7 months ago

Damming at gunpoint(English Version)

The Salween dam plans

The Salween dam plans The Salween River, 2,800 km (1,350 miles) in length, is the longest river in Southeast Asia that has not yet been dammed. Its source is in western China, eastern Tibet; it flows for half its length through southwestern China, then through Burma’s eastern ethnic states, except for a very short course along the Thai-Burmese border. It empties into the Andaman Sea in Burmese territorial waters. The average annual river flow of the Salween is said to be 124,000,000,000 cubic metres per year. Since the late 1970s, Japanese and Australian consulting companies and Burmese and Thai state agencies have produced a number of major studies examining the possibility of constructing large dams on the Salween. 2 The Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) in 1981 began planning to build two dams — the Upper and Lower Salween dams — on sites adjacent to Karen State and to Thailand’s Maesariang District in Mae Hong Son Province, where the river forms the Thai-Burmese border for about 120 kms. In July 1996, the Thai Government signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Burmese military regime to purchase 1,500 MW of electricity from Burma by 2010 and announced the possibility of future MoUs to build dams with the regime. EGAT has plans to invest $5.5 billion in building the two dams, and to start supplying electricity to Thailand by 2012. The Salween dams tie into Thailand’s ambitious plans to establish a Southeast Asian regional energy grid. EGAT opted for these two dams on the Thai- 2 Japan has been involved in dam building in Burma since after World War II when the Japanese provided war reparation to Burma. In 1967, Japan funded the building of the Baluchaung Dam and hydroelectric power plant in Karenni State on the Balu River, a tributary of the Pawn River, which flows into the Salween. 11

12 DAMMING AT GUNPOINT Burma border, rather than dams deeper inside Burma, because it would be easier for EGAT to seek international financial loans to construct them 3 . This reflects concerns by international funders about lack of transparency, further sanctions and lack of security inside Burma. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is planning to secure financing for the dam’s transmission lines in Thailand as part of its Greater Mekong Subregion Regional Power Interconnection Initiative. The Burmese military regime is also encouraging other ASEAN countries to invest in the Salween dam projects 4 . EGAT has allocated nearly $950 million for investment in the project and the agency is ready to put up the money first through its own capital or by issuing bonds. 3 Bangkok Post, 3 December, 2002, “Burma Agrees to Join Thailand in Dam Project”. 4 At the ASEAN Ministerial meeting in Cambodia Than Shwe encouraged the ASEAN countries to invest in building the Salween dam. SEARIN, 2003, see above, p 21

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