Weigyi dam on the Salween River, Karen and Karenni state, Myanmar

Most of the electricity would be exported to Thailand. The plans for the massive 4,500 MW dam on the Salween River in Karen and Karenni state are contested through strong opposition from civil society groups.


Description

The Salween River (also known as Thanlwin or Nu River) originates in the Tibetan Plateau and flows through China, Myanmar and Thailand into the Andaman Sea. Being one of the few remaining largely free flowing rivers, the river ecosystem supports a unique biodiversity and is home to millions of people from many different ethnic groups. The Weigyi dam is a hydropower project proposed on the Salween River in Karen and Karenni state. It has provoked large civil society concerns over social and environmental impacts as well as potential human rights abuses [1,2,3,4]. The dam is part of a series of hydropower projects planned on the Salween River in Myanmar  (see related conflicts, below).

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Basic Data
NameWeigyi dam on the Salween River, Karen and Karenni state, Myanmar
CountryMyanmar
ProvinceKaren state (dam), Karenni state (reservoir)
SitePapun District (proposed dam site)
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Water Management
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Land acquisition conflicts
Dams and water distribution conflicts
Deforestation
Specific CommoditiesElectricity
Land
Water
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsAccording to the Burma Rivers Network [1], and a report by KDRG [3], the dam specifications are as follows:

Height: 168 meters (maximum height of water level of 220 meters)

Installed capacity: 4,540 to 5,600 MW (see also [4])

Reservoir size: 64,000 ha [see 3 for how estimates were calculated by KDRG]

Companies involved: Myanmar Electric Power Enterprise (Myanmar); Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT); possibly also Chinese companies Sinohydro Corporation; China Southern Power Grid Company and China Three Gorges Project Corporation [see 1].

In an article from 2003, the World Rainforest Movement reported an estimated construction cost of USD 6 billion [6].
Project Area (in hectares)64,000 ha (reservoir size estimate)
Level of Investment (in USD)ca. 6,000,000,000 (outdated estimate)
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population30,000 people approx.
Start Date09/12/2005
Company Names or State Enterprises Myanmar Electric Power Enterprise (MEPE) from Myanmar
Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) from Thailand
Relevant government actorsFormer Burma's military regime

Union Government of Myanmar

Ministry of Electric Power, Myanmar

Department of Hydro Power Implementation

Myanmar Investment Commission (MIC)

and others
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersKarenni Development and Research Group (KDRG)

Karenni Civil Societies Network (KCSN)

Burma Rivers Network, http://www.burmariversnetwork.org/

Salween Watch Coalition

TERRA (Towards Ecological Recovery and Regional Alliance) Thailand

International Rivers, https://www.internationalrivers.org/

And many others
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Social movements
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Local scientists/professionals
Religious groups
ethnic Karen and Karenni communities
Fisher people
Forms of MobilizationCommunity-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Impacts
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsPotential: Malnutrition, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..) , Other Health impacts
OtherEthnic groups will lose access to traditional medicine and herbal plants through flooding of the area [3]
Socio-economic ImpactsPotential: Displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Militarization and increased police presence, Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Other socio-economic impacts
OtherLoss of traditional river trade routes, used by ethnic groups [3] Dam construction in Myanmar comes often with militarization of regions, which in turn has frequently caused human rights abuses, including sexual violence against women [3,4].
Outcome
Project StatusProposed (exploration phase)
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseStrengthening of participation
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.The plans for the dams are still there. So far it only has been delayed, but not cancelled.
Sources and Materials
Legislations

2012 Foreign Investment Law
[click to view]

2014 Myanmar Electricity Law
[click to view]

2012 Environmental Conservation Law
[click to view]

2015 Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Procedure
[click to view]

2012 Vacant, Fallow and Virgin Lands Management Law
[click to view]

2016 Myanmar Investment Law
[click to view]

References

[7] Suhardiman, D., Rutherford, J., Bright, S.J., Suhardiman, D., Rutherford, J., John, S., Putting, B., 2017. Putting violent armed conflict in the center of the Salween hydropower debates. Crit. Asian Stud. 49, 349–364.
[click to view]

[1] KDRG 2006 "Dammed by Burma's Generals: The Karenni Experience with Hydropower Development - From Lawpita to the Salween" Karenni Development Research Group (KDRG). (accessed online 04.05.2018)
[click to view]

Links

[6] World Rainforest Movement BUlletin Nr. 67, February 2003 "Burma: Revival of the Weigyi dam" (accessed online 08.05.2018)
[click to view]

[2] Salween Watch Coalition, March 2016 "Current Status of Dam Projects on the Salween River" (accessed online 03.05.2018).
[click to view]

[4] Banktrack.org on the Salween Dam Cascade (November 2016)
[click to view]

[1] Burma Rivers Network on the Weigyi Dam (accessed online 03.05.2018).
[click to view]

[5] The Irrawaddy, 19 January 2015 "Civil Society Organizations Call for Halt to Salween Dam Projects". (accessed online 03.05.2018).
[click to view]

Media Links

Voices of the dammed, by Burma River Network
[click to view]

Other Documents

Expected impact from inundation Source: Source: Karenni Development Research Group (KDRG) - https://www.internationalrivers.org/sites/default/files/attached-files/proposed_salween_dams_revive_development_nightmare_for_karenni_in_burma.pdf
[click to view]

Cultural sites such as the royal grounds in Bawlake would be submerged Source: Source: Karenni Development Research Group (KDRG) - https://www.internationalrivers.org/sites/default/files/attached-files/proposed_salween_dams_revive_development_nightmare_for_karenni_in_burma.pdf
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorEJatlas Southeast Asia Team (ejatlas.asia"at"gmail.com)
Last update15/05/2018
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