Sai Dun (Din) Waterfall Hydropower Plant
The preliminary stages of construction have begun on a hydropower project at the Sai Dun Waterfall in Buthidaung Township, Arakan State. The facility is expected to have an installed capacity of 70 megawatts.
The first plans for a hydropower project at Sai Dun go back to 1952 under the government of Prime Minister U Nu; however, operations came to a halt when a Japanese engineer working at the site was killed. State media at the time reported that he had been murdered by insurgents from the Communist Party of Burma, although, many locals believe that the killing was actually instigated by the Tatmadaw (the Burmese Army) under the leadership of General Ne Win, who would later become Burma’s dictator from 1962 – 1988.
Some development of the Sai Dun Facility is believed to have continued until the mid 1970′s after a number of other sites, such as those at Chindwin and Laymro proved uneconomical, though no noticeable progress was made. In 1988, the then-ruling State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) announced that construction on the Sai Dun facility would recommence, although it later halted the project without explanation. Political observers of that period believe that SLORC decided that bringing electricity to the undeveloped Arakan region would not benefit the regime, and preferred to keep the State impoverished and oppressed.
Following government inspections in January 2009, construction on the site began once again in March 2009.
It is unknown how much the Sai Dun plant will cost; judging from other similar projects in Burma, however, we can estimate that it will be between $100-300 million USD. It has not been made clear how the junta plan to finance the project, although, according to one engineer on site, the project “has already started with the help of the Chinese government.” In January 2010, Xinhua reported that the Burmese regime is now encouraging private companies to invest in hydropower projects and that the Future Power Company had been granted a build, operate and transfer (BOT) license for the Sai Dun hydropower project.
Who will use the power?
According to the Burmese authorities, power generated from the Sai Dan waterfall hydro power plant will be distributed in Arakan State. But Power No. 1 Minister Colonel Zaw Min was quoted as saying in June 2009 that, as Arakan State only needed 30 megawatts for the whole state, the surplus from all Arakan hydropower projects would be diverted to other areas. However an electrical engineer from Site-tway, interviewed by Naranjara News, in June 2009 stated that 30 megawatts was only sufficient to supply power for three hours a day for the towns in Arakan, and does not include rural areas. If the authority wishes to supply power to all of Arakan State, he estimated that at least 200 megawatts would be needed.
Construction began on the Sai Dun hydroelectric plant in March 2009. According to engineers working on the project, it is expected to be completed in 2014. In June 2009, six Khami ethnic villages in Buthidaung Township, Arakan State were forced to relocate. The six Khami tribal villages are: Swa Yay, Li Bo, Dauk Souk Pai, Mari Mi, Ree Chaung and Pana Chay. The villages were located near the construction site for the power plant and have been relocated the villages to Upper Pana Chay village. According to one of the villagers, there are about 50 households on an average in each village and most villagers depend on the Sai Dan Creek for their survival. It is not clear if any compensation has been given to the villagers.