Proposed Salween Dams Increase Mon and Karen State Flood Risks

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16 August 2015 | Min Thu Tha | IMNA

Residents in Mon and Karen states will face increased risks of flooding if proposed dams are constructed on the Salween River, according to the Save the Salween Network.

The Save the Salween Network held a press conference at the Rehmonnya Hotel, in Moulmein, the Mon State capital on the morning of 12 August. About 70 people from political parties, civil society organisations, non-government organisations and media organisations attended.

The objective of the press conference was to inform the public about the downstream impacts from the planned damming of the Salween River.

Saw Tha Phoe, a resident of Hpa-an the capital of Karen State and a spokesperson for the Save the Salween Network said: “Thousands of people in the Hpa-an area are currently suffering from the floods. We fear much greater flooding if the Salween dams are built.”

Saw Tha Phoe explained that in times of heavy rainfall, river levels rise, and dams release water, which would flood entire areas of the Lower Salween River where many Mon and Karen people live.

Like other parts of Burma, Mon and Karen states have suffered in the recent flood disaster. About 6,300 Hpa-an residents were forced to evacuate their homes when the Salween River burst its banks, flooding 1,200 houses in the town between 18 July and 5 August.

Mon National Party MP Dr. Aung Naing Oo, who is a resident of Bilugyun island in the Salween delta said: “The dam builders are holding local people in contempt. The fate of millions along the Salween River must not be decided behind closed doors.”

Dr. Aung Naing Oo said the comment particularly applied to the Snowy Mountain Engineering Corporation (SMEC), an Australian company which has been hired to carry out the Environmental Impact Assesment (EIA) and the Social Impact Assesment (SIA) for the 241 metre tall Mongton Dam (also known as the Tasang Dam), the largest dam planned for the Salween.

He said SMEC held a secretive meeting on 13 July at the General Administrative Department Office in Moulmein where they refused entry to any media representatives or people from local civil society groups.

At the press conference, the Save the Salween Network released a press statement calling for the immediate cancellation of the all proposed dams on the Salween River.

About five large dams are planned to be constructed along the Salween River, which runs through Shan, Karenni, Karen and Mon states. They will be built by Chinese, Thai and Burmese companies, and the vast majority of the electricity which they generate will be sent abroad.