Kunlong (or Upper Thanlwin) dam on the Salween River, Myanmar

The 1,400 MW Kunlong dam on the Salween River would irreversibly destroy a unique ecosystem and the livelihood basis for many villagers. The project faces strong opposition from civil society groups and activists.


The Salween River (also known as Thanlwin, or Nu river) remains one of the few largely untouched and free flowing rivers in the world. It is a unique river ecosystem as well as a livelihood source for many villagers from different ethnic groups. A series of hydropower plants proposed to be constructed on the Salween river in Myanmar would change this irreversibly. The Kunlong dam (sometimes also referred to as Upper Thanlwin dam) is one of them and has caused substantial concerns among affected villagers, civil society organizations (CSOs) and others over heavy social and environmental impacts [1,2,3,4,5,6].

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Basic Data
NameKunlong (or Upper Thanlwin) dam on the Salween River, Myanmar
ProvinceShan State
SiteKunlong Township
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Water Management
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Dams and water distribution conflicts
Land acquisition conflicts
Transport infrastructure networks (roads, railways, hydroways, canals and pipelines)
Specific CommoditiesElectricity
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsThe Kunlong dam is located about 7km upstream from Holi village, Kunlong township, in Norther Shan State [1]. The hydropower project is one of the largest in Myanmar developed in a joint venture with foreign and domestic companies [7].

Planned capacity amounts to 1,400 MW [1,2,4]. About 90% of the electricity produced is planned to be sold to China through the China Southern Power Grid [2,4,7,8].

According to an article in the Myanmar times [7], the involved companies are Gold Water Resources (China), Hanergy Holding Group (China) and Myanmar’s Asia World Group, which is involved through a partnership with Hanergy Holding Group. According to The Irrawaddy [8], Asia World is a Burmese conglomerate owned by US-sanctioned tycoon Steven Law.

News stated that Hydrochina Kunming Engineering carried out the feasibility study and that Biodiversity and Nature Conservation Association (Banca) from Myanmar and Khiti Engineering Institute from China conducted the ESIA surveys [7, see also 1].

According to SHRF [3], Asia World is carrying out the construction at a cost of 1.4 billion USD.

Reports say, if implemented, the project would displace 418 people from four villages in Kunlong Township, Shan State [8].
Level of Investment (in USD)1,400,000,000 USD
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population418 displaced through reservoir [8]; 20,000 negatively affected through the construction of access roads [2]
Start Date2007
Company Names or State EnterprisesGold Water Resources Co. Ltd from China - joint venture partner
Hanergy Holding Group Ltd. from China - joint venture partner
Asia World Group Myanmar from Myanmar - joint venture partner
Kunming Engineering Corporation Limited from China - consultant for feasibility studies
Biodiversity and Nature Conservation Association (Banca) (Banca) from Myanmar - consultant for impact assessments
Khiti Engineering Institute from China - consultant for impact assessments
Relevant government actorsMinistry of Electric Power, Myanmar.

Department of Hydro Power Implementation

Myanmar Investment Commission (MIC)

and others
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersShan Human Rights Foundations (SHRF), http://www.shanhumanrights.org/

Burma Rivers Network, http://www.burmariversnetwork.org/

Salween Watch

International Rivers, https://www.internationalrivers.org/

And many others
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingInternational ejos
Local ejos
ethnic Shan groups
Recreational users
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Religious groups
Social movements
Fisher people
Local government/political parties
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of MobilizationCreation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Other Environmental impacts
Potential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
OtherConstruction of access roads caused water pollution [3]
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Militarization and increased police presence
Potential: Displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusUnder construction
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCompensation
Strengthening of participation
Project temporarily suspended
Impacts from road construction were not compensated, according to SHRF [3]. Government officials say that plantations lost to the reservoir have been compensated [7]. Project temporarily suspended over security concerns [7].
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.The project was temporarily delayed over security concerns as it is located in a conflict area. Plans for construction have not been cancelled.
Sources and Materials

2014 Myanmar Electricity Law
[click to view]

2016 Myanmar Investment Law
[click to view]


[1] Burma Rivers Network on the Kunlong Dam (accessed online 03.05.2018).
[click to view]

[2] Salween Watch, 2014. "Hydropower Projects on the Salween River: An Update" (accessed online 03.05.2018).
[click to view]

[3] Shan Human Rights Foundation (SHRF), February, 2014 "Large-scale land confiscation for Salween dam infrastructure in northern Shan State" (accessed online 03.05.2018).
[click to view]

[4] Salween Watch Coalition, March 2016 "Current Status of Dam Projects on the Salween River" (accessed online 03.05.2018).
[click to view]

[5] "Myanmar’s toxic legacy of large dams". Article by Beth Walker, The Third Pole, 14 March, 2017. (accessed online 03.05.2018).
[click to view]

[6] The Irrawaddy, 19 January 2015 "Civil Society Organizations Call for Halt to Salween Dam Projects". (accessed online 03.05.2018).
[click to view]

Banktrack.org on the Salween Dam Cascade (November 2016)
[click to view]

[7] The Myanmar Times, 9 July 2015 "Kunlong hydro project delayed over security concerns" (accessed online 03.05.2018).
[click to view]

[8] The Irrawaddy, 20 June 2014 "Govt Pushes Ahead With 3 Salween, Irrawaddy Tributary Dams" (accessed online 03.05.2018).
[click to view]

Other Documents

Salween River close to Konlung township Photo credit and source: Shan Human Rights Foundation (SHRF), http://burmacampaign.org.uk/media/land-confiscation-for-Salween-dam.pdf
[click to view]

Construction of access roads Photo credit and source: Shan Human Rights Foundation (SHRF), http://burmacampaign.org.uk/media/land-confiscation-for-Salween-dam.pdf
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorEJatlas Southeast Asia Team (ejatlas.asia"at"gmail.com)
Last update04/05/2018