MAC: Mines and Communities

Burmese junta destroys ecology of Kachin State: Environmentalists

Published by MAC on 2009-04-27
Source: Kachin News Group (2009-04-21)

Local environmentalists, up in arms against the Burmese military junta have accused it of destroying the ecology of Kachin State where its forests, rivers and land are being severely damaged.

Authorized by the junta there is rampant felling of trees and mining of gold and jade. These activities, started over a decade, are destroying the ecology and leading to climate changes in Kachin State, local Kachin environmentalists told KNG today.

The junta earns vast amounts of revenue from business permits and it directly supports itself to continue its stranglehold on brutal military rule over its citizens in the country, said Awng Wa, a Kachin environmentalist and Chairman of Kachin State-based Kachin Development Networking Group (KDNG).

At the moment, rampant logging is occurring mainly in Bhamo district, Myitkyina district, Mohnyin district, Putao district and Hukawng (Hugawng) Valley in the state. Timber from these areas is despatched to China through the border in Kachin State and the country's former capital Rangoon for export, said local timber businessmen.

From 1992, hundreds of Chinese loggers directly entered the forests east of Irrawaddy River in the state and selectively cut down over a hundred year old trees. Ironically nearly half of them were not transported but ruined, said eyewitnesses.

China has officially stopped importing timber from northern Burma since 2005 following London-based Global Witness releasing a logging report called "A Conflict Of Interest" in October, 2003. However China keeps importing timber, said border traders.

Meanwhile, jade mining has changed from being done manually to using sophisticated machines in Hpakant under the direct control of the junta's Ministry of Mine after the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) and its armed-wing the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) signed a ceasefire agreement with the junta in 1994.

Local Kachin environmentalists said the transformation of jade mining methods greatly changed the course of the water of Uru River in the jade mining areas causing severe floods in Seng Tawng village every monsoon.

On the other hand, heavy gold mining in rivers around the state by people from the whole country and local and Chinese-sponsored companies is also polluting the water with mercury. It poisons the river and fishes as well as destroys the local people's rice-paddy fields and land, said a local watchdog group.

Following the world economic crisis, more people, jade businessmen and companies are turning to gold mining as of late last year because gold prices are on the rise while other businesses are collapsing, said local businessmen.

According to people in Kachin State, there are three climates in Kachin State---Summer, Monsoons and Winter seasons but the people feel that the temperature has been rising every year.

People say that several streams around the state dry up every year. The water level of the Irrawaddy River also called Mali Hka in Kachin language, the main River of Burma, has also dropped significantly this summer, according to people in Kachin State.

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