Villagers in Paunglaung, located between Naypyidaw and Shan State, have said that a relocation project designed to make way for the Upper Paunglaung Dam is insufficient.
Nearly 10,000 villagers from 23 villages, most of them farmers, have been relocated to newly constructed towns such as Thebyaegong and Hteinpin. The dam is intended to power a 140 megawatt power plant.
The villagers said that in cases where they were allotted land, they were not granted ownership. Maung Muang, one such relocated farmer, said that the lack of ownership makes them feel unstable and thus reluctant to settle in and work the land.
“The state and township authorities said that we cannot 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.
Other farmers suggested that since the new arrangement is untenable, they should be allowed to work their old paddy fields because they have not yet been inundated.
Phoe Htwe was relocated to Hteinpin village in 2013. He said that he would be satisfied with any concession that would allow him to farm and generate income.
“The difficulty is that we have no way to earn a living. Land, paddy field, I will be satisfied with whatever I get. We are farmers and we rely on agriculture. Now we can’t work on our farms even though it isn’t underwater yet,” he said.
Shan State Minister of Electric Power Sai Htun Yin maintained that adequate relocation plans have been made. He said that villagers were granted land and a house if they owned property before the move. If a villager is dissatisfied, they can register a complaint with authorities if they provide sufficient evidence, he said.
“Twenty-three villages were relocated, a total of 2,514 households. We have given them houses and land. We gave land to those who owned land. We gave houses to those who owned houses,” he said. “If they haven’t received it, the government will give it to them immediately, but they need to show us evidence.”
Maw Thar Htwe, the deputy minister of electric power, assured DVB that some of the issues in the new relocation sites will be resolved once the new villages are officially designated as towns. The designation will ensure more benefits such as access to healthcare and local law enforcement.
“Once it [the new village] becomes a town, residents will get all the benefits of a town. They will have a hospital, a police station and schools. They will have access to all the mechanisms of a town,” he said.
The Upper Paunglaung Dam project was initiated by the Ministry of Electric Power in 2005. Located about 26 miles from Pyinmanar, Naypyidaw, it is expected to be complete in 2015, according to the government ministry.