Wed 30 Aug 2006
Filed under: Inside Burma,News
The northwest Burmese town of Khamti on the border with India would be submerged and its 30,000 inhabitants forced to move if a proposed hydro-electric dam project goes ahead, say environmentalists.
The project, mainly intended to supply electricity to India, would also displace 35 villages of the Kuki whose land would be part of the 17,000 acres likely to be flooded.
These are the conclusions of the India-based Kuki Students’ Democratic Front, Tamanthi Dam Campaign Committee and environmentalists in Rangoon. Lu Lun, one of the leaders of the Kuki students’ group, said: â€œSo far there has not been any consultation with the affected Kuki people.â€
A memo of understanding has been signed between the Burmese junta and India’s National Hydro-electric Power Corporation which would build and operate the dam.
It’s not known when the project, to be located on the Chindwin river which passes through Khamti, will be built or at what financial cost.
The Tamanthi hydrodam is meant to have a generating capacity of 1,200-more than Burma’s entire current generating capacity. Similar sized hydrodams being built in Laos, or planned on the Salween river near Burma’s border with Thailand, are budgeted to cost close to or above US $1 billion, analysts note.
NGOs and environmentalists say most of the people who would be directly affected by the Tamanthi project are Kuki, an ethnic group who live on both sides of the India-Burma border. Naga people would also be affected. Rangoon-based journalists told The Irrawaddy that surveys of the likely social and environmental impact of the hydrodam are now under way. â€œThe residents there are not very happy to hear that they must move,â€ said one.
The environmentalists also warned that the proposed dam development could encroach on part of Burma’s largest national park-Hukaung Valley Wildlife Sanctuary-and threaten endangered wild life, including tigers, leopards and gorillas.
The World Bank has estimated that Burma, which produces very little electricity-less than 1,000 megawatts-has the potential from its rivers to produce up to 100,000 megawatts a year. Up to 80 percent of the electricity planned to be generated at Tamanthi will go to India, and most of the power produced by a 600-megawatt hydrodam to be built at Hatgyi on the Salween will go to Thailand.