Environmentalists have urged the Chinese government to halt plans to construct dams on the Salween River following renewed clashes between the Burmese Army and the Kokang ceasefire group.Shan Sapawa Environmental Organisation in a statement on Tuesday called on China to stop all investments in dams on the Salween River immediately. The exhortation comes following the recent heavy fighting between regime troops and the Kokang group near the site of the Upper Salween Dam to be constructed by Chinese companies in northern Shan State.
Heavy clashes occurred just east of the town of Kunlong, about 15 kms from the planned dam site. The two-day long battle started on August 27, after the regime deployed thousands of troops to take control of the Kokang area, shattering the two decade old ceasefire.
The clashes killed 26 government security forces and 47 were injured. Nearly 200 Kokangs were killed in fierce battles, according to statements from both sides.
More than 30,000 refugees were compelled to flee to China and set alarm bells ringing in the international community.
The Kunlong dam is one of five mega dams being planned on the Salween River in Burma by the junta and Chinese and Thai companies, for hydro power to be sold to China and Thailand.
“The renewed fighting and the exodus of refugees into Yunnan should be a wake-up call to China about the risks of investing in Burma,” said Sapawa spokesperson Sai Khur Hseng.
“Not only is there no free and informed consent to these dam projects, but they are being built over the bodies of our people,” the group pointed out in the statement.
The Kunlong dam project on Upper Salween was announced in April 2007. It was to be built by two Chinese companies, Hanergy Holding Group (formerly Farsighted Investment Group) and Gold Water Resources Company. Since then a team of Chinese and Burmese technicians have been conducting feasibility studies for the 2,400 MW hydro power project, 25 kms from the Chinese border.
The other mega dam being planned in Shan State is the giant 7,110 MW Ta Sang dam, 100 km from the Thai border. In early August, the regime renewed its scorched earth campaign in townships close to the Ta Sang dam site, torturing and killing civilians and driving away 10,000 villagers from their home.
Not only dams on Upper Salween, earlier the lower Salween dam projects in Karen State were linked with heavy clashes between the Burmese military and the Karen National Union armed group resulting in more than 3,000 refugees crossing to Thailand.
The Shan Sapawa Environmental Organisation, together with the Salween Watch coalition of environmental groups from Thailand and Burma, have been monitoring the controversial dam projects for a decade and advocating their immediate halt.