Keep the Salween River Free

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Salween River is one of the region’s last largely free-flowing rivers and is shared by China, Thailand, and Burma. The river originates on the Tibetan Plateau and flows through China’s Three Parallel Rivers World Heritage Site, before becoming the Salween in Burma and Thailand and emptying into the Andaman Sea.

Five dams in China and six in Burma have been pushed by the governments of China, Burma and Thailand for the entire length of the Salween River. Communities living downstream have voiced strong opposition to dam construction because millions depend on the Salween to sustain their fisheries and farmlands. While none of the projects have received approval, several dams in China have started site preparation.

Write to the Ambassadors of Burma, China and Thailand in your country asking them to halt dam projects on the Salween River and conduct a full Strategic Environmental Assessment of the entire basin. Here's how:

  1. Copy or download the letter below and add a personal message.
  2. Add the address(es) of the Ambassador(s) in your country. To find the address of the Chinese, Burmese or Thai embassy nearest you, click here.
  3. Sign your name and note your country. Mail your letter and let us know!
  4. Tell your friends and family to send a letter via Facebook or Twitter. For Twitter, be sure to include the hashtag #SaveSalween.

Sample letter:

The Honorable [Full name]
Ambassador of [Country]

[Date: XX Month 20XX]

Dear Mr./Madame Ambassador,

I am writing to express my grave concern over the many large hydropower projects being developed on the Salween River by companies from China, Myanmar and Thailand. Currently five dams are being promoted for the Upper Salween in China, and six more have been approved for the Lower Salween in Myanmar.

The cumulative impact of these dams, if not assessed and addressed, could spell disaster for an area that is rich in biodiversity, seismically active, and crucial to the survival of over ten million people from source to sea. While none of these dams have been approved, site preparation has already started on at least two sites in China (at Songta and Maji).

Farther downstream, the dams in Myanmar are located in conflict areas that continue to experience much unrest. The dams themselves have been linked to cases of human rights abuses and widespread environmental damage.

Before these projects are allowed to move forward, we urge you to encourage the governments of China, Myanmar and Thailand to:

  1. Jointly carry out a comprehensive strategic environmental assessment of the Salween Basin, in order to determine the ecological and economic value of the entire basin and the cumulative impacts that large-scale dam-building may have on these values.
  2. Explore alternative means to meet the energy demands of your country, through investing in energy efficiency and end-use conservation, alternative energy sources, and strengthening implementation of existing laws and policies on energy, environmental protection, and resettlement.
  3. Inform affected communities and the general public of all plans regarding hydropower development and include them in the decision-making process. This includes publicly releasing dam feasibility studies, Environmental Impact Assessments, MOUs, MOAs, and investment and financial agreements.

[Option: Personal message.]

I thank you for this opportunity to express my support for saving the Salween River and the millions upstream and downstream that it sustains.

[Your Name]
[Optional: Address]