Chiang Mai (Mizzima) - Thai surveyors and Burmese authorities are surveying the Tenasserim River, in Burma’s southernmost Tenasserim Division, for a potential dam site to generate electricity for export to Thailand and Singapore.
Sources in the area said Thai authorities have placed a representative in Tenasserim Division to observe river levels and to record water levels both during the rainy and summer seasons.
A source, recently arrived on the Thai-Burmese border from the area, said, "They [Thai authorities] have hired a person to monitor the water level of the river in different seasons and pay him about 50,000 baht per month.
“They also leave water-measuring equipment to keep a record of the water level. In the hot season it is measured once a day and in the rainy season it is measured every hour,” he added.
Sources said Thai surveyors and Burmese soldiers on December 25 and 26, 2008, visited the proposed dam sites and collected sample stones and sand from the areas for examination.
According to an official with the Karen National Union (KNU), based in the area, it is the second time that Thai and Burmese authorities are conducting such a survey with the aim of implementing a Tenasserim hydropower project.
The first survey, conducted in 2007, saw KNU officials confiscate the survey equipment, including a Global Positioning System (GPS), cameras and other materials.
Villagers in the area said the survey group has marked two potential dam sites on the river. One in Ler Pa Doh village, called the upper potential dam site, and another near Muro village, called the lower potential dam site. The upper and lower potential dam sites are about three hours distance apart by boat.
Burma has already signed an agreement with Thai and Singaporean companies to provide the two energy hungry nations with electricity from the hydropower project.
According to the New Light of Myanmar, a state-run daily newspaper, a signing ceremony for the Tenasserim hydropower project was held on October 9, 2008, between the Burmese Ministry of Electric Power No. 1, the Italian-Thai Development Public Co. Ltd. of Thailand and Singapore's Wind Fall Energy Services Ltd.
The paper said, the propose hydroproject will produce an estimate of 600 Mega Watt.
Sources said following the agreement two Burmese Army battalions have been stationed in the vicinity of the potential dam sites – in the villages of Ler Pah Doh and Thay Baw Nah, respectively.
Locals said there has never been any consultation on the proposed dam with residents from the more than 11 villages likely to be affected by any construction.
A KNU official, who requested not to be named, added, “We will keep an eye on the development of the dam project and related surveying in this area.”