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Recent Dam and Water Diversion Plans PDF Print E-mail

The State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), the Thai government, and the Energy Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) are pushing ahead quickly and secretively with plans for a series of five giant dams on the Salween/Thanlwin River and its tributaries. The potential dam sites and water diversion projects on the Salween can be summarized as follows:

1. HAT GYI:
The first dam to be built, will be built near to Myaingyingu at a place called Hat Gyi in Karen State, about 33 km downstream from the Salween-Moei River confluence. Here, there is a particularly powerful rapid that becomes a waterfall when the water flow is reduced in the dry season. It is also beside and part of the Kahilu Wildlife Sanctuary.

The construction of the Hat Gyi dam is expected to commence as soon as late 2007 and the commercial distribution of power is projected to begin around 2013-2014, which will provide electricity to Thailand. The Thai and Burmese government have agreed under the MOU to keep all data and joint studies on this project strictly confidential. The proposed plan is much larger than previous studies, increasing the flood area, which is inhabited mostly by ethnic Thai Karens and Shans and includes two official wildlife sanctuaries in Karen State.

A 1999 pre-feasibility study by the Japanese development consultant NEWJEC recommended “a low height, run-of-river dam having a capacity of 300 MW.” However, on November 14, 2005, the Thai energy minister cited a new feasibility study where “electricity production could be increased to 1,200 megawatts.” Quadrupled output from the dam would indicate a substantially higher dam, and therefore a much larger reservoir.

It is also important to mention that with a larger reservoir the Thai authorities will be able to more easily divert floodwaters from the Salween River into a dam on the Yuam River at Mae Lama Luang, which is at an advanced stage of planning. The water from the Mae Lama Luang dam will be diverted through a tunnel into the Bhumipol Dam in central Thailand.

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2. TA SANG:
The Tasang Dam is the largest of the series of proposed hydroelectric projects on the Nu/Salween River in south central Shan State, 40 km north of the Tasang river crossing, and about 130 kilometers from the Thai-Burmese border. The 7,110-megawatt, 228 meter high dam is slated to be the tallest dam in all of Southeast Asia. The reservoir will flood hundreds of square kilometers. The first studies of this project were done by a Japanese company, Nippon Koei in 1981, and in 1998, Thailand’s GMS Power Company and Myanmar Economic Cooperation agreed to study the project. Following these studies in 2002, the Thai company, MDX, signed an agreement with the SPDC to develop the project further. Currently, it is unclear whether MDX is financially sound enough to support the project. However, it has been reported that Thai engineers and Thai workers are still traveling to and from the Tasang dam site.

Already over 300,000 people have been forcibly relocated from the areas since dam studies commenced in 1996. If built, the Tasang Dam will drive thousands of people from their homes and will involve even more forced relocations by the Burmese military. Increased militarisation has already led to an increase of reports of torture, extrajudicial killing, and other human rights abuses in the Tasang area.

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3. WEI GYI (Upper Salween Dam):
This site is located on the Thai/Burma border close to where the Salween River flows out of Karenni (Kayah) State in Burma. According to the Japanese Electric Power Development Corporation study the dam will have a projected capacity of 4,540 megawatts, and a flood height of 220 meters, flooding between 700-1,000 square kilometres of forest, river and farmland, mostly in Karenni State. The dam construction cost is estimated at US$3 billion. The site on the Thai side is part of the Salween Wildlife Sanctuary and the access road that is being constructed passes through the Salween National Forest.

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4. DAGWIN (Lower Salween Dam):
This site is located on the border south of the Wei Gyi site and to the west of Mae Sariang town in Thailand. With projected capacity variously given as 500, 792 or 900 megawatts, the dam would produce electricity but would mainly serve to trap and regulate large amounts of water released by the Wei Gyi dam during peak hours. It would use off-peak power to pump water back up into the upper dam. The site is also located near the former headquarters of the 1988 student revolutionary group (ABSDF), and a little downstream of the now relocated Mae Khong Kha refugee camp.

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5. Upper Thanlwin
In April 2007, two Chinese companies, Farsighted Investment Group and Gold Water Resources, announced plans to finance and construct and “Upper Thanlwin” dam in upper Shan State, Burma. Little is known about this dam plan as this was the first report of the new dam.

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6. Water Diversion from the Salween to the Chaophraya River:
In 2003 several alternative plans were drawn up to divert 2.2 billion cubic meters of water from the Salween River’s major tributaries – and potentially the mainstream itself - through systems of holding dams, huge pumps and long tunnels to the Bhumiphol Dam. One such plan is to divert floodwaters from the Salween River into a dam on the Yuam River, a major tributary of the Salween River, at Mae Lama Luang. The water from the Mae Lama Luang dam will be diverted through a tunnel leading to the Bhumiphol Dam on the Chaophraya River that runs through central Thailand.

Note: Data on height, state of development, flood area, cost and megawatt capacity varies according to the source and date of the study. Final specifications may vary as a result of changes during the planning process.

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