Environmental groups voice opposition to IFC dam workshops

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Posted By: SHAN on: January 27, 2017

Leading Burmese environmental groups, including Burma Rivers Network (BRN) and Save the Salween Network (SSN), today released a statement, voicing strong opposition to the International Finance Corporation (IFC), which they say is currently promoting various hydropower projects in areas that are primarily conflict zones.

“BRN and SSN oppose any attempts to push ahead with large dams while conflict continues along Burma’s major rivers, where Burma Army offensives and systematic abuses have displaced hundreds of thousands, and where ethnic peoples continue to be constitutionally denied their right to decide over natural resources in their homelands,” read the statement.

The IFC is a member of the World Bank Group which finances private sector initiatives in many developing countries including Burma.

The IFC workshops, which are to include seminars about social and environmental impact assessments, are scheduled to start today, January 27, in Yangon, Kachin State capital Myitkyina, and Karenni State capital Loikaw.

Sai Khur Hseng of the Shan Sapawa Environmental Organization and a joint-spokesperson for today’s statement told Shan Herald that he strongly disagreed with the IFC operation.

“I strongly disagree with their activities,” he said. “Right now, dam constructions have been suspended. However, the IFC is pushing a hydropower agenda. This workshop is part of their plan to ensure the dams are built.”

Friday’s statement noted that construction of mega-dams on the Irrawaddy and Salween rivers will have massive impacts on local residents and the environment.

“Pushing ahead with projects in conflict zones reinforces the root causes of conflict, and contradicts the NLD government’s claims to be promoting democratic federalism,” said Mi Ah Chai, the other joint-spokesperson for today’s statement.

The blueprints for hydropower projects on the Irrawaddy River include the 20,000-megawatt chain of Myitsone dams, while a Salween River proposal would include a series of dams in Shan State: the 7,100 MW Mong Ton Dam; the 1,400 MW Kunlong Dam; the 1,200 MW Nong Pha Dam; and the 200 MW Manntaung Dam. The project also includes plans for the 4,000 MW Ywathit Dam in Karenni State, and the 1,360 MW Hat Gyi Dam in Karen State.

Three countries are involved in these projects: China (through three state-run firms: Three Gorges Corporation; Sinohydro; and China Southern Grid); Thailand, via its state-run arm Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand; 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.

Once the proposed projects are completed, 90 percent of electricity produced is slated to be exported to China and Thailand.

By Shan Herald Agency for News (SHAN)

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