Farmers have sent a letter to the Chin State government outlining their opposition to a planned dam on the Nawi Tidil river near the state capital of Hakha.
The farmers say that they stand to lose 40 acres of farmland to the project.
“The government told us that they would pay us compensation for our farmland. These are our paddy fields. We have worked on this farmland for so many years. We will not accept compensation,” farmer Per Huwi told Khonumthung News.
The dam is supposed to distribute drinking water from the Nawi Tidil river to people in Hakha town.
“I don’t think the water in the Nawi Tidil river is drinkable. Many water sources have already been damaged by road construction,” Per Huwi said.
She added that the most recent letter to the Chin State administration is the second official message sent to government officials—farmers already sent a statement to State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi.
With 35,000 of Hakha Township’s 50,000 people living in the town, Chin State government spokesperson and municipal minister Soe Htet said that there needs to be a new way to distribute water to the growing community.
“The population is increasing in Hakha town. People from remote areas are migrating into Hakha town. We have a water problem when the population increases in an urban area,” he explained. “Many people are talking about how they need water, but some people are opposing the project. If we compare the positives and negatives of this project, I think there are more positives.”
The Nawi Tidil dam is projected to take three years to construct, at a cost of more than 10 billion kyats (more than US$7.36 million).
According to Soe Htet, the Chin State government has allocated 2 billion kyats (nearly $1.5 million) for the project during this financial year.
The previous Chin State government began building a dam on the Timit River in 2014 for the same purpose of distributing water to Hakha, but the project was never completed. Part of the criticism of the dam on the Nawi Tadil is that the government is starting a new water distribution project when the previous project remains unfinished.
“The water sources of the Nawi Tidil river are small streams which pass by Hakha town, so there will be a lot of waste in the river,” Hakha town local Salai San Hnin Lian told Khonumthung News.
He urged the government to reconsider the environmental impacts of the dam project.
A dam on the Nawi Tidil river was first proposed by Burma’s military government in 2009, but it was never implemented.