Irrawaddy/N'Mai/Mali Dams

Burma’s military government signed an agreement with China Power Investment Corporation in May 2007 for the implementation of seven large dams along the Irrawaddy, Mali, and N’Mai Rivers in Kachin State. The largest of the seven, the Myitsone Dam, is located at the confluence of the Mali and N’Mai Rivers at the source of Burma’s lifeline, the Irrawaddy. The dam will impact millions of people downstream who depend on the Irrawaddy for agriculture, fishing, and transportation.  The dam will also destroy the confluence, one of the most significant cultural heritage sites for the Kachin people and an important landmark for all of Burma.

Dam Specifications
Irrawaddy Mytisone
Height: 152 meters
Installed capacity: 6,000 MW
Annual production: 30,860 Gwh(Latest update: 3.9.2014)
Height: unknown
Installed capacity: 3,400 MW (Latest update: 3.9.2014)
Annual production:17,770 Gwh (Latest update: 3.9.2014)

Chibwe Nge
Height – unknown
Installed capacity: 99 MW (Latest update: 3.9.2014)
Annual production: 599 Gwh (Latest update: 3.9.2014)
Height: unknown
Installed capacity: 1,600 MW
Annual production: unknown
Height: unknown
Installed capacity: 1,400 MW
Annual production: unknown
Height: unknown
Installed capacity: 2,000 MW (Latest update: 3.9.2014)
Annual production:11,080 Gwh (Latest update: 3.9.2014)
Height: unknown
Installed capacity: 2,700 MW (Latest update: 3.9.2014)
Annual production:14,730 Gwh (Latest update: 3.9.2014)
Height: unknown
Installed capacity: 1,900 MW (Latest update: 3.9.2014)
Annual production: 10,440 Gwh (Latest update: 3.9.2014)

Companies Involved
China Power Investment Corporation is the Project Manager of the “Confluence Region Hydropower Projects” under agreement with the Myanmar Ministry of Electric Power.  Several companies have been or are currently involved in the preparation, construction and financing of the 6,000 MW Irrawaddy Myitsone Dam. China Gezhouba Group Corporation has engineering construction contracts at the Myitsone and Chibwe Nge dam sites. Asia World Company, run by Burmese drug-lord Lo Hsing Han, has a key player in facilitating the project and building preparatory infrastructure at the Myitsone dam site.

Asia World Company
Suntac Technologies
State-run Myanmar Electrical Power Enterprise
China Power Investment Corporation (CPI)
China Southern Power Grid Co. (CSG)
China Gezhouba Group Corporation (CGGC)
Yunnan Machinery Equipment Import & Export Company Limited (YMEC)
Changjiang Institute of Surveying, Planning, Design and Research (CISPDR)
Kansai Electric Power Company, Incorporated (KEPCO)

Engineers generally estimate that it costs US$1 million per 1MW of installed capacity to build a hydropower dam. Depending on the conditions of the dam sites and cost overruns, the investment into the Irrawaddy Myitsone Dam could reach US$3.6billion.

Using the projected annual production and a regional example of electricity sales, the revenue generated by the Irrawaddy Myitsone Dam could range between US$558-597 million per year (please see the report Damming the Irrawaddy for a full explanation of  figures).

Electricity – where will it go?
It appears that electricity from the dams will be transmitted to China.

Project Status - Last updated June 2011
An official ceremony to launch the construction of the Myitsone Dam was held in December 2009. Several paved roads to bring in equipment and workers have been finished. Asia World Company has set up a new construction camp in Ching Hkrang village since 2007.

Housing barracks that can accommodate thousands have been constructed on the banks of the Mali River. Thousands of people are mining for gold along the rivers’ banks to extract resources before construction, causing serious pollution.

In April 2010 a series of bombs exploded at the communications center and worker camp of the Asia World Company. In March 2011 the Kachin Independence Organization wrote a letter warning China’s government that civil war could break out if the Myitsone dam construction proceeded. In June 2011 fighting between the Burma Army and the KIO broke out near the Dapein dams and some bombs have exploded in Myitkyina, just 40 kilometers from the Myitsone dam.

Since 2007, community leaders and villagers have sent numerous appeal letters to Burma’s military government and the Chinese government. Mass prayer ceremonies calling for the protection of the rivers have been held along the river’s banks and in churches up and downstream. In a face-to-face meeting with the Burma Army’s Northern Commander, local women made it clear that no amount of compensation will make up for the losses these dams will bring to their community and future generations. Downstream, artists and writers from across the country have organized tours and art exhibitions to highlight the importance of the Irrawaddy for all of Burma. Overseas Kachin communities have sent letters to the Embassy of China in seven countries and held demonstrations in New Delhi and London. All appeals have so far been ignored.

Social Impacts

  • Over 60 villages, approximately 15,000 people, will be forcibly relocated without informed consent for the Myitsone Dam alone. Families from six villages have already been forced to move and are currently suffering in a relocation camp. This dislocation will continue to fuel social problems including conflicts over jobs and land, and an increase in migration and trafficking to neighboring countries. Women will be particularly impacted.

Increasing conflict and security

  • The dams are located in an area with a long history of conflict that remains unstable. An outbreak of fighting would put local people, the project, and Chinese personnel at risk. InApril 2010 a series of at least 10 separate bombs exploded at the Myitsone Dam constructionsite, injuring a Chinese worker and destroying several temporary buildings and vehicles.
  • Increased militarization around the project sites has restricted movement and livelihoods and will lead to further threats to human security. It is well-documented that development projects in Burma are accompanied by increased militarization and human rights abuses, including forced labor and rape.
  • The lack of local benefits and the disregard for local concerns is contributing to resentment and ethnic tension, thereby increasing the likelihood of further violence which may affect Chinese personnel and company assets.

Economic Impacts

  • The Irrawaddy River provides vital nutrients to wetlands and floodplain areas downstream including the delta region which provides nearly 60% of Burma’s rice. Changes to the river’s flow and the blocking of crucial sediments will affect millions farmers throughout Burma and decrease rice production.
  • Downstream fisheries will be decreased due to the block of fish migration routes and sediment flows and changes in the river’s natural cycles.
  • The dams will create unpredictable water fluctuations and shortages which will disrupt downstream transportation and fisheries.
  • At times when fresh water flows are restricted according to electricity generation needs and during reservoir filling, reduced water levels will increase sea water intrusion into the farmlands of the Irrawaddy delta. Farms and forests upstream will be flooded in a reservoir at least the size of New York City.

Safety Impacts

  • There are no safeguards to ensure that the dam operators will prioritize the safety of local communities over electricity demands in China when releasing water from the dam; sudden water surges cause boating accidents and drowning.
  • The dam is located 100 kilometers from a major fault line in an earthquake-prone area; if the dam breaks, it will flood Kachin State’s capital city of 150,000 that lies just 40 kilometers downstream of the dam.  
  • Mercury from mining operations in and along the rivers will accumulate behind the dams and transform to more toxic methyl-mercury which will then be released downstream, increasing the incidence of diseases and birth defects.

Environmental Impacts

The dams will flood forests upstream in one of the world’s “hottest hotspots” of biodiversity, threatening hundreds of animal and plant species, many of which are endemic or endangered.

  • The dams will impact downstream riverine ecosystems that are home to the endangered Irrawaddy Dolphin. 
  • The dams will forever change Burma’s main river ecosystem and an important Asian river. 84% of the Irrawaddy River’s water originates above the dam sites and will be affected by these dams.
  • Extensive and environmentally destructive gold mining as well as logging have already begun along the banks of the N’Mai and Mali rivers and upstream of the dam sites.

For more information about the Myitsone, Mali Hka, or N’Mai Hka Dams, please see Damming the Irrawaddy and Resisting the Flood
For update news from the area please visit

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