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While being relocated to make way for a controversial hydropower project in southern Shan state, villagers from Pinlaung township say they’ve been given inadequate compensation and have access to unsanitary drinking water.
While government officials had made earlier promises guaranteeing the relocated villagers they would be provided with clean water and farmland to ease the transition, locals say officials have done a substandard job.
According to one villager interviewed by DVB, the land they’ve been relocated on has poor soil that is not fit for farming and residents did not have proper access to drinking water.
“We were promised full electricity and water access at the new location, but there is not enough drinking water – they built a huge drinking water pond there, but the water is very muddy,” said the villager.
More than 8,000 villagers from dozens of villages in Taunggyi district’s Pinlaung are in the process of being relocated to the hills about a mile west of their original land, which will be inundated with water once the Swiss-backed Upper Paunglaung Hydropower Dam is completed in 2015.
Villages were told to begin relocating to the higher ground last August. Earlier this month, officials warned the remaining villagers to vacate the land and said they would not be held responsible if their houses were flooded.
According to one community leader, residents had not been provided with transportation or assistance during the relocation process.
“Now it’s already started raining and we cannot move our household materials to the new location as the roads have been damaged,” he said.
Locals were provided compensation equal to the amount of their houses’ value upon relocation. However, villagers claim the funds have not covered the costs to construct new houses as materials and labour prices have risen as the new arrivals begin to rebuild their homes.
Villagers had also pleaded with officials to provide them with free electricity, but government officials said such a request would likely not be fulfilled.
“For water supply, we will build water-storage ponds because the new village will be on a hill. But I can’t comment on the electricity price,” said deputy director general of the Ministry of Energy’s Thaung Han, according to a report in the Myanmar Times.
“There is nowhere in the country that receives free electricity.”
According to a report published by the Burma Rivers Network, electricity produced by the dam is likely to be sent to the country’s capital Naypyidaw and local communities are not likely to receive power from the 140-megawatt project.