Myanmar, China Sign New Hydropower Deal

The new dam will have a capacity of 2,400 megawatts.

Myanmar and China have signed a deal to build a hydropower dam on the Salween River, as yet the longest undammed waterway in southeast Asia, official media said April 7. The deal is the fourth hydropower agreement signed with China this year, and came just days after Thailand began work on a $6 billion dam on the Salween to generate electricity that will be carried back to the kingdom.

The dam, which is the fifth planned for the 1,750-mile river, will have a capacity of 2,400 megawatts, the government said.

Myanmar's Hydropower Implementation Department signed the deal April 5 with the Chinese firms Farsighted Investment Group and Gold Water Resources.

Activists warn the dams could prove disastrous to the Salween's delicate ecosystem and accuse Myanmar's military junta of using the dams as an excuse to evict thousands of ethnic minority villagers from their land.

China and Thailand have signed a raft of deals over the last year to tap impoverished Myanmar's energy resources, particularly in natural gas and hydropower.

The U.S. have economic sanctions against military-run Myanmar to punish them for the ongoing detention of democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other human rights abuses. But the effect of the sanctions has been largely eroded by rapidly increasing trade with energy-hungry neighbors like China, Thailand and India.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2007

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