Monday, 18 November 2019

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8,000 people to be forcibly relocated for Paunglaung dam project

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – A hydroelectric power dam project being built by Swiss and British companies will require the forcible relocation of more than 8,000 people, says a Kayan human rights group.

The Paunglaung Dam project under construction about 50 km from Naypyitaw, the capital of Burma. Photo: KNGYThe upper Paunglaung dam project in Pinlaung Township in southern Shan State will flood 23 villages with a population of 7,998 people, the Kayan New Generation Youth (KNYG) group said at  press briefing held in Thailand.

The Eastern Command commander, Brigadier General Yar Bye, told village headmen to leave their villages by no later than October of this year, the KNGY said.

‘We were told to find places to relocate’, Mu Moe Lay of the KNGY told Mizzima. ‘The new homes will have to be in the mountains because the plains area will be flooded’.

The design and consulting firm for the dam project which will generate 149 MW of electricity is the Af Colenco Company. Other companies involved in the project are Malcom Dunstan Associates, a family-owned company in England, and the Yunnan Machinery and Export Company.

England-based Burma Campaign UK placed Malcom Dunstan in its black book in 2008 for its alleged direct or indirect support of the Burmese military regime.

‘No matter where they are coming from, Europe or Asia, these companies ignore the appropriate standards and norms when they make investment in Burma’, Mu Moe Lay said.

Malcom Dunstan Company also was involved in the Ye Ywa Dam in Burma and is now involved in the upper Paunglaung and Tasan dam projects.

Local authorities told the villagers that they would be paid 50,000 kyat (US$ 62.34) per household for relocating and they must locate their new homes themselves.

A location map of the dam site. Map: Courtesy KNGYMany villagers grow turmeric as their main crop in addition to crops of chili, groundnut, orange, banana and tea. Many also plant paddy.

Construction on the dam, 103-metres high, began in 2004 and the target date for completion is 2012. Sixty-one square kilometer of farmlands or roughly 11,400 football fields will be flooded, KNYG said.

The electricity generated by the project will be transmitted to Naypyitaw, the capital, 50 km northwest of the dam site.
Local villagers have sought help from the Shan Nationality Democratic Party and Pa-O Nationality Party.

Besides being ordered to relocate, many villagers have perform forced labour for the local 606 Light Infantry Battalion in building barracks and roads. They were also required to pay 1,000 kyat (US$ 1.25) per household to the army unit, KNGY reported.

‘Most of the hydropower generated in Burma goes to the military and industries related to the military. Most of the local villages and cities around the hydropower stations are not getting electricity from them. Even if they get electricity from these power stations, the power is unreliable, one day on with three days off. This is the routine’, said Sai Sai,  a leader of Burma Rivers Network.


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