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A recently built hydropower dam on the Longjiang River in China's Yunnan Province is causing severe disruption to thousands of villagers relying on cross-border trade in Burma's northern Shan State, according to a new report by local Shan researchers.

The report "High and Dry" by the Shan Sapawa Environmental Organisation and the Shan Women's Action Network (SWAN), exposes how local trade and transport across the Shweli River (the Burmese name for the Longjiang) near Muse and Namkham has been crippled by unpredictable daily fluctuations in the water level since the completion of the 110-meter tall Longjiang Dam about 30 kilometers upstream in mid-2010.

An estimated 16,000 villagers relying on ferrying of goods near Muse, the main China-Burma border trade crossing, have seen their income cut drastically by the continual drops and surges in the water level, which have caused both grounding and flooding of the ferry boats.   

"The people of our village live, eat and work with the river. People cannot work when the water suddenly rises and falls like this," said an impacted villager.

The villagers are calling urgently for the Chinese authorities to investigate and mitigate the disruptive impacts of the dam, while the authors of the report are requesting that trans-boundary impact assessments are carried out for any future dams built in China.

"Impact assessments for dams should be carried out for the entire length of the river, regardless of national boundaries. Whether for the Longjiang, Mekong or Salween,

China should consider the health of our shared rivers and all the communities that rely on them,” said Sapawa spokesperson Sai Sai.

There has been increasing international debate about the downstream impacts of China’s dams on the Mekong River. There are also 13 dams planned on the Salween River in China.

The full report can be viewed on

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