Ywathit dam on the Salween River, Karenni state, Myanmar

The plans for the mainstream Ywathit dam on the Salween river threaten the existence of the ethnic Yintale, the stability in the region and the return of internally displaced people to their homelands.


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 [2]. 

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Basic Data
NameYwathit dam on the Salween River, Karenni state, Myanmar
ProvinceKarenni state
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
Specific CommoditiesLand
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsThe dam would be located at Ywathit in Karenni state, approximately 45 km from the Thai Border [2].

Installed capacity: 600 MW according to the MoU, although, according to CSO reports [2,3] the developer’s webpage states an installed capacity of 4,500 MW.

Annual production: 21,789 Gwh, according to Burma Rivers Network [1].

The project was reported to be developed by China Datang Corporation [1,2,3], in collaboration with Shwe Taung Hydropower Co Ltd and HydroChina Kunming [1].

No information on reservoir size could be found.

No information on investment size could be found.
Level of Investment (in USD)unknown
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Populationseveral thousands [6]
Start Date2010
Company Names or State EnterprisesChina Datang Corporation from China - developer
Shwe Taung Corporation from Myanmar - developer
Kunming Engineering Corporation Limited from China
Relevant government actorsMinistry of Electric Power, Myanmar

Department of Hydro Power Implementation

Myanmar Investment Commission (MIC)

and others
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersKarenni Development and Research Group (KDRG)

Karenni Civil Societies Network (KCSN)

Karenni Environmental Group

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

Salween Watch Coalition

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 MobilizingFarmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Social movements
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Local scientists/professionals
ethnic Karenni are affected, particularly the Yintale, a sub-group of the Karenni.
Fisher people
Forms of MobilizationCreation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Arguments over stability and peace in the region, disturbed by this large-scale project
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Potential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsPotential: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
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 StatusPlanned (decision to go ahead eg EIA undertaken, etc)
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseStrengthening of participation
Preparatory work (road construction, surveying); clashes between Burmese army and ethnic armed forces, violent attacks of engineers [1]
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.Despite the tensions and the potential large-scale impacts, the plans to construct the dam continue to be pursued.
Sources and Materials

2012 Foreign Investment Law
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2014 Myanmar Electricity Law
[click to view]

2012 Environmental Conservation Law
[click to view]

2015 Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Procedure
[click to view]

2012 Vacant, Fallow and Virgin Lands Management Law
[click to view]

2016 Myanmar Investment Law
[click to view]


[7] Suhardiman, D., Rutherford, J., Bright, S.J., Suhardiman, D., Rutherford, J., John, S., Putting, B., 2017. Putting violent armed conflict in the center of the Salween hydropower debates. Crit. Asian Stud. 49, 349–364.
[click to view]


[5] The Irrawaddy, 17 August 2013. "Peace be dammed". (accessed online 04.05.2018).
[click to view]

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

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

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

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

[6] Burma News International, 16 March 2011. "Karenni organization holds dam construction press conference" (accessed online 04.05.2018).
[click to view]

[8] [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]

Media Links

Voices of the dammed, by Burma River Network
[click to view]

Other Documents

Map Source and Credit: Burma River Network; http://burmariversnetwork.org/title/dam-projects/ywathit-dam.html
[click to view]

Salween dams and militarization Source and Credit: Salween River Coalition; https://www.internationalrivers.org/resources/hydropower-projects-on-the-salween-river-an-update-8258
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorEJatlas Southeast Asia Team (ejatlas.asia"at"gmail.com)
Last update07/05/2018