The Mon Youth Progressive Organization (MYPO) today launched a report analyzing the potential downstream impacts of the Salween Dams on local communities and ecosystems in Mon and Karen States, finding that the dams would cause irreparable damage to local livelihoods and the delicate yet highly productive Salween Delta.
“Given the recent restart of the controversial Hatgyi Dam by the Myanmar government and Thai investors, our downstream communities share extreme concerns with other communities along the Salween about the impacts of the Salween Dams on our livelihoods and the environment,” explained Mi Ah Chai, lead researcher for the report.
The “In the Balance” report details the fragile and critical balance of fresh water and salt water in the downstream estuaries, and how this unique ecosystem supports not only vast and diverse fish and plant stocks, but the livelihoods of half a million farmers along the Salween Delta. Dams upstream will block vital sediment and disrupt the flow of fresh water vital to maintaining this balance.
Communities from six townships in Mon and Karen States discussed their total dependence on the Salween Delta for their livelihoods. “On Bilu Island in the Salween delta, you won’t starve. Everything is plentiful. Because it is next to the river and the ocean, there are many fish. It is a very fertile area for growing vegetables and rice,” said a head monk from a village in the delta.
On August 12 2016, it was announced that hydropower projects would be implemented on the Thanlwin (Salween) River, according to U Htein Lwin, permanent secretary at the Ministry of Electric Power, during the press conference to mark the government’s first 100 days in power in Nay Pyi Taw.
The Salween Dams have been staunchly and publicly opposed by local people who rely on the river, civil society groups, foreign academics, earthquake experts, and environmentalists. “All the Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEAs) in the world cannot guarantee against an earthquake, which is a real possibility given the river’s location along fault lines. We should not gamble with people’s lives,” said Mi Ah Chai, lead researcher for the report.
The report concludes that the Salween Dams will provide no benefit for the local people, and will create irreversible environmental impacts to downstream ecosystems. “The newly-elected government should not repeat the mistakes of the past by ignoring the voices of the people,” she added.
Mi Ah Chai – +95 (0) 9 255 7849 05
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