sourc e from Irrawaddy news, 6 Sept 2011
BANGKOK—The construction of China’s deep-sea port off the Arakan coast, and the laying of gas and oil pipelines across Burma is having a devastating impact on thousands of people and the environment, according to a report released on Tuesday.
The report by the Shwe Gas Movement, titled “Sold Out,” said the ongoing projects, which involve Chinese, Korean and Burmese cooperation, have directly affected 80,000 people displaced along the 800-km (500 mi) pipeline route.
The dual pipelines will pump Burma’s natural gas reserves as well as oil transported from the Middle East and Africa across the country to feed China’s energy needs.
“The regime is selling our economic future to China,” said Wong Aung of the Shwe Gas Movement at a press conference in Bangkok on Tuesday.
While China takes energy from Burma, some 79 percent of Burmese people live without electricity, said Wong Aung, quoting regional energy research.
The report stated that widespread land confiscation—to make way for the pipeline corridor—is leaving farmers jobless while fishing grounds are now off limits, contributing to rising migration.
Local people are able to secure only low-wage, temporary and unsafe jobs on the project. They are banned from demanding fair wages. To date, 60 workers at the onshore Gas Terminal site alone have been fired for demanding fair wages, said the report.
Wong Aung said that 33 Burmese army battalions are currently deployed along the pipeline corridor in Arakan and Shan states. Naval patrols guard offshore construction, and a missile complex is also being built next to the deep-sea port.
The Burmese government has ordered its troops to launch offensives to clear ethnic armed groups out of resource-rich areas in northern Kachin and Shan States since March 2011, leaving thousands of people displaced, according to the report.
Wong Aung said that lands have been confiscated along the pipeline route and 80,000 people in 21 townships have been directly affected.
From a human rights perspective, Lway Aye Nang of the Palaung Women’s Organization said that local villagers have already experienced forced labor, forced relocation and land confiscations in the Palaung area of Shan State.
“Some plantations were seized even though the owners didn’t know,” said Lway Aye Nang, adding that the new government takes no responsibility for the affected people.
The report also tackled environmental issues. The clearing of forest areas and animal corridors for the pipeline route and the potential for explosions and leaks could impact areas across the country, it said.
Shwe Gas Movement said oil spills and refuse disposal off the coast endanger the entire catchment area of the Bay of Bengal, while fuel discharge as well as oil leaks and spills from the tankers offloading at the deep-sea port would have devastating impacts on the coastal ecosystem, particularly mangrove forests.
The development of large-scale petrochemical facilities on Remree and Maday islands increases the likelihood of deadly spills or the outright dumping of toxic materials into the sea and local waterways.
The construction project incorporating the deep-sea port, the gas terminal and oil transfers involves the China National Petroleum Corporation and companies from South Korea and Burma. Despite the outbreak of armed conflicts, the companies, however, have speeded up the construction.
The report said the natural gas, if used domestically, would transform Burma’s failing economy, addressing chronic energy shortages and unaffordable petrol prices that led to uprisings in 2007. The gas will instead be exported and revenues from the sale of gas—estimated at US $29 billion—will be swallowed up by a fiscal black hole that omits gas revenues from the national budget.
“The investors should pull out now before the project blows up in their faces,” said Wong Aung