Construction on the controversial Upper Paunglaung Dam in Mandalay has been completed, according to Burmese state media.

The opening ceremony for the dam was set for Wednesday, according an official at the Department of Hydropower Implementation quoted in the Myawady News.

Work on the Upper Paunglaung Dam hydropower project began in 2005, 40 kilometres east of Naypyidaw’s Pyinmana, at the border of Shan and Karenni states.

Some 23 villages, home to 10,000 people, were displaced with the commencement of the project – in many cases the residents, including many farmers, were allocated land in newly constructed nearby towns but were not granted ownership.

Speaking to DVB in 2014, Maung Maing, a relocated local, said the lack of ownership caused the farmers to feel insecure.

“The state and township authorities said that we can’t own the land because the area belongs to the forestry department. If we can’t own the land, there is no guarantee that we can keep working on it,” he said.

Burma Campaign UK reported that that displaced families were paid as little as 50,000 kyat in 2011 (some US $50 at the time) to leave area surrounding the dam, which many claimed as not enough to build news homes and fields.

Since the announcement of the dam at least 10 villagers attempted suicide, according to Physicians for Human Rights (PHR). The number living in poverty also jumped from 15 to 74 percent, with many unable to work the lands to provide for their families and communities.

“Poverty creates a cycle,” said Bill Davis of PHR in October. “Poverty can result in malnutrition. Malnutrition can result in sickness – people who are malnourished get sick more. People who are sick are not able to work.”

The water level in the dam is estimated to be 370 metres deep, according to project engineers. The dam is expected to generate some 140 megawatts of electricity per year.

The dam project is a joint-venture between the Burmese ministry of Electric Power, and China-based Yunnan Machinery Export Company.

http://www.dvb.no/news/controversial-dam-completed/59895