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Activists protest Tasang dam

by admin last modified 2005-05-23 11:04

Activists protest Tasang dam


Four advocate groups have requested that the Asian Development Bank refrain from providing support for Southeast Asia's largest dam project on the Salween in Shan State "until democracy is restored and the rights of local people are respected."

The same demand was sent to the Thai government in December 2002 by 69 Thai and Burma organizations.

The letter, a copy of which was received by S.H.A.N. yesterday, dated 9 October, is addressed to Mr Khaled Rahman, Director of Infrastructure Division, Mekong Department. It rejects the ADB claim that development of power resource "will improve the living standard of the people there" by pointing out "people there" have already suffered from forced relocations, forced labor, extrajudicial killings and intimidation by the Burmese military.

It also draws attention to the fact that the area surrounding the Tasarng dam site that used to be one of the best teak forests in Burma is being destroyed on a large scale.

The letter warns both the ADB and Thailand's MDX Group would be made complicit in the ongoing human rights abuses in the area.

Tasang hydropower project, according to the groups, namely, Shan Sapawa, Chiangmai; Bank Information Center, Washington D.C; International Rivers Network, Berkeley and Norwegian Burma Committee, Oslo, is included in the ADB-financed Indicative Master Plan on Power Interconnection in GMS countries and the Master Plan's endorsement of large-scale hydropower development in Burma.

The ADB has been derisively dubbed by activists as "Asian Dams and Bridges."

October 9, 2003

Mr. Khalid Rahman
Director, Infrastructure Division 
Mekong Department
Asian Development Bank
PO Box 789
0980 Manila
Fax: 632 636 2336

Dear Mr. Rahman,

We are writing to express concern with the inclusion of the Tasang Hydropower Project in the ADB-financed Indicative Master Plan on Power Interconnection in GMS Countries (RETA: REG 34092-01) and the Master Plan's endorsement of large-scale hydropower development in Burma (Myanmar). 

The Master Plan refers several times to the "promising" hydropower potential in Burma. The Master Plan recommends the development of scenario 2B, which includes construction of a transmission line from Tasang in Burma to Thailand. This is despite recognition in the report that Tasang is considered "very controversial from an environmental point of view" (pages 5-44). In Chapter 9, Norconsult refers to Tasang as one of "the most promising interconnection projects investigated during the master plan study" and recommends that a feasibility study be carried out to evaluate the viability of exporting power from Tasang to Thailand. Norconsult goes on to state that "[t]he Feasibility Study is expected to be one of the key elements to promote the development of the potential hydropower resources in Myanmar. Development of these resources will improve the economy of the country, and thereby hopefully will improve the living standard of the people there."

As the enclosed materials clearly show, this is far from the case. People living in Burma's Shan State, where the Tasang Dam would be located, have suffered from forced relocations, forced labor, extrajudicial killings, and intimidation by the hands of Burma's military. Construction of the dam would subject residents living in the project area to further systematic human rights violations. There is already a large military presence in Shan State, and there have been reports that soldiers guarding the Tasang dam site forced local residents to work as porters and build military facilities. In early 2003, the military was called in to organize security for Thai dam experts who were scheduled to visit the dam site. If construction of Tasang proceeds, more military troops will be sent to the project area, which likely will have further negative repercussions on the local residents.

Construction of the Tasang Dam will have a profound impact on the Salween River, one of Southeast Asia's last major free-flowing rivers. The project would fragment the fragile river ecosystem and reduce the flow of nutrients and water downstream, reducing biodiversity and impacting villagers who depend on the river for their livelihoods. The area surrounding the Tasang dam site used to be one of the best teak forests in Burma. Now, teak and other hardwood trees are being cut under logging concessions given out by the military regime. Wildlife that used to inhabit the forest have disappeared, and forest products such as fruits, vegetable, traditional medicine plants which local people rely on for their livelihoods are being destroyed. Deforestation is likely to lead to soil erosion during the rainy season, exacerbating flood damages and diminishing the Tasang reservoir's capacity to generate power.

Moreover, because Tasang is being developed by Burma's military regime in partnership with Thailand's MDX Group of Companies, profits generated will directly support the military regime and its repression against the people of Burma. Supporting hydropower in Burma would make the Bank complicit in the human rights abuses associated with the Burmese military junta and expose the ADB to criticism from local, regional and international nongovernmental organizations. 

In December 2002, 69 Burmese and Thai organizations sent a petition urging the Thai Senate Foreign Affairs Committee to prevent the Thai government and international financial institutions from supporting dams on the Salween, "until there is democracy in Burma and the rights of the local people are respected." This demand should be respected by the ADB. 

We ask you to issue a statement clarifying that "until democracy is restored and the rights of local people are respected," the ADB will refrain from providing financial, technical or advisory support for the Tasang Hydropower Project, power interconnection from Tasang to Thailand, and any other hydropower-related projects in Burma. 

Thank you for your time and consideration. We look forward to your response.


Hsao Tai
Shan Sapawa Environmental Organization
P.O. Box 257
Prasing P.O.
Chiang Mai 50200

Yuki Akimoto, Esq.
Burma Project Coordinator
Bank Information Center 
733 15th Street NW, Suite 1126 
Washington, DC 20005 

Susanne Wong
Southeast Asia Campaigner
International Rivers Network
1847 Berkeley Way
Berkeley, CA 94703

Gro Anett Nicolaysen
Director/Project coordinator
The Norwegian Burma Committee
P.O. Box 6720 St. Olavs plass
N - 0130 Oslo

Cc: Mr. Rajat Nag, Director General, Mekong Department, ADB
Mr. Bart Edes, NGO Liaison, Office of External Relations, ADB
Mr. Robert Dobias, Head, NGO Center, ADB
Board of Executive Directors, ADB