Govt Okayed Impact Assessments on Kaladan Project
24 March 2012: In response to concerns raised by civil society groups over possible environmental and social impacts of Kaladan project, a joint India-Burma development initiative, the Burmese government has given the green light for conducting the assessments.
Minister for Transport U Nyan Tun Aung said Burma’s government would take steps in working together with India to carry out the impact assessments in an attempt to reduce negative outcomes from the project, according to the Myanmar Times.
The Union government’s response came weeks after several non-governmental organizations had voiced their concerns over the possible negative impacts, as well as, raised questions about whether the local communities would benefit from the Project.
U Ko Ko Hlaing, from the Myanmar Port Authority, was quoted as saying at the press conference in mid February that the government would conduct environmental and social impact assessments in the future.
Both Social Impact Assessment and Environmental Impact Assessment were conducted in the India side of the project prior to the start of the Project in late 2010. But similar assessments were never conducted for the project’s portion in Burma.
Late last year, a 15-member NGO group called on Thein Sein’s government to take measures to ensure the reduction of the environmental, social and health effects of the Kaladan project.
Independent studies conducted by non-governmental groups found that local communities were not aware about the project and were not consulted or informed about the project’s potential benefits or negative consequences.
The Kaladan Modal Transport Project, with an estimated cost of 214 million US dollars, involves the constructions of a sea port in Sittwe, Arakan State, an inland water terminal in Paletwa of Chin State and a 129-kilometre transnational highway from Paletwa up to Mizoram State of India.
Started in late 2010, the India-Burma project is set for completion by the end of 2014. According the 2008 agreement between India and Burma, India would give all the money needed for the project while Burma would give the land needed for the project free of charge and provide security for the project. This makes rights groups concerned about the possibility of land confiscation, forced labor and increased militarization in the project area, given Burma’s poor human rights record.
According to former Indian Ambassador to Burma, Kaladan Project is a precursor to the construction of a transnational gas pipeline from oil-rich Arakan State’s Bay of Bengal through southern Chin State and northeast India.
Meanwhile, a dam construction on the Lemro (locally called Phunglong) river is being carried out by both Burmese and Chinese construction companies since 2009 without conducting any environmental and social impact assessments, according to the Chin Human Rights Organization’s sources.
Van Biak Thang