Lt-Gen Yawd Serk, the head of the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA), one of Burma’s strongest ethnic armed groups, told media on February 7 that he was opposed to any hydropower projects if they would have a notable impact on the local people.
Lt-Gen Yawd Serk, the chairman of the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA), speaks to press at the headquarters in Loi Tai Leng.
“It is not wrong that any river that flows through Shan State should be used to benefit the local people,” he said, speaking at 70th anniversary celebrations for Shan State National Day at the militia’s headquarters in Loi Tai Leng. “However, if it is going to affect the people negatively, then I oppose it. And I believe that the general public does not want it either.”
At least four hydropower projects are scheduled to be built in Shan State. According to the respective contracts, upon completion the dams will export 90 percent of all electricity to China and Thailand.
The four proposed dams are: the 7,100-megawatt Mong Ton Dam; the 1,400 MW Kunlong Dam; the 1,200 MW Nong Pha Dam; and the 200 MW Manntaung Dam.
Investors involved in the projects include: China’s Three Gorges Corporation, Sinohydro and the China Southern Grid, Thailand’s state-owned Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT); and Burma’s Ministry of Electric Power, alongside the International Group of Entrepreneurs (IGE), a firm controlled by the offspring of the late Aung Thaung, the long-time industry minister under Snr-Gen Than Shwe’s military regime.
Lt-Gen Yawd Serk, chairman of the RCSS/SSA, which is one of eight groups hat signed a nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA) with the Thein Sein government in October 2015, said that he is worried about the firms which are earmarked to build the dams. He said he believes no construction should proceed unless political dialogue between the various armed factions has been initiated.
“They [the investors] will not able to do anything unless we can make agreements during political talks,” he said.
Many environmentalists, academics, monks, and youths have protested against the proposed hydropower projects in Burma. In 2015, more than 23,000 Shan State residents signed a petition against the activity of Australian consultants Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation (SMEC), the company that was hired to conduct the environmental and social impact assessments (EIA/SIAs) for the mega-dam projects in Burma.
Due to political issues, ongoing conflict and public outrage, these major hydropower projects are currently suspended. However, on January 27 this year, the World Bank affiliate International Finance Corporation (IFC) launched some workshops in Yangon, Kachin State capital Myitkyina, and Karenni State capital Loikaw in order to promote the potential for dam projects.
By Shan Herald Agency for News (SHAN)
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