Treading Water: The Dark Legacy of Hydropower Development in Myanmar

While hydropower is a vital source of renewable energy, the development of new hydropower plants can often result in adverse environmental, social and human rights consequences. Dr Thiri Shwesin Aung explores the dark side of hydropower development in Myanmar.

Rivers influence biophysical processes that underpin natural capitals and essential ecosystem services. Myanmar’s rivers offer great opportunities for increasing energy supply at low costs from hydropower plants and make essential contributions to the national economy. Hence, hydropower becomes the primary renewable energy source for the country.[1] Myanmar, like many lower-middle-income countries, suffers from significant energy poverty. The country currently has one of the lowest electrification rates in Asia, with less than one-third of the population having access to the electricity grid. Myanmar has an underdeveloped hydropower potential, estimated at 108 gigawatts (GWh) which is more than ten times the current total electricity generating capacity from all sources combined, including fossil fuel and renewable energy. As of 2018, the country had 29 hydropower plants in operation, six under construction and 51 in the pre-construction stage.

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