(Guwahati, 2 \october 2013) / By NJ Thakuria
Opposing voices against the Shwe gas project in Burma are mounting as ‘it sets a dangerous precedent for the extractive industries and leads to ongoing human rights abuses that include land confiscation, poor labor practices, environmental damage and exacerbation of tensions with ethnic nationalities’.
A new report titled Drawing the line: the case against China’s Shwe gas project, for better extractive industries in Burma and released by Shwe Gas Movement, a forum to promote human rights, environmental justice and revenue transparency within Burma’s oil & gas sector, on September 30, 2013 in Rangoon has demanded the suspension of the China sponsored gas project.
“The report examines the Shwe Gas Project as a case study of the failures of Burma’s booming extractive sector. Based on testimony from locals in all affected areas and analysis of Burma’s legal setting, the report concludes that weak governance, unfair distribution of revenue and continued human rights abuses are cause for suspension,and that addressing these fundamental problems now will pave the wayfor more responsible future investments in one of the nation’sfastest-growing industries,” said Wong Aung, international coordinator of Shwe Gas Movement.
Mentionable is that the Shwe gas project that should provide nearly US$54 billion revenue for the Burmese government over the next thirty years is a dual-pipeline project transferring gas & crude oil from Burma’s western coast to southern China. The project cuts across some of Burma’s poorest localities where the communities still live without electricity, and also traverses areas marred by armed conflict in northern Shan State.
This is a critical moment for Burma’s extractive sector, we cannot let this project set a bad example for future investors. Only when we have ensured equal benefits and humane conditions can development proceed without conflict, added the Shwe Gas Movement activist Mr Aung, while talking to this correspondent from Burma.
The release of the report follows the recent opening of the Shwe gas pipeline and the announcement of 30 additional gas and oil blocks open for foreign bidding, while the government and civil society scramble to hit an arbitrary December deadline to sign the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, a protocol that could green-light a flood of investments in the extractive industry. It also follows the May 2013 announcement by Revenue Watch Institute that Burma’s resource governance is the world’s weakest.
“While we and other community based organizations have repeatedly called for better corporate practices, stronger legal protection and greater community involvement in development projects, the response of both the government and corporate shareholders has been grossly disappointing,” pointed
out Wong Aung adding that before the Shwe gas project becomes fully operational, the Burmese government and the investing companies must listen to the affected communities and prove their sincerity and commitment that the changes in Burma would allow more personal, political and economic freedoms for its own people.
The report concludes that ‘in light of this criticism and the impending rush of extractive investments in Burma the only way to avoid complicity in abuse and a future of inequality and displacement is to postpone the Shwe gas pipeline’ with similar projects until the fundamental problems of poor governance and the disenfranchisement of ethnic nationalities are solved.