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 Human Rights Issues for People of the Nujiang / Salween River 

Minority Profiles

Out of some 55 ethnic minorities and nationalities in China there are about two dozen ethnic minorities living in the vacinity of the Nujiang River in the Yunnan province including the Yi who number in the millions and also the Pumi, Lisu, Nu, Naxi and Drung. In Burma the Salween runs along the Thai-Burmese border where there are at least thirteen ethnic groups, including the Akha, Karen, Karenni, Lahu, Lisu, Mon, Pa-O, Padaung, Palaung, Shan and Wa that live in traditional communities along its banks.

Gorgeous people of Nujiang Gorge (Minorities)

Located in Southwest China's Yunnan Province, Nujiang Gorge is a mysterious area rich in ethnic culture. At the foot of the steep Jianshan and Tuanshan mountains, this 316-kilometre-long river suddenly changes its course and flows as waterfalls over the cliffs. It is in this region that the Lisu minority celebrate their various festivals... (Xinhuanet, March 30, 2004)
news.xinhuanet.com/english/2004-03/30/content_1391527.htm


Lisus reveal beauty of life

The Lisu ethnic minority group, comprised of more than 570,000 people, primarily live in concentrated communities in the Nujiang Lisu Autonomous Prefecture of Yunnan Province... (The Peoples Daily)
http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/sbh/news/cd/cd8232.htm


Human Rights Issues

The Nujiang River which is called the Salween in Burma is Asia's longest free flowing river. Literally millions of people live along its banks and derive there livelihood from it. In China over one dozen dams are proposed to be built on the Nujiang. In Burma, the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), the Thai government, and the Energy Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) are pushing ahead secretively with plans for a series of giant dams on the Nu/Salween/Thanlwin River. (Map and Descriptions)

A critical issue for many who live along the river is the unwelcome prospect of being displaced if they live in the areas to be flooded by the proposed dams. This almost invariably means loss of their homes, property, farmland and their means of livelihood and survival. The indigenous peoples and ethnic minorities are often the ones that are most strongly impacted and in some cases the very existence of their culture is threatened with eradication by the dams. Past experience in China has shown that millions have been forced to leave their ancestral lands and they were generally given little compensation and poor alternatives for resettlement on land that was often inadequate to sustain their survival.

In Burma the situation is much worse. There are reliable reports that the Burmese military government has been forcibly relocating tens of thousands of people to clear enormous areas that are expected to be flooded by the proposed dams on the Salween and the army is conducting many atrocities in the process. In Burma some 32 percent of the population consists of ethnic minorities that are subject to ongoing persecution by the ruling military junta that seeks to eliminate or control them. A great many of them live along and derive their livelihood from the rivers and for them the proposed construction of dams only compounds their problem.

Under the current military regime, there will not be any form of public participation in decisions concerning the dams. The communities will be forced to bear all of the negative impacts from dam construction and they will not receive any benefits. It has been well documented that dams in Burma are built using forced labor under supervision by the military. In addition, the military forces villagers to relocate often at gunpoint and without providing compensation. To assure they will not return their valuables and food stocks are taken, their homes are burned and their crop lands are bulldozed or burned. See current reports of these atrocities from the Burma Free Rangers here and here.

The basic economic equation and source of injustice derives from the fact that the Burmese military junta in collaboration with the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) is planning to build several large dams on the Salween that will flood a huge area causing irreparable harm to one of the worlds richest and most biodiverse regions and destruction of the homelands of a significant portion of its indigenous population. The military junta that runs the Burmese government plans to export the electricity to Thailand so that there will be little benefit to the local population whose lives and livelihood will be sacrificed to this enormous misguided adventure. Lastly but by no means the least responsible for perpetrating this disaster are the institutions providing the financing to Burma, most notably the Asian Development Bank, but complicit with them in similar projects elsewhere in Southeast Asia is the World Bank.

The following links provide graphic accounts of the impacts on the people and the environment that the dams will cause including clear violations against human rights happening daily that are in part motivated by the proposed dams on the Salween in Burma.

Information on Nujiang/Salween Dams and Their Impacts:

Human Rights Focus