Statement on: International Day of Action for Rivers; Anti Dams Day on March 14, 2018 by the Burma Rivers Network
The Burma Rivers Network, together with ethnic communities around the country, are calling for an immediate halt to plans by the Burmese government and the multinational hydropower industrial complex to build cascades of dams on major rivers and tributaries in Burma’s ethnic conflict zones.
In a “stakeholder discussion” in Yangon in February 2018, the International Financial Cooperation (IFC) recommended against building mainstream dams on Burma’s major rivers, including the Salween and Irrawaddy, due to concerns over environmental impacts. Instead, they recommended building dam cascades on tributaries, including the Nam Teng and Pawn tributaries of the Salween, which lie in conflict-affected areas of Shan and Karenni States.
While BRN welcomes the recommendations against mainstream dams, BRN strongly opposes IFC’s attempts to downplay the critical importance of tributaries in preserving the ecological health of river basins and in sustaining the livelihoods of countless ethnic communities.
BRN also condemns IFC’s failure to acknowledge that promotion of central government dams against the wishes of local ethnic communities is fuelling the conflict, and directly undermining the current peace process.
Currently, Burma’s Energy Master Plan includes over 50 planned dams, mainly on the Salween and Irrawaddy rivers and their tributaries. The construction of these dams will result in a huge increase in hydropower production from 3,000 to 46,000 megawatts by 2030, three quarters of which will be exported to China, Thailand and other foreign countries.
The planned dams – many of which are joint foreign ventures – are mainly located in Burma’s ethnic conflict zones, where government troops have for decades fought to secure control of the rich natural resources, including hydropower. Since early 2018, there have been new central government military operations in Kachin, Shan, Ta’ang and Karen areas, involving human rights violations and causing new displacement.
Local communities across the country have long opposed these mega-dams due to their exacerbation of conflict, displacement, and human rights abuses, as well as their destructive impacts on the local environment and livelihoods. Project-affected communities have joined with ethnic civil society in calling for sustainable, small-scale alternatives implemented within a federal, democratic system and in line with international human rights standards. “Local people should have the right to decide in all stages of the project,” said Mi Ah Chai, coordinator of Burma Rivers Network.
“Building dams in conflict zones will only prolong war and suffering,” Mi Ah Chai continued. “Existing hydro-power projects should be reviewed to determine whether they are actually benefitting local communities, and any new or planned projects should be stopped until there is a genuine national peace agreement and a federal system.”
Statement signed by: Burma Rivers Network, Karenni Civil Society Network, Kayan New Generation Youth, Future Thanlwan, Shan Sapawa Environmental Organization, Arakarn Rivers Network, Ta’ang Student and Youth Union, Kuki Women Human Rights Organization, Kachin Development Networking Group, Pawnglong community, Karen Rivers Watch, Mon Youth Progressive Organization, China Rivers Network
Source:The Burma Rivers Network