The largely free flowing Salween River (also known as Thanlwin, or Nu river) nurtures a unique river ecosystem and represents a livelihood source for thousands of local residents from different ethnic groups. A cascade of mainstream dams proposed on the river has caused large concerns among villagers and civil society groups over heavy social and environmental impacts [1,2,3,4]. The Ywathit dam is one of the mainstream dams located in Karenni State, close to where the Pai tributary river joins the Salween river .
The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the developer China Datang Corporation and the Burmese army in 2010 [1,2,3]. The MoU included not only the Salween mainstream Ywathit dam, but also two other dams on the tributaries Pawn and Thabet river . Groups speculated that the Pawn River dam would be built first to be able to power the Ywathit dam construction . Being located in a conflict area, the dam construction has spurred tensions among different groups. In 2010, a Chinese-Burmese team carrying out a survey to plan the construction was reported to be attacked close to Prusoe Township. Three Chinese engineers died, according to a report . Militarization of the area increased subsequently. In 2011, Burmese Border Guard Forces were located in the area to assure safety for the dam construction . Surveying for the three dams continued. While also environmental groups have tried to conduct field research in the area to better understand the development and potential impacts, reports  say they were arrested, despite the agreements between Burmese and ethnic forces that stated that all development projects would be made public and community-based organizations would be allowed to have access to information [2, see also 5].
The social and ecological impacts would be far-reaching, civil society groups fears [1,2,6]. At a press conference held by the CSO Karenni Development and Research Group (KDRG) in 2011, members stated that “there are 212 villages that will be affected, and 37,000 people who will face a lot of difficulties” [quoted in 6]. The Burma Rivers Network reports on five main impacts of the dam [see 1]: First, the project fuels conflict and instability because it is in an active conflict area. Tensions around the dam construction have increased as well as militarization through the Burmese army [1, see also 3,7]. Second, the project threatens forests and biodiversity. Logging has increased in the area through the construction of new access roads, as also reported by the Karenni Environmental Group [see 2]. The logged rainforest and the Salween river ecosystems is comprised of unique biodiversity and habitats that will be irreversibly lost if the project moves forward . Third, the dam threatens indigenous people, of which thousands had to flee during past conflicts in the area. The dam construction on their traditional lands will make their return even more difficult . The three dams signed under the same MoU from 2010 particularly threaten the ethnic Yintale, a small sub-group of Karenni, the network states . Fourth, the dam may reduce traditional agricultural production of downstream farmers cultivating the land on the fertile river banks. The Salween river is a river rich in sediments that provides important nutrients to downstream cultivation areas. This would change with the blocking of the river . Finally, concerns are also voiced about changes in water supply and levels which may affect upstream and downstream farmers and fishers. The dam’s location next to a fault line raises further concerns about earthquakes . While these impacts would have to be carried by local populations, groups fear  that most of the electricity would be sold to Thailand or China, or prioritized for the Myanmar army.
Hydropower development has caused massive resistance in Myanmar because of the many social and environmental concerns, their construction in conflict areas, and the frequently improper consultation and compensation procedures [2,3,5,7,8]. On February 28, 2016, 10 Karreni civil society groups signed a statement to oppose the further surveying of the area for the construction of the Ywathit mainstream dam and the two tributary dams . Regionwide, more than 60,000 people and 131 civil society groups have signed a petition in 2014 to oppose the cascade of planned dams on the Salween driver . Groups call for a moratorium of large dams on the Salween and in the country until the country achieves peace and stability and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) have returned to their homes [1,3].