The proposed China-backed dams are located on two rivers, the N’Mai Hka and the Nga Chang Hka.
Hundreds of indigenous peoples in the Yit Law also Yit Law Hkaung area of Kachin State’s Chipwe Township demonstrated against the construction of eight hydropower dams on Thursday, which was also the International Day of Action for Rivers.
The proposed dams are backed by China Power Investment and would be located along the N’Mai Hka and Ngaw Chang Hka, two rivers in Kachin State. Thursday’s protests took place on the banks of the N’Mai Hka, and were attended by more than 500 people, including political leaders and indigenous community representatives. It is the third such annual campaign on March 14 in Kachin State.
If completed, the dams would generate a total of 8,900 megawatts of electricity, largely designated for export. Locals say the projects would have grave environmental, social and economic consequences for local communities due to flooding, land loss, and displacement.
Secretary of the Chipwe-Sawlaw environmental conservation group Lachid Lum Zawng told KNG that the demonstrators urged the Burmese government’s hydropower construction department and international companies involved to halt all dams on the area’s rivers.
“Our local people have been suffering a lot because of these hydropower dams. Their farmland had been grabbed. They haven’t gotten any compensation for their crops,” he explained. “The respective governments haven’t solved these problems. We want these dams to be stopped as soon as possible.”
Slogans chanted during the demonstration included “long live Ngaw Chang Hka” and “everlasting N’Mai Hka,” describing the goal of stopping the dams as “our cause.”
Construction of the hydropower dams in question began in 2007 and stopped in late 2010 because of ongoing armed conflict in the area. Locals are now demanding an “official and complete stop” to the projects.
Zung Kyi, a local indigenous man, said that he feared forced relocation from his ancestral land due to the dam construction, comparing it to the “killing of local people.”
“Our ancestors have lived in the N’mai Hka and Ngaw Chang Hka area for so many years. Our ancestors worked on their farmland in this area,” he told KNG. “We depend on these rivers for our daily survival.”
The dams are known as Gaw Lan, Tongxinqiao, Hkan Kan and Laung Din on the Ngaw Chang Hka, and Wut Sok, Hkawnglang Hpu, Yenam, and Hpizaw on the N’Mai Hka