Rhododendron News – Volume XVII, Issue III – May-June
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11 June 2014
[Rangoon, Burma/Myanmar] The Kaladan Movement today urges the governments of Burma and India and Indian company ESSAR Projects Ltd. to publicly answer vital questions about the implementation of the Kaldan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project (Kaladan Project) and address key concerns of affected communities in Arakan and Chin States.
With an estimated completion date of early 2016, the US$214 million Kaladan Project is a combined highway and inland waterway transportation system passing through Paletwa, Chin State and connecting Mizoram State in Northeast India with a Bay of Bengal deepsea port at Site-tway, Arakan State. Indian company ESSAR Projects Ltd. is currently constructing the deepsea port at Site-tway and the smaller inland port at Paletwa Town. The highway component of the Kaladan Project is to be built by an as yet unnamed Burmese construction company, and the exact route of the highway or timeframe for its construction has never been publicly announced.
Today, a questionnaire was submitted to ESSAR Projects Ltd. by the Kaladan Movement, an alliance formed to monitor the human rights, social, economic, and environmental impacts of the Kaladan Project. The Kaladan Movement urges ESSAR Projects Ltd. to take this opportunity to make public important information about the implementation of the Kaladan Project regarding its policies on human rights, indigenous rights, community consultation, environmental impact assessment, local hiring and labour conditions. Thus far the Kaladan Project has been implemented without an adequate community consultation process, and with no efforts made to achieve the Free, Prior, Informed Consent of affected communities; an important element of recognizing the rights of indigenous peoples’ to be involved in decision-making regarding all development happening in the territory where they live.
During a recent assessment mission, representatives from the Kaladan Movement heard local people express hope that the Kaladan Project will raise their standard of living and contribute to economic development in the area, but that they lack information about the full scope of the project. “By sharing information and regularly consulting local residents, ESSAR Projects Ltd. will also benefit as local people are the most familiar with the area and have good ideas about how the project can be implemented efficiently and with the least possible negative social and environmental impacts,” said Bawi Pi of the Chin Human Rights Organization, a core member of the Kaladan Movement. “It has been nearly four years since the Kaladan Project started but no environmental impact assessments have ever been conducted for the project area in Burma, and no details regarding the route of the planned highway have been made public. We urge the Burma and India governments to share this information with people living in the project area,” he continued.
Compensation issues in Chin State
In September 2013, Burmese government officials visited Laung Ka Du village – a small farming community 12 miles south of Paletwa Town – and told residents that 16 acres of the village’s riverbank agricultural land (gaing may) was going to be acquisitioned as a dumping-site for riverbed dredging conducted by ESSAR Projects Ltd. as part of the Kaladan Project. “Officials from Naypyidaw warned us not to cultivate our land during the 2013-2014 growing seasons, and told us that we would be given 500,000 kyat per acre in compensation,” said one of the affected Laung Ka Du farmers. At the time, they were not given any timeframe for the payment of compensation or the commencement of the dredging work. “We were unhappy about losing our land, but we felt that we had no choice and could not refuse this government order,” continued the farmer.
The farmers then decided to push back and organize themselves to find a way to save their ancestral agricultural lands. In February 2014, the Laung Ka Du farmers together with the Paletwa-based Social Development and Environmental Conservation Group sent a letter to the relevant authorities suggesting an alternative dumping-site for the dredged materials. After a series of negotiations and a site visit by government officials, the Laung Ka Du farmers received verbal assurances that the 16 acres of agricultural land would be spared and that the dredged material would be dumped on the alternative dumping site they had proposed.
A Laung Ka Du farmer said, “We are pleased that the government negotiated with us to find a suitable alternative to the acquisition of our farm land, but as we followed their order not to cultivate the land since last September we feel that we deserve the promised compensation for our losses.” The Kaladan Movement urges the Union government to formalize the new arrangement with the Laung Ka Du farmers, and to clarify who is responsible for paying the compensation, and how and when it will be paid.
Environmental and social impact of dredging in Arakan State
300 households in Thae Hkhun, a coastal fishing village on Mray Gun Island just off the coast of Site-tway, have suffered negative environmental and social impacts from the Kaladan Project. Thae Hkhun village is located at the point where the Kaladan River meets the Bay of Bengal, and the riverbed just off the shores of the village has been dredged consistently since ESSAR Projects Ltd. began work on the deepsea port in early 2011. As a result of the dredging the village shoreline has been advancing quickly making it necessary for 50 houses and a monastery to be dismantled and rebuilt further inshore to avoid being washed away. The villagers have never been consulted about the implementation of the project. “Thae Hkhun villagers had no idea the dredging would lead to the loss of coconut trees and force them to rebuild their homes in a safer location,” said Ko Twan Hlaing , Coordinator of Arakan Rivers Network, another core member of the Kaladan Movement. “The primary school is now under threat, and the villagers want to be informed of any future dredging plans and to work with ESSAR to ensure that there is no more loss of land.”
There are clear benefits to be gained from a more transparent development process with regularly-scheduled community consultations, information-sharing and negotiations between the implementing company, the government and the local community. The Kaladan Movement urges the governments of Burma and India and Essar Projects Ltd to publicly answer vital questions about the implementation of the Kaladan Project and address community concerns without further delay.
To arrange an interview please contact:
- Ko Twan Hlaing, Arakan Rivers Network Coordinator at +95(0)942-017-9085 or [email protected]
- Bawi Pi, Chin Human Rights Organization Country Program Coordinator at +95(0)925-000-8451 or [email protected]
- Sam Cartmell, Chin Human Rights Organization Project Manager at +95(0)9254381882 or [email protected]
Photographs for media use are available at
Background on the Kaladan Project:
The Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project (Kaladan Project) will see the construction of a combined inland waterway and highway transportation system connecting Mizoram State in Northeast India with a Bay of Bengal deepsea port at Site-tway, Arakan State in western Burma. The deepsea port is being constructed on 48,000 square metres of new land created through dredging an estimated 560,000 cubic tonnes of soil from the riverbed surrounding the port site, and will transfer cargo from large container ships to smaller 300-tonne ships that will ply the 160 km inland waterway transportation system along the Kaladan River, which will require significant riverbed dredging at four locations to be passable by large ships during dry season. From the currently under construction port complex at Paletwa Town in Chin State, cargo will be transferred to trucks and driven on a yet to be built 130 km highway connecting to a new Land Customs Station at Zorinpui on the southern-most tip of the 1,634 km India-Burma border. The Kaladan Project, classified as Indian development aid to Burma, is a cornerstone of India’s “Look East Policy” aimed at expanding Indian economic and political influence in Southeast Asia. The estimated US$214 million cost of the Project is being financed by the Development Partnership Administration department of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, with the ownership and management of the infrastructure to be turned-over to the Burma government once construction is complete. Latest reports from construction workers at the Site-tway deepsea port and Paletwa inland port are that both will be operational by early 2016 (this is in contradiction to public statements of a June 2014 completion date made by ESSAR Projects Ltd. in December 2013). The construction of the Paletwa to Mizoram highway has yet to begin, and there are a number of outstanding questions regarding which Burma-based company holds the construction contract, as well as the exact route the highway will take.
Background on the Kaladan Movement:
The Kaladan Movement is an alliance of civil-society organizations concerned about the human rights, social, economic, and environmental impacts of the Kaladan Multi-modal Transit Transport Project for local residents. The core members of the Kaladan Movement are the Arakan Rivers Network, the Chin Human Rights Organization and the Zo Indigenous Forum.
To download the press release and questionnaire in Burmese and English visit www.kaladanmovement.org