The Pa Ta Dam project and its potentially huge negative impact
Local villagers have reported that a Japanese company plans to construct a dam on the Pa Ta River between Kyet Oo Taung Mountain and the Kwee T’Ma Mountains in Hpa-an District. In 2007, several unknown people from “the city” came to the area to measure the proposed construction site and placed some concrete measurement markers there without prior notice or consultation with local people.
|These photos were taken by a KHRG community member on May 31st 2014 in Htoh Kaw Koh village, Nabu Township, Hpa-an District. They show one of the concrete measurement markers that were placed by unknown people at the bottom of Kyet Oo Taung Mountain in 2007. The words on the marker are; IRRIGATION DEMARTMENT, YANGON, BM NO 1, PA TA DAM PROJECT, and AL 130 471 FT. [Photos: KHRG]|
The proposed dam would pass through the current site of a pagoda on Kyet Oo Taung Mountain, W--- Monastery, Waw Lay village and Htee Hseh Hker village. The resultant flooding could impact a far wider area. Local villagers fear that if the project is implemented as intended, it will have numerous negative effects on approximately 40 villages in Nabu and Paingkyon townships. Serious environmental and social impacts, such as displacement, migration and destruction of livelihoods will almost certainly result if villagers’ paddy fields and plantations, houses, schools, pagodas and monasteries are flooded. The upcoming implementation of the project has caused thousands of villagers to feel that they are under imminent threat, particularly since they became aware of visits by a manager of a Japanese company to the proposed construction site in August and again in October 2013. Villagers also fear that Tatmadaw troops will probably come to the area to provide security for the project.
|This photo was taken by a KHRG community member on May 31st 2014 near Waw Lay village, Nabu Township, Hpa-an District. It shows Saw M---, head monk of W--- Monastery, which is under threat from the proposed Pa Ta Dam construction site. [Photo: KHRG]|
Saw M---, head monk of W--- Monastery, told KHRG: “I hope the implementation of the Pa Ta Dam project will not be carried out anymore. If we have empathy for one another, will they [people involved in the dam project] agree to construct this kind of dam on their land? Because it will not only wipe monasteries, but it will also wipe out many other places.”
|These photos were taken by a KHRG community member on May 31st 2014 in Htoh Kaw Koh village, Nabu Township, Hpa-an District. The photo on the left shows the Pa Ta River, near the proposed site of the Pa Ta Dam project. The photo on the right shows Kyet Oo Taung Mountain, which the proposed dam would be built on. [Photos: KHRG]|
Problems caused by the widespread sale and use of yaba; local armed actors meet with villagers on the issue
In Paingkyon and Nabu townships, Hpa-an District, the widespread sale and use of drugs has become a big problem in local communities over the past two years, leading to addiction, mental health problems, poverty, and drug related abuses including rape and killings. Villagers dare not complain about drug issues openly due to fear of those involved in the drug trade, as some of them are affiliated with Karen ethnic armed groups, the Border Guard Force (BGF) or the Tatmadaw. Therefore, villagers do not know where to lodge complaints regarding drugs.
Most of the drug users are young people. A local Buddhist monk told KHRG that: “Out of 100 percent of the people, about 75 percent of them use drugs.” Villagers said that some male school students are also using drugs. A school teacher named Saw T--- told KHRG that, “Especially, middle school students have started to practice the use of drugs. Three percent of students use drugs. They have no obedience to older people, can’t follow lessons from the school and don’t want to do social work. I don’t want them to use drugs because good, young generations are a strength for the country.”
|A KHRG community member took this photo of school teacher Saw T--- giving a speech on May 31st 2014, during a meeting of local villagers in Htoh Kaw Koh village, Nabu Township, Hpa-an District. Villagers and Buddhist monks called the meeting to enable local people to express their opinions on a range of problems facing their communities. [Photo: KHRG]|
After leaders of local armed actors became aware of the problem of increasingly wide spread drug use in local communities, leaders from the Karen National Union (KNU), BGF, KNU/KNLA-Peace Council and Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA) gathered together and held a meeting with villagers at Htoh Kaw Koh Monastery in Htoh Kaw Koh village, Nabu Township on May 21st 2014 in order to discuss solutions to the problem. It was the first meeting that leaders of local armed actors have held with villagers focusing mainly on drug issues.
During the meeting, villagers highlighted four main difficulties in Paingkyon and Nabu townships:
1) Widespread sale and use of drugs;
2) The loss of forest due to logging;
3) The lack of a clear complaint mechanism to report problems for villagers living in areas under mixed control of different armed actors;
4) Huge concerns regarding the upcoming Pa Ta Dam development project, which is feared will have serious negative consequences for thousands of villagers living in approximately 40 villages.
Feeling overwhelmed by these problems, local villagers responded by demanding action from local authorities. In May 2014, Buddhist monks cooperated with villagers in a grassroots collective action, launching a signature petition aimed at leaders of local armed actors.
|A KHRG community member took these photos on May 31st 2014 in Htoh Kaw Koh village, Nabu Township, Hpa-an District. They show two banners prepared for a meeting organised by local villagers and Buddhist monks to enable local people to express their opinions on a range of problems facing their communities. The banner on the left reads: “Ban the drugs.” The banner on the right reads: “Ban the construction of the [Pa Ta] dam.” [Photos: KHRG]|
The five main actions demanded by villagers are:
1) Leaders of local armed actors to form a common judicial complaints mechanism;
2) Prohibit companies from entering the area and doing logging;
3) Reconciliation of Karen ethnic armed groups;
4) Ban drugs;
5) Ban the construction of the Pa Ta Dam.
3,933 villagers took the initiative to sign the petition because they want to see these problems solved. Additionally, they held a consultation meeting to enable local people to express their opinions on a range of problems facing their communities at Htoh Kaw Koh Monastery and the surrounding area on May 31st 2014. 1,407 villagers attended the meeting, holding up placards with slogans calling for action on their concerns.
|These photos were taken by a KHRG community member during a meeting on May 31st 2014, in Htoh Kaw Koh village, Nabu Township, Hpa-an District. They show vilagers taking collective action to demand that leaders of local armed actors work together to address their most pressing concerns, which include the widespread use of narcotics, loss of forestland due to logging, negative consequences of dam building and the lack of a complaints mechanism to voice their grievances. [Photos: KHRG]|