KESAN’s water governance work aims to empower vulnerable communities to advocate for the good governance of water resources – with a focus on the Salween River. The longest free- flowing river in Southeast Asia, the Salween supports incredible biodiversity, and also the livelihoods of the Karen, Karenni, Mon, and Shan peoples in Burma. However, the Salween’s health is threatened by secretive plans to build a cascade of five large hydroelectric dams in order to generate electricity for China and Thailand. Local people in the Salween Basin are overwhelmingly opposed to the dam plans, which would devastate their culture and livelihoods. Not only are these dams moving forward without proper scientific study, information transparency, or consent from local communities – but they are major drivers of violent conflict and human rights violations in ethnic areas. With our partners, KESAN works to support local communities call for “No Salween Dams” by:
- Raising awareness and building capacity among affected communities through informational workshops, skills trainings, and educational materials such as documentary films.
- Facilitating grassroots research on the biodiversity of the Salween basin and the impacts of dam construction.
- Advocating for a dam-free Salween by producing campaign materials, gathering petition signatures, effectively engaging with the media, and lobbying elected and company officials.
- Networking between civil society organizations by coordinating meetings, conferences, and collaborative actions.
- Mobilizing the local, regional, and international community through public demonstrations.
KESAN’s water governance work over the past year has greatly built up the relationship between ethnic activists and the more mainstream civil society groups working in central Burma. We have been able to build trust at a personal and organizational level that has resulted in KESAN becoming allies with experts in renewable energy who have the ear of government and international institutions. This has increased KESAN’s ability to make stopping the Salween Dams an issue of national importance throughout Burma. Our Salween activism over the past decades has been a major success – the Salween remains dam-free – though investors are now trying to move forward.