In January 2010, the state-owned Datang Corporation of China signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Burma’s regime to build three dams in Karenni State, including a 600 Megawatt dam on the mainstream Salween at Ywathit, and two others on its tributaries, the Pawn and Thabet rivers.
Height: unknown at this time
Installed capacity: 4500 MW(According to the parliament) or 600 MW (According to MOU) (Last updated: Jan 2015)
Annual production: 21,789 Gwh (Last updated: Sept 2014)
Location : Karenni State
Burmese (Last updated: Jan 2015)
Shwe Taung Hydropower Co Ltd
Subcontracted to: HydroChina Kunming
Important to note: both companies have signed on to UN Global Compact
Chinese (Last updated: Jan 2015)
China Datang Corporation – Datang Overseas Investment
Engineers generally estimate that it costs US$1 million per 1MW of installed capacity to build a hydropower dam. Depending on the conditions of the dam sites and cost overruns, investment into the Ywathti Dam could reach US$600 million. Income generated from the sale of the electricity generated by the dam will depend on the annual production and the buying price.
Cost: $ 600 Million (Last updated: Jan 2015)
Electricity – where will it go?
It is unknown where the electricity from new dams in Karenni State will be sent. Given the trend of other dam projects in Burma, it is feared that most will be sold to Thailand or China, or prioritized for Burma’s military and its cronies.
Project Status - Last updated February 2011
Chinese engineers guarded by armed soldiers are currently surveying the dam site, yet the local populations have not been informed of the dam projects. No one is allowed to go near the site and no environmental, social, or health impact assessments have been disclosed for the Ywathit dam.
1 Fueling conflict and instability
The dam is located in an active conflict area that remains unstable. More troops are being brought in to guard the projects and staff, which will increase resentment and animosity against Burma’s regime and dam investors. In December 2010 a convoy of Burma Army soldiers escorting engineers to the dam site was attacked and three people were reportedly killed.
2 Threatening forests and biodiversity
Logging has recently been increasing in the area of the Ywathit dam; there are logging camps and saw mills along the Salween all the way to the Shan State border. These forests are in the bio-diverse ecoregion of the Kayah-Karen Montane Rainforests. Both dams will also negatively impact fisheries; the Salween is home to at least 47 species that can be found nowhere else in the world.
3 Threatening indigenous peoples
Thousands of indigenous peoples who were pushed off their lands during forced relocation campaigns have yet to return due to the ongoing conflict; the dams will make such a return even more difficult.
The dams are particularly threatening the Yintale, a sub-group of the Karenni that now number just 1,000. The Yintale rely on lowland farms near the banks of the Salween and Pawn rivers for their livelihood, traditionally planting millet and sesame as main crops. Their ancient capital, Bawlake, is just downstream of the Pawn Dam.
4 Reducing agricultural production
The Salween is a sediment-rich river, providing vital nutrients to gardens and farms along its banks for hundreds of kilometers downstream and helping to sustain the nearly ½ million people living in the Salween’s delta area of Mon State, an important rice-producing region. The dam will block these sediments from reaching the farms that need them, decreasing productivity and impacting food security.
5 Water surges and shortages
Water will be stored and released from behind the dams according to electricity demands, not the safety of downstream residents or agricultural needs. Sudden surges and drops in water levels will cause boating and other accidents. Water shortages and potential salt-water intrusion at the delta would be disastrous for farmers. Finally, the dam is located near a fault line; an earthquake could cause a dam break, leading to devastating floods.