Our report, ‘Powering Conflict: An Analysis of Business and Human Rights Responsibilities in the Salween Basin’ explores the relationship between conflict, hydropower development and business and human rights in the Salween Basin – one of Asia’s last remaining free-flowing rivers.
The Salween River flows from China through Myanmar and Thailand – a transboundary river basin that is home to many Indigenous and ethnic minority peoples. The Salween basin has also been the site of decades of armed conflict between the Myanmar armed forces and ethnic armed organizations fighting for greater independence and autonomy. Local communities have suffered human rights abuses as a result of the conflict.
A cascade of five large hydropower dam projects is proposed for the Salween mainstream, located in several of Myanmar’s “ethnic states”, which are home to indigenous groups—referred to as “ethnic nationalities”. Other hydropower dams are also proposed for construction on tributaries within the Salween basin. The dams are strongly opposed by local people due to their extensive impacts on the river system and on local livelihoods, culture and identity. These areas remain vulnerable to outbreaks of fighting and are considered “conflict-affected areas”. Extraction of and control over natural resources, including hydropower development, has been closely linked to these conflicts over decades.
“Business and human rights and investment standards—when properly applied by companies and investors—impose significant constraints on hydropower construction in conflict-affected areas such as the Salween basin, to stop human rights violations from occurring.”
This report examines the responsibilities of the companies involved in the Salween dams as project developers and investors under international and national business and human rights frameworks, with specific reference to human rights and conflict. These companies are primarily from China, Thailand, and Myanmar. The report finds that business and human rights and investment standards—when properly applied by companies and investors—impose significant constraints on hydropower construction in conflict-affected areas such as the Salween basin, to stop human rights violations from occurring.
The report provides guidance to companies, investors and affected communities on applicable human rights standards, company responsibilities, and addressing investment -related human rights risks in the Salween Basin and other conflicted-affected areas.
Read the Full Report
International Rivers’ Southeast Asia program is part of the regional Transboundary Rivers of South Asia program. Supported by the Government of Sweden, TROSA is a collaboration with Oxfam, IUCN, ICIMOD and many local organizations that works on some of the more complex rivers in South and Southeast Asia: the Ganga, Brahmaputra and Meghna river systems, including their tributaries such as the Teesta, and Asia’s last last free flowing river, the Salween. TROSA works to promote improved cross-border governance of these transboundary rivers, support women’s leadership, and advance energy alternatives to large hydropower.