Yangon (AsiaNews / Agencies) - A group of Chinese, Burmese and Thai scholars currently holding a seminar in Mon State, southern Myanmar, have raised the alarm about plans - under development - to build six dams on the Thanlwin River. Over 200 researchers and academics are attending a seminar at Moulmein University, to share the latest discoveries in the social and environmental impact of mega structures. In particular, attention has focused on the consequences for the inhabitants of the communities living along the river, the longest in Indochina after the Mekong. They also traveled to nearby villages to ask how local residents have been affected by dams already built upstream in China.
The workshop was organized by the Renewable Energy Association Myanmar (Ream), the Mekong Energy and Ecology Network (Mee Net) and Towards Ecological Recovery and Regional Alliance (Terra). The academics said the livelihoods of farmers were being threatened not only by the dams, but also by the chemical industries and hydropower industries developed alongside them.
Meanwhile, the construction of dams in the upper part of the Thanlwin River, in China, has already resulted in a change in the current, which has led to an increase of the salt water in the main river and its tributaries. The increased salinity of the water has caused soil erosion and, over the years, resulted in the disappearance of entire villages and islands in the delta of the Gulf of Martaban, at the mouth of the river (which rises in the highlands of Tibet) in the South Myanmar, together with large tracts of agricultural land.
Min Min Nwe, a coordinator for a Mon development group who helped organize the workshop, notes that waste from chemical industries has seeped into the river, harming fish and prawns while affecting the growth rate of insects and sails, which are damaging crops. He says "at farms along the Thanlwin River, large snails are destroying the rice paddies".
Of the six dams planned for the river, two would be in Shan State (construction has already begun on one of these), while one would be in Kayah State and three would be in Karen State. Experts say once the Thanlwin river is dammed upstream, the people living downstream, will see a rise in tide and deforestation, while animals like fish and birds will perish. The researchers would like to "avoid" such a scenario and have delivered a comprehensive report to Parliament on the effects of dams.