Activists, researchers and environmentalists from Myanmar and Thailand have been meeting on Friday to find a way to stop hydropower dams planned on Myanmar’s section of the Salween River, one of Asia’s last free-flowing rivers.
Originating from the Tibetan Plateau, the Salween is Southeast Asia’s second longest river. It flows roughly 2,400 km through China, Thailand and Myanmar to the Andaman Sea, criss-crossing many of Myanmar’s ethnic minority areas, where it provides food and jobs.
Campaigners say six dams in Myanmar, being developed jointly by Chinese, Thai and Burmese investors, threaten the future of local people and the rich biodiversity of the Salween basin. China is also planning 13 dams on the upper Salween.
The Myanmar dams, with a combined power generation capacity of around 15,000 megawatts, are also located in former or current conflict zones. This has raised concerns of renewed or increased fighting between the army and ethnic rebels over natural resources, undermining ongoing efforts to achieve nationwide peace.
Myanmar’s powerful military is also involved in the dam projects. Growing militarisation, illegal logging, land grabs and forced labour already affect communities in the dam areas - and those who voice opposition are threatened, say Shan and Karen campaign groups.
In addition, most of the electricity produced would be exported to China and Thailand, leaving little for energy-starved Myanmar, while ethnic minorities who are already marginalised would be left with a degraded river and environment.
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