Kyauk Pru: Disappointment among the public is growing over the Shwe Gas Project in Kyuakpru on the southern coast of Arakan State as the project continues to case suffering and trouble to to local people since it began.
“Since the gas project started in our area, the local people have lost their arable land and become jobless. Another problem that is now troubling them is that they are facing difficulty moving their cattle to plow their farmland for paddy cultivation because the pipeline is built through the middle of their paddy farms. Because of those sufferings and trouble, frustration over the project has been growing among the people,” said a social activist from Kyaukpru.
He said the pipeline is as high as a man’s height and built aboveground, partitioning their paddy farms down the middle and causing trouble with moving the cattle on their farms. The pipeline is six miles long from Kapaingchaung Village to Ratanart Village in the area and is built aboveground in the middle of paddy farms. As the pipes are as high as a man’s height, no cattle can be moved to the other side of the pipeline. It takes at least two or three hours for farmers to move their cattle from one side to another side on their farms and now they are immensely troubled for cultivating their farms,” he said.
The season for paddy cultivation has come to Arakan State and the farmers have to plow their land using the cattle for their cultivation. The farmers from the villages, including Rhaukchaung, Kalarbartaung, Kyaukkhamauk, Kapaingchaung, and Ratanart in Kyaukpru Township are now facing trouble with moving their cattle to plow their farmland because of the pipeline, he added.
A farmer from Kapaingchaung Village also said many acres of their paddy farms are now damaged by mudslides from the pipeline corridor from recent rain, but no compensation has been paid for the damage.
“The farms were bulldozed to make a corridor for laying the pipeline. When it was raining, the mud from the corridor flowed with rainwater and covered the farms around it. Now there area 180 acres of farmland in 14 villages along the pipeline that have been damaged by the mudslide from the pipeline corridor during recent rains. If the rain continues, more farms will be damaged as well. But no compensation is paid for that damage because those farms are just around the pipeline and are not being used for the pipeline,” said the farmer.
U Tin Phe, lawmaker of the state parliament for Kyaukpru Township, said the truck owners and drivers in the township are also troubled now because the project has stopped hiring local trucks and has started to use smuggled-in trucks being brought from central Burma.
“The local people could earn income when local trucks were hired and used for carrying sand and rock for construction in the project. Now the smuggled-in trucks from neighboring countries without licenses are being brought to Kyaukpru and used for transporation on the project in collusion with the local authorities. The local truck owners and drivers are now in trouble because the project has stopped hiring their trucks,” said U Tin Phe.
He added that the problems relating to the pipeline compensation are also occurring in every village in the township.
“While giving compensation to the villagers for their land lost to the pipeline, some have received their compensation, but some have not. Some have not gotten the full amount of their compensation and some have taken away others’ compensation under false names. There are also some cases in which the officials of the local authorities and land department have cut and confiscated the villagers’ compensation. The pipeline compensation has sparked so many problems and discord in the villages in our township,” he said.
Since the Shwe Gas Project started in Kyaukpru, the prices for land have gone up and many acres of arable land owned by the local people were forcibly confiscated. Most of the land was said to be confiscated by the military officers after registering the land in their names. U Maung Oo, the former commander of Arakan State as well as former home minister, is said to be one of those officers who confiscated public land in the area for their own benefit.
Anti-social activities such as prostitution are also said to be growing with the sprouting of hotels, beauty and massage parlors since the gas project started in the area.
According to the local residents, most of the roads, including Kyaukpru – Rangoon Highway, Kantkawtaw Pagoda Road, Kyaukpru – Mintattaung Road, adn Kyaukpru – Minpyin Road, are being badly damaged by the over-weight vehicles from the project, and they are still being left un-repaired and causing trouble for travel in the area.
Sources added they are gradually getting frustrated over the Shwe Gas Project because they have been suffering only from trouble and losses in all aspects without getting any benefits since the project started in their township.