Lawpita Hydropower Project in Karenni (Kayah) State was initiated in 1950 with a bilateral war reparation agreement between Japan and Burma. Mobye dam was built on the Balu Chaung River so as to store water to supply two hydroelectric power stations. Lawpita was the first large-scale hydropower project in Burma. The project today represents 24% of Burma’s total hydropower capacity and is an important source of electricity for central Burma.
Mobye Dam and its Reservoir
Mobye dam is 11 meters in height and located on the border of Karenni and Shan states. It has created a 207-square kilometer reservoir of which is mostly found in Shan state. The dam construction was begun in 1962, and was completed in 1970.
Lawpita Hydropower Plant No.2
Plant No.2 was the first power station to become operational and destroyed the natural beauty of Lawpita Falls. The first phase of construction on Plant No.2 is completed in 1960, and second phase was completed in 1974 respectively. It has a capacity of 168 MW with six generators.
Lawpita Hydropower Plant No.1
It's located close to Plant No.2, but receives water from Datawcha dam. It has an installed capacity of 28 MW. The construction begins in 1986 and was completed in 1992.
The Datawcha dam construction commenced in 1988 and completed in 1992 to mainly supply water to Lawpita Hydropower Plant No.1.
The Japanese government approved the budget for the Mobye dam construction in 1954 as part of a World War II reparation agreement. Nippon Koei and Kajima Corporation were involved in construction of the dam and power plants.
The total cost of Lawpita hydropower project is unknown.
Electricity – where did it go?
Most of the 196 MW generated by the Lawpita project is sent to the cities of Mandalay and Rangoon in central Burma. Yet just tree towns in Karenni State (Loikaw, Demawso, and Pruso) are scantily supplied with power. The rural population (approximately 80% of the total in the state) still has no access to the electric power.
Project Status - Last updated September 2008
Plans by the Japanese government to provide Overseas Development Aid to repair Lawpita Plant No. 2 were shelved in 2003 after Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was attacked in Dapeyin.
Over 12,000 people were displaced by Mobye dam and the power stations. Since 1961, the number of Burma Army troops stationed near the hydropower project has increased and this increase has come with incidents of forced labor and portering, land confiscation, and sexual violence by troops. An estimated 18,000 land mines have been planted around the power stations. Water use for irrigating local farms has been restricted and fishing has been negatively impacted by the dam’s reservoir, with grave consequences to livelihoods.
For more information see the report Dammed by Burma’s Generals