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Locals oppose dam-building on Ngaw Chan Kha

(Image: KDNG)

Local residents are opposed to the construction of four hydropower projects planned for the river Ngaw Chan Kha in Kachin State, says a regional NGO.

In its latest report on 29 August, the Kachin Development Networking Group (KDNG) describes the Ngaw Chan Kha valley as “a breathtakingly beautiful landscape and home to rich biodiversity and historical heritage”.

However, according to local villagers such as Zawng Lwan, the livelihoods of villagers and the environment are severely threatened by the hydroelectric dam projects.

“These dams will bring nothing but disadvantages to us – not benefits,” he said, speaking to DVB yesterday. “The hydropower that is generated will be exported to other countries. We do not want to lose this land. It is our heritage, and we will oppose the project in any way we can.”

He added: “Now that a civilian government has been elected [in Burma], we demand that it listen to our concerns – the voices of all the indigenous people in this region are calling for a stop to the four dam projects.”

Seventeen of the 68 villages along the river are slated to be relocated to make way for the dams, according to the KDNG report.

A contract for construction of the dams was awarded in 2010 to Chinese firm International Cooperation and Development- YEIG by Burma’s Ministry of Electricity and Energy. The Chinese company said at the time it would expect to generate 1,200 megawatts from the dams.

Work on the four sites is due to begin in October or November this year.

The Ngaw Chan Kha is a tributary of the Mali Kha, one of two rivers that form the source of the Irrawaddy, Burma’s most important waterway, which provides livelihoods to millions of people.

The Ngaw Chan Kha project is not linked to the controversial Myitsone Dam, which sits at the confluence of the Mali Kha and N’Mai Kha, both of which run down from the Himalayas. The US$3.6 billion Myitsone project, which is also backed by China, was suspended by then President Thein Sein in 2011 due to public opposition across Burma.