By Nang Mya Nadi
The construction of a gas pipeline connecting western Burma’s Arakan state and southern China’s Yunnan province has disrupted a local river and destroyed farmland.
A local resident in Namtu’s Saigao village in northern Shan state said a Chinese company that is building the pipeline is rerouting the Namtu River. The resident said the company is also dumping excess soil on locals’ gardens and fields.
“This is really damaging to us – we have to depend on this land for our survival throughout the year and they are bulldozing the river’s bank and forests along with it, which could potentially lead to flooding and landslides during the rainy season,” said the villager from Saigao township.
He said about four acres of his land has been destroyed by the project.
Four residents from Saigao rented out their land to the company for six months for 2.4 million kyat; however, they claim they were unaware that the company would destroy their farmland.
The villagers filed a complaint to local authorities and petitioned the Shan Nationalities Democratic Party, but have yet to get a response. The People’s Parliament representative Nang Kham Aye in the town said the party has forwarded the villages’ complaint letter to the Minister of Transportation.
She said about 400 acres of land in total has been damaged in the area by the construction of the pipeline.
The Shwe pipeline project is the centrepiece of China’s booming investment programme for Burma, particularly following Naypyidaw’s decision to scrap the Myitsone Dam, a move that triggered anger and bewilderment in Beijing. The pipeline will account for around six percent of China’s total energy needs, much of which will be focused on Yunnan, whose development has lagged behind the rest of the country.
Further south in Tenasserim division’s Kawthuang township a rubber plantation is said to responsible for polluting a waterfall on the Maliwan River.
The 7000-acre rubber plantation managed by the TZK company has been accused of dumping waste, insecticide and fertilisers into the river.
“[The waterfall] is a popular recreation spot in Kawthaung – people used to go there for [events] such as the Thingyan celebrations and this year it has become impossible to use,” said a local resident in Maliwan village with around 70 households located at the foot of the waterfall.
The company is conducting a survey to address the problem.