Policy brief – Hydropower and Social Conflict in Vietnam: Lessons for Myanmar

Authors: Trang Do and Elliot Brennan

Published: December 11, 2015

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INTRODUCTION

Myanmar has the lowest rate of electrification in South­east Asia. Increasing electricity supply for power generation to buttress development and lift its large rural population out of poverty is one of Myanmar’s defining challenges. Possessing large rivers including the Irrawaddy and Salween, the country’s development of hydropower plants (HPPs) is anticipated to provide the base-load of power supply. However, the pressure to quickly establish such capacity—the majority of planned HPPs are located in ethnic states—has seen serious problems, at times open conflict, emerge. If such projects and their consequences for local populations are not effectively addressed, hydro­power development will suffer and could destabilize both the fragile peace in parts of the country and stall invest­ment and overall development. Vietnam’s experience of hydropower development offers some cautionary lessons to inform and help mitigate social conflict in Myanmar, in particular when it comes to developing resettlement and compensation practices.

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