Theats to Burma's estuaries
|Title:|| ||In the Balance: Salween dams threaten downstream communities in Burma
|Date of publication:|| ||May 2007|
|Description/subject:|| ||Summary: "
The Salween is Southeast Asia's longest free flowing river and one of Burma's most important waterways. For the half a million people living where the river meets the Andaman Sea, the Salween is a way of life interlinked with its seasonal flows and daily tides. However, Burma's military dictatorship, together with Thai and Chinese investors, is moving ahead with plans to dam the Salween. The communities living downstream have not been informed or consulted about the dam plans or their potential impacts, even though their lives stand to be permanently altered.
This report describes the unique geography and ecology of the downstream estuary, where salt water meets fresh and the mainstream Salween and its two main tributaries are tidal for up to 75 kilometers inland. Numerous islands, some of them seasonal and some of them culturally sacred, are rich with fertile sediment that flows down the Salween each year. The delicate mix of salt and fresh water created by the seasonal flow of the river and the rise and fall of the tides determines daily life. Local people collect fresh water at high tide and store it in community pools for drinking and household use, and manage a system of canals to irrigate fields with fresh water and protect crops from salt water. In this way, villages subsist and provide farm produce to the capital city of Mon State and the five townships at the mouth of the Salween.
Natural seasonal floods irrigate and replenish fields, and support the migration of fish species that use flooded habitats as spawning grounds before returning to the sea. Fisher folk carefully follow the migration patterns of countless species to make their catch and provide fish paste, one of the essential ingredients of Mon food. Wild plants that grow in the unique mix of salt and fresh water of the estuary are used as medicines and food.
If the dams are built, the downstream effects, as studied elsewhere in the world, stand to alter the lives of over half a million people. These effects include altered river flows that cause higher concentrations of salt water to travel further inland. Changes in water quality, salinity, or seasonal flows are likely to make community water pools undrinkable and affect agricultural crops. Sudden and unnatural water surges increase erosion, destroy islands, and make the river dangerous to local communities. In addition, the decreased amount of sediment reaching downstream damages agriculture. A decline in fish catches due to interrupted migrations will impact the protein source of the local diet. Any one of these changes to the river would tip the balance fine-tuned over generations between self-reliant communities and their environment. Lastly, the proposed dams lie on active earthquake fault lines; dam breaks would be a disaster.
Yet, despite all these concerns and potential problems, those living downstream have not even been informed of the project and unknown to them, their future is left hanging in the balance. The suppression of free media and arrests, beatings, and extra-judicial killings of anyone that challenges the regime in Burma make it impossible to access adequate information or to question the projects. Any dam project needs to take into consideration the social and environmental impacts on those living downstream and, most importantly, allow for their informed consent. This is impossible under the military dictatorship in Burma. The Mon Youth Progressive Organization therefore calls on all parties to halt their investments and stop the Salween dam projects."|
|Language:|| ||English, Burmese, Thai, Chinese.|
|Source/publisher:|| ||Mon Youth Progressive Organization|
|Format/size:|| ||pdf (English, 623K-reduced version, 743K-original; Burmese, 1MB-reduced version, 1.2MB-original; Thai, 920K-reduced version; 1MB-original; Chinese, 83K)|
|Alternate URLs:|| ||http://www.burmalibrary.org/docs21/MYPO-2007-05-In-the-Balance-Salween_dams_threaten_downstream_com...
|Date of entry/update:|| ||07 May 2007|