Villagers in Taungoo District in northern Karen State are now facing a problem with transportation due to the blocking of Thaukyekhat stream by the Thaukyekhat-2 Dam.
On October 13, 2012 the “Palehwa Bridge”, located on the only access road from Taungoo city to the affected area, was flooded, according to Taungoo District leader, Padoh Saw Eh Wah.
He said “Thaukyekhat stream, including the Myitnga stream cannot continue to flow because of the dam. It caused the bridge, which is over 15 feet above the streamwaters to be flooded so people cannot travel to and from the valley.
According to Padoh Eh Wah, “Seasonal fruit gardens near the dam are also flooded.”
There was no early warning from the authorities to the local people regarding to the blocking of the river. People were not informed when the blocking of rivers started, nor told about how high the waters would rise. However the floodwater reached the Palehwa Bridge at 11 am on the 13th of October and it is still flooded until now. The bridge is located 10 miles away from the Dam.
Locals say that over 10,000 local people from around 40 villages have been affected because the flood. They cannot bring their seasonal fruits – from those trees that have not gone under the floodwaters - and other goods to the market. One villager from Taungoo District reported that because of the flood the loss of income for the people in the affected areas is estimated to be hundreds of thousands of Kyat (Burmese currency) per day.
According to the Karen News group the company contracted to build the dam, Asia World estimates that there were only 56 acres of plantations or gardens in the affected area. The company said it paid almost two-billion-kyat compensation in September this year. Local villagers claim that the compensation does not cover the cost for the loss of villagers’ potential income sources from both their croplands, the forests and the rivers.
On September 25th Karen News reported that more than 200 villagers from 13 villages that are in the upper-dam area voiced their demands to stop the construction of the dam. Among other impacts the imminent submersion of the access road was predicted by the protestors, however neither the construction or the filling of the reservoir was stopped.
The hydro-power dam project was initially started by the former Burma military government, but for unstated reasons it couldn’t continue the construction. Plans to dam the Thaukyekhat Stream, a tributary of the Sittaung River, have been mentioned in government documents since before 1993. Being located in majority Karen territories for which control was long contested by the Karen National Liberation Army was a likely factor in the repeated delays. Prior to the establishment of new capital at Naypyidaw in 2006 the Burmese military launched a series of determined offensives to dominate the wider area, including some areas near Thaukyekhat.
Documents prepared by the Myanmar Electric Power Enterprise for the ADB Greater Mekong Subregion development planning meeting indicated that the Thaukyekhat dam was to have an installed capacity of 120 megawatts, roughly equal to the Baluchaung hydropower plants that for over 4 decades were the country’s largest generators of hydroelectricity.
Asia World Company stepped-in and took over the dam project in November 2007. The dam, dubbed Thaukyekhat 2, was supposed to come on line in 2011 but is now scheduled to begin generating up to 50-megawatts of electricity in November this year.
Thaukyekhat 2 is now one of the country’s first privately owned dams, categorized as a Build, Own, Operate (BOO) project. As such its legal standing in the event of causing loss of profit or livelihood to other citizens of the country is not the same as that of the government. It’s unique legal position may leave it vulnerable to people affected by the dam being able to demand restitution for their losses in the courts.
The Thaukyekhat-2 Dam, constructed by a subsidiary of Asia World Company called Shwe Energy Co. Ltd, is located 14 miles east of Taungoo. Asia World’s Mr Ko Si Thu explained that electricity produced from the dams will be sent to Taungoo electricity center and the government will have to pay their company to use it. Whether the dam is profitable or not may have a major impact on future dam building in the country, for which private investment has increasingly been sought by the government, and promoted by international financial institutions like the World Bank and ADB.
Karen News (http://karennews.org)
Myanmar Country Report on Progress of Power Development Plans and Transmission Interconnection Projects, Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam, 21.11.2008
Thawthikoh blog (http://thawthikho.blogspot.com/)