Thanlwin dam still in the planning stages

Planned hydropower projects on the Thanlwin river are still in the early stages, according to Ministry of Electric Power officials, disputing claims in Thai media that a memorandum of understanding for one project will be signed later this year.

Thai newspaper The Nation reported on July 15 that Thailand, Myanmar and China are to sign a memorandum of understanding to develop a 7000 megawatt project on the upper Thanlwin at Mong Ton, citing Thai energy minister Narongchai Akrasanee.

The article said Electricity Generation Authority of Thailand International and China’s Three Gorges would both hold 40 percent stakes, while the Myanmar government would hold the remaining 20pc.

The plan was for 10pc of the output to kept in Myanmar and 90pc exported to Thailand, the article said.

However, Myanmar authorities said projects on the Thanlwin – also known as the Salween – river have been delayed for a number of reasons, with several memorandums of understanding already signed but little progress having been made.

An official from the Department of Hydro Power Implementation under the Ministry of Electric Power said that talks are still in progress. “We are not sure about anything right now. At the moment, we are not discussing any details of Mong Ton with China or Thailand. I think this report is showing Thailand’s desires rather than reality.”

The Mong Ton dam in Shan State could be the largest hydropower project in Southeast Asia in terms of size and generating capacity, according to the Salween River Network.

It has also been controversial. Representatives from a total of 122 local and regional civil society groups announced the launch of the “Save the Salween” campaign in Yangon last week, calling for the permanent stop of all hydropower projects on the river, which travels across Shan, Kayin, Kayah and Mon states before emptying into the Andaman Sea.

“We have heard the basin area with the dam will be bigger than Singapore,” said Nan Khan Naunt, a protestor from Kunlong township in Shan State. “That’s why we are all protesting.”

The feasibility study of the Mong Ton project was completed a year ago, though the environmental and social impact assessment surveys are still being done by Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation from Australia, according to the Ministry of Electric Power official.

The ministry has also asked a Swiss firm called Stucky SA to review the feasibility study due to the projects size, he said. “We can’t handle both the feasibility study and the environmental and social impact assessment, and they need to be checked by third parties, not the ministry or China or Thailand.”

Only one project on the Thanlwin river, at Kunlong, has reached the status of a memorandum of agreement. However, progress has been delayed due to nearby fighting between the Tatmadaw and ethnic armed groups.

“We are not sure when the next step will happen,” the official said. “The only thing I can assure right now is the projects are still being processed.”

Source: Myanmar Times

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