Civil society groups from across the country convened in Mandalay on 13 and 14 March to celebrate the International Day of Action for Rivers. Over 350 participants from more than 90 civil society groups led by scholars and experts get together to protest against large-scale hydropower development on the country’s rivers which is driving conflicts and hindrance to build a democratic federal union.
Community sharing section at a conference of International Day of Action for Rivers/Khin Zarchi Latt
The diverse local community groups from across the country, including not only the major ethnicities such as Kachin, Kayah, Kayin , Chin, Kayan , Mon, Bamar, Rakhine and Shan but also small group of indigenous people from Kadu, Danu , Palaung , Paoh , Hanaut and Kuki, joined the celebration.
On the first day at the conference in Mandalay, panelists acclaimed the country’s rivers and shared their experiences and feelings of hydropower development. They stressed on the requirement for solidarity in the face both of expanded weight from China to continue the development of the Myitsone dam in Kachin State.
Celebrating traditional beliefs of river – communities/Khin Zarchi Latt
The local communities also expressed their worries about the government’s support for mega-projects backed by international investors on rivers that support significant portion of the population. Poem and Songs were praised by the participants followed by honoring traditional beliefs of river – communities.
On the next day was a boat-trip along the Ayeyarwady River near Mandalay to spot the International Day of Action for Rivers. Around 300 members wore “No Dam” headbands to strongly opposed the civilian-régime’s plan to build over 50 large hydropower dams on the country’s free-flowing rivers. At the press conference on board, a joint statement was announced in three languages (Burmese, Chinese and English) by Burma Rivers Network, Save the Salween Network and civil society who loves the rivers and environment.
Artist Su Myint Thein’s performance on boat/ Khin Zarchi Latt
The event ended with the artist Suu Myint Thein emotional performance that included blowing a whistle and walking around the watercraft, enveloping himself by a dark receptacle liner, wearing a cat mask and tackling the crowd and throwing himself into the river, leaving the crowds’ enchantments- ‘Ayeyarwady, Ayeyarwady , Ayeyarwady’ behind.