Friday, July 21, 2017

Minister eyes commission to manage Thanlwin River

A Union minister is trying to launch a new tripartite commission for management of the Salween/Thanlwin River with a stated aim of avoiding disputes concerning water resources.

Minister for Transport and Communication U Thant Sin Maung said the Thanlwin River Commission should include representatives from the three countries through which the river runs: China, Myanmar and Thailand.

“China, Myanmar and Thailand will jointly form the Thanlwin River Commission. I will negotiate with them via the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It is also necessary to negotiate Thailand’s participation,” the minister told parliament yesterday.

The announcement was made after upper house MP U Soe Thein (Independent; Kayah 9) asked whether the government had a plan to sign a transboundary agreement over the use of the river’s water resources.

U Thant Sin Maung said there is no plan yet to sign a transboundary water management agreement, but that he would try to negotiate one and contact China via diplomatic channels.

Myanmar is set to host a meeting of the Joint Committee on Coordination of Commercial Navigation on the Lancang-Mekong River (JCCCN) in January 2017, where discussions about forming the Thanlwin River Commission will get further under way.

“When that meeting is held in Mandalay, we will discuss [the commission] with both China and Thailand,” said U Thant Sin Maung.

Courting China, he said, would be the first order of business.

The total area covered by the Thanlwin River valley is 169,600 square kilometres in China, 134,400 sq km in Myanmar and 16000 sq km in Thailand. The river itself is 2815 kilometres in length and empties into the Gulf of Mottama off Myanmar’s coast.

At present, there are two existing dams along the Thanlwin River in China. A further 13 dams are slated to go ahead, the minister added. Construction of dams along the river has been a flashpoint among local communities and environmentalists in Myanmar.

Translation by Zaw Nyunt