The Mong Ton dam will provide 90% of its hydroelectricity to China and Thailand, leaving ethnic minority communities in Myanmar’s Shan state to bear the costs. Tens of thousands of people will be displaced when dam’s 640-square kilometer reservoir fills, and habitat will be lost for endangered species like the clouded leopard and Sunda pangolin. Even before the dam is complete, its construction has accelerated deforestation and resource extraction in the area. The riverscape of Kunhing township, whose name means “thousand islands” in the Shan language. Photo courtesy of Action for Shan State Rivers. Before reaching the Keng Kham valley, the bright green Pang river, the Salween’s major tributary running south through central Shan state, splits into three parallel rivers that form myriad channels creating islands and islets, blurring the line between forests and water in a pristine and biodiverse riverscape. Rarely seen by outsiders, these are the famed “thousand islands,” forming a stunning inland delta that gives the “Kunhing” township its name. To the south, the Pang meets the Salween in a cascade of waterfalls. Seen from the air, white water tumbles down through verdant forested islands on an escarpment hundreds of meters long. The thousand islands’ labyrinthine landscape and its surrounding forests bloom with tremendous ecological and ethnic diversity. If plans for the Mong Ton dam go ahead, they will all be lost under the giant reservoir. Early stages of construction have already started on Mong Ton, the biggest hydropower project planned for the Salween. Logging in the future flood zone and gold mining along the river bed is already stripping the land upstream of the project of its natural resources before they sink underneath the Salween’s murky waters. The dam site is located in a heavily militarized area in southern Shan state between territories controlled by Shan and Wa forces, and its flood zone is projected to be roughly the size of Singapore at 640 square kilometers. In addition to the huge environmental and social costs of building the Mong Ton dam, observers are also concerned that the dam lies near an earthquake fault line, in the “most earthquake prone region in Myanmar”, Hla Hla Aung, a senior researcher at the Myanmar Earthquake Committee told The Third Pole earlier this year. Kunhing township in Myanmar’s Shan State. Maps courtesy of Google Earth and Google Maps. This is the third article in a five-part series exploring Myanmar’s Salween landscape amid galvanizing plans to develop hydropower projects along its course. Part I outlines plans being made by businesses and governments in China, Thailand and Myanmar to harness the Salween’s vast hydroelectric potential. Part II looks at Salween dams’ already bloody legacy and the projects’ direct or indirect relationship with perpetuating instability and conflict in Myanmar’s Shan and Karen states. Part IV meets actors involved in creating the “Salween Peace Park,” combining wildlife conservation and peace-building in Karen state, where the world’s longest running civil war has raged since 1949. Part V focuses on downstream Salween communities’ livelihoods and ongoing changes facing the broader Salween landscape due to Myanmar’s rapid economic development.