Thailand plans to dust off Hatgyi Dam in Myanmar and divert “surplus” water to Bhumipol Dam to alleviate drought. EGATi (Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand International) is eager to invest more than 100 billion baht in Hatgyi project. As for Mong Ton Dam project, EGATi plans to invest over 300 billion baht but it still waits for Myanmar government’s approval after the redesign to lower impacts on surrounding communities.
A source from Thailand’s Ministry of Energy revealed Thai government wants to reiterate energy cooperation with the Myanmar government, especially Hatgyi Dam in Karen state, near Thailand’s Sob Moei Village. In addition to a 1,360 MW dam, the government also expects to build a pumping station to divert “surplus” water to Bhumibol dam in Tak province. The project is intended to support reforestation and to prevent further drought problems. During a recent visit, Aung San Suu Kyi insisted Thai government to continue cooperation on the dam project. Myanmar government has to negotiate with ethnic groups. After that, EGATi will conduct an in-depth survey in the area for engineering design.
Water issue is Thai government’s top priority. It aims to increase water level in major dams, such as Bhumibol Dam, to ensure enough storage for use during drought season. If the project were realized, it would benefit both countries. The electricity will be available for local Burmese living around the dam area. Thailand will also get the electricity and alleviate water scarcity during drought season.
“Water issue is quite a sensitive issue; however, we want to emphasize that Thailand needs the surplus water for only moral purposes. In the case that there were plenty of water, the water would be diverted to Thailand. If there were less water, there would be no diversion. However, we need to wait and see the Myanmar government and its negotiation with ethnic groups. This is not easy especially as Myanmar changed its government. Then, the next step is the signing of Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).”
Mr. Watchara Hemratchatanan, the president of EGATi, said “the feasibility study for Hattgyi Dam has existed for a long time but the dam has yet to be developed. The plan indicates a capacity of 1,360 MW with an investment of 100 billion baht, but the study did not include a pumping system to divert water to Bhumibol Dam. Therefore, the cost of project may need to be reassessed. However, we need to wait for Myanmar government to negotiate with ethnic groups in the dam site. If there is a good sign, EGATi will send a team to survey the area. In addition to EGATi, the dam project also includes Chinese and Burmese investors.”
There was no discussion on when the electricity will start to be exported to Thailand’s grid because Power Development Plan of 2015 – 2036 (PDP) indicates that Thailand still has a high reserve margin. The majority of EGATi’s cash flow is supported by EGAT, its major shareholder.
“At the moment, we need a clear result from the ceasefire negotiation between the Myanmar Government and ethnic groups. Myanmar’s hydropower potential is as high as Lao PDR. Dam development will benefit both countries especially for Myanmar, as its electricity demand keeps increasing.”
Mr. Hemratchatanan added that EGATi has other projects in Myanmar, for example, 7,000MW Mong Ton Dam, which is already in Ministry of Energy’s imported power purchase plan. Yet, currently, the Myanmar Government requests the following preliminary conditions: 1) In the beginning, the expected capacity should be 3,500MW 2) The project should be 2 smaller dams rather than 1 large dam. The new request aims to minimize impacts on flooded areas. At the moment, the Mong Ton Dam plan is in the process to be submitted to Myanmar government for review.
Translated by: Grittayanee Tamee and Areeya Tivasuradej. For the original Thai language article from August 28, visit Prachachat.