the government has the responsibility to handle the criticisms and worries of the public and media. The government also has the responsibility to carry out its activities with transparency.