Interest by PRC companies in building dams and generating stations along the Salween (Thanlwin) river in Burma continues to grow. The latest addition to the list is the Yunnan subsidiary of Datang Power, one of the PRC’s largest electricity producers. Datang (Yunnan) United Hydropower Developing Co, as it is known, signed an MoU with military regime’s hydropower ministry last January, but details about the arrangement have remained rather obscure.
An announcement in the New Light of Myanmar on January 8 simply said that an MoU regarding hydropower projects had been signed with Datang without providing details. A week later, SourceJuice, a Chinese website that specializes in publicizing commerical transactions and data involving PRC firms and government depts, put up a somewhat garbled account iof the signing ceremony, noting that the MoU involved four projects that Datang Yunnan would undertake in Myanmar, namely: “Ywathit, Lampang River, Nandan Pa Lay absurd River and River 4 hydropower projects”.
Details of the projects involved in the Datang deal emerged in a list of 31 hydropower projects in Myarnmar involving investment by foreign companies that were mentioned in a report by the hydoppower ministry published in NLM on March 10. Among the projects named was the “Ywathit hydropower project in Kayah State to generate 600 megawatts, the Namtabat hydropower project in Kayah State to generate 110 megawatts, the Nampun hydropower project in Kayah State to generate 130 megawatts”. Names of the foreign firms were not given, but details of the companies involved in the other 28 have been announced on other occasions, so it is safe to assume that the three in Kayah (Karenni) state are the ones that were involved in the January MoU with Datang (Yunnan).
The fourth project remains a mystery, but it could be a second dam and power station on the Taping (Tapein, Daying) river in Momauk township in southern Kachin state about which Datang (Yunnan) has been in discussions with the regime’s hydropower ministry for several years now.
Datang’s first dam and power station on the Taping, which empties into the Irrawaddy near Bhamo, is scheduled for completion later this year. There has been some speculation about how the power generated by the four 60-MW turbine-generator sets at Taping-1 would be used, but the nickel mining-smelting complex under construction by the PRC’s Non-ferrous Metals Corporation at Tagaung hill farther down the Irrawaddy is almost certainly one of the beneficaries. The power station in Bhamo is currently being upgraded in preparation for Taping-1 to go online. The Bhamo station is already hooked up to the national grid by transmission lines that lead to the Kyaukpahtoe gold mine across the Irrawaddy from Tagaung. A news item in last Monday’s edition of NLM noted that the smelter at the nickel mine is currently under construction. The mine is due to go into production in 2011.
Datang’s hydropower project at Ywathit on the Salween has already been under scrutiny by others. In the early 90s, Japan’s NEWJEC carried out a prelminary study that estimated tthat a dam could be built there which would generate up to 1500 MW. In 2004, the Hydropower Engineering Dept of EGAT prepared a proposal for a joint Thailand – Myanmar Power Co-operation group that recommended an 800-MW facility at Ywathit. Datang’s 600-MW venture suggests that a dam lower in height is now under consideration. Ywathit is located east of Bawlahke, opposite the junction of the Pai river with the Salween.
It is not clear where the Nampun and Namtabat projects will be located in Kayah. Nampun is simply another transliteration of Nam Pawn river which flows from north to south through the central part of the state. The dam would likely be located somewhere below the point where the Biluchaung enters the Nam Pawn. The Nam Tabat may the river sometimes known as the Nam Tamhpak which runs down through Hopong township and enters the Nam Pawn in the northern part of Kayah.
Other proposed dams on the Salween under design or active consideration by PRC power companies are the Hatkyi (EGAT & Synohydro), the Tasang (Three Gorges, Sinohydro, Southern Power Grid), the Kunlong (Hanergy, Goldwater) and the Naohpa (China Hydropower). The location of the Naohpa project, for which an MoU was signed in February of 09, was in some doubt, but it appears that it will be located on the Salween close to the old Shan monastery town of Naunghpa about 12 miles (20 km) northeast of Tangyan. Shelved for the time being are the Weigyi and Dagwin dams immediately below the proposed Ywathit dam on the Salween.