A monthly official statistical report claims that Burma’s electric power installed capacity reached total of over 1,690 MW as of April 2008. It is estimated that hydroelectric power accounts for approximately 30-35% of that capacity.

Project drawing of the Shweli I Dam
The identified realizable hydropower generation potential of the country, however, is currently put at 38,000 MW, far surpassing any other mainland Southeast Asian country. The SPDC is eager to realize this potential and in recent years there has been a rash of Memoranda of Understanding with investors to develop identified sites.

A 2007 article in the industry magazine Hydropower and Dams listed 29 projects “currently under implementation of planning in Myanmar.” This list did not include the seven Irrawaddy/N’Mai/Mali dams in Kachin State. The ever-expanding list together with the recent announcements indicates a veritable frenzy on the part of the regime to realize its hydropower potential and the foreign dollars it can generate. An official from the Ministry of Electric Power told a local newspaper in 2006 that the government intends to shift the country’s reliance on gas to hydropower, making it the sole source of electricity by 2030. It is still not clear, however, how much of the electricity generated from planned hydropower projects will remain in Burma.

For Burma’s neighbors hungry for electricity - Thailand, India, Bangladesh, and China - building dams inside the reclusive state offers an opportunity to acquire cheap electricity while leaving the negative economic, social and environmental impacts of those dams on the Burmese side of the border. Strong anti-dam movements in Thailand make building dams in Burma particularly attractive.

China has been building an ever-increasing number of large dams domestically and overseas, and has become the leader in developing hydropower schemes in Burma. The increasing need to supply power to China’s growing cities in the east is driving the Chinese central government’s West-to-East Power Transmission Policy. Dam building in western China and neighboring Burma fits into this policy.

To see the “Country Report on Progress of Power Development Plans and Transmission Interconnection Projects” presented in November 2008, click here

To see the regime’s presentation on the hydropower sector to ASEAN in 2007, click here

Text from Damming the Irrawaddy

Voices of the Dammed

Development in Burma

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