Deputy Minister of Electric Power Maung Thar Thwe fielded questions about the controversial Tasang hydropower project during a lower house parliamentary session on Tuesday, assuring the house that the project will be implemented with a focus on domestic needs.
In response to a question by lower house member Nan Wah Nu, Maung Thar Thwe said that electrical distribution will benefit Burma’s populations, and that the ministry plans to consult local communities about their concerns over potential impacts of the development.
The deputy minister added, however, that it is too early to tell how much profit will be earned by the government and the contracted companies.
Nan Wah Nu said that she was not satisfied with the deputy minister’s vows, as reports of damages have already begun to emerge from around the site.
“That particular area is usually not flood-prone, but lately we have started seeing some inundation during the monsoon season,” she told DVB on Tuesday, adding that the government has insisted that the project is still only in a planning phase. Local populations, she said, fear an impending forced relocation nonetheless.
The Tasang hydropower project is the largest of six dam projects proposed for the Salween River. The dam is set to be located on the upper Salween in Shan State, eastern Burma.
All of the proposed dams, which are at various stages of implementation, have faced enormous criticism for lack of consultation, potential mass relocation of indigenous peoples and concerns over environmental destruction. Two of the projects are currently stalled because of public opposition and concerns about possible human rights violations.
The Tasang dam is expected to generate more than 7,000 megawatts of energy, which is being eyed by the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) and two Chinese firms, Sinohydro Corporation and the China Three Gorges Corporation.
Costs of the project are estimated at around US$6 billion.