NAYPYIDAW, Myanmar Some of the 20 planned hydropower plants for Myanmar (formerly Burma), which is located in South East Asia, will be constructed within the Irrawaddy (Ayeyarwady in Burmese) River Basin, according to the Government of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar Ministry of Electric Power (MOEP).
Myanmar has numerous hydroelectric projects in development, but last December it received a US$100 million credit from the World Bank’s International Development Association after forming administrative apparatus in the public, private and scientific sectors to manage and develop the Irrawaddy River Basin.
The country’s hydroelectric sector accounts for 74% of overall power generation and part of the credit will be used for feasibility studies on hydroelectric infrastructure.
Irrawaddy is Myanmar’s largest river and most important commercial waterway. It originates from the confluence of the N’mai and Mali rivers in north central Myanmar. It flows from north to south in a relatively straight direction for about 2,170 km (1,348 miles) before emptying through the Irrawaddy Delta into the Andaman Sea.
The World Energy Council estimates the hydropower potential of Myanmar’s four main rivers — Irrawaddy, Thanlwin, Chindwin and Sittaung — at 100,000 MW, but said that less than 10% of the potential has been harnessed.
In its July 2013 presentation to Japan International Cooperation Agency in Tokyo, MOEP said its total installed capacity was 3,735 MW. And of that, 20 hydroelectric plants had a total installed capacity of 2,780 MW.
Three years prior to receiving World Bank funding, Myanmar’s Ministry of Transport recommended the formation of the Irrawaddy [Ayeyarwady] River Basin Research Organization (ARBRO). ARBRO become an official organization in May 2012 and the government said it consists of more than 40 Myanmar researchers from all walks of life who possess long-term scientific and research experience in Myanmar and abroad. MOEP said, ARBRO is recognized by the Network of Asian River Basin Organizations.
ARBRO, according to Myanmar government documents, is a stakeholder on the Irrawaddy [Ayeyarwady] Integrated Basin Management Project Consultation (AIRBM). AIRBM carried out its first consultation via the Directorate of Water Resources and Improvement of River Systems (DWIR) in Myanmar on May 16 and 19, 2014 in Mandalay and Yangon, respectively. Participants included civil society organizations, local non-government organizations (NGOs), International NGOs, the River Users’ Association, researchers, private sector and the media.
DWIR prepared the “Environmental and Social Management Framework” (ESMF) report, and in Annex 6 of the document, it discusses “Resettlement Policy Framework.”
“The proposed first phase will also lay the groundwork needed to undertake large-scale infrastructure investments in possible second or third phase (yet to be determined),” the ESMF said.
“It will provide the government with the capacity to do basin-wide scenario analyses, to properly identify and assess the complex trade-offs that inevitably arise from large long-lived water infrastructure investments, and to follow economic, environmental and social good practices.
“Therefore, the first phase will also support pre-feasibility, feasibility and other upstream technical studies for priority infrastructure investments that will be primarily identified in the course of a basin planning framework exercise (master plan) for potential funding in subsequent phases. A Strategic Environmental and Social Assessment report will be prepared in parallel with the river basin master plan during project implementation.”
Karin Finkelston, vice president for Global Partnerships, which focuses on private sector development in emerging markets said, “Electricity is fundamental to reducing poverty and improving living standards for Myanmar’s people, and hydropower is an important part of Myanmar’s energy future. But, it has to be done in an environmentally and socially sustainable way.”
A sustainable hydropower sector would help mitigate environmental and social risks while realizing the country’s huge energy potential, she said, contributing to economic growth and shared prosperity.
In late February 2013, MOEP announced it had received approval to develop six dam projects on the Salween River in the Myanmar states of Shan, Kayah (Karenni) and Karen. With a combined installed capacity of 15,460 MW, the projects will include the 1,400-MW Upper Salween or Kunlong Dam; 7,000-MW Mai Tong (Tasang Dam); the Nong Pha and Man Tung dams will have a combined installed capacity of 1,200 MW; 4,500-MW Ywathit Dam; and 1,360-MW Hatgyi Dam. Published reports indicate investment will come from five Chinese corporations, Electricity Generation Authority of Thailand International Co. Ltd. and three Myanmar corporations.
There is about 2,000 MW of additional hydro capacity under construction in Myanmar including the 140-MW Upper Paunglaung Dam on the Paunglaung River; 120-MW Thauk Ye Khat on the lower Day Loh River; 52-MW Baluchaung 3 on the Baluchaung River; and the 280-MW Upper Yeywa on the Myitnge River.
The World Bank Group and the International Hydropower Association are helping Myanmar develop a more sustainable hydropower sector by promoting best practices in technical, environmental and social standards.