Road construction halted as govt urges felling of fewer trees
A new road project linking Mandalay and Pyin Oo Lwin has been temporarily halted due to objections raised by a government ministry, according to a company involved in the construction.
The Ministry of Resources and Environmental Conservation raised concerns about the number of trees which must be felled to build the new route, a spokesperson for the AC Yon Mandalay Highway Company said.
Construction has ceased on the project until the issue is resolved.
“The government has informed us orally of its concerns about the road’s construction in the forest area. We have been told they are deliberating on the matter. Therefore, we have to wait until they have informed us of their decision,” U Soe Myat Thu, a company spokesperson said.
Nearly 22 kilometres (13.7 miles) of the slated road will cut through forest reserves, requiring almost 75,000 trees, of more than a foot in circumference, to be chopped down.
Previously, the government has said that around K550 millon (US$430,000) will be payable as compensation for the clearing this number of trees.
In response to the government’s objections to felling so many trees in three separate forest reserve areas, the AC Yon Mandalay Highway Company has proposed amending its plans in a way which would reduce the destruction to the forest area by nearly two thirds.
“If we change the road’s width from the current 150 feet to 50 feet in the forest area, only around 25,000 trees will need to be chopped down. We do not know what compensation would be payable in this case so we have stopped our construction,” U Soe Myat Thu said.
The company has said that it is willing to pay whatever compensation the government determines is fair.
The new route linking Mandalay and Pyin Oo Lwin will be around 32 kilometres shorter than existing road. More than 150,000 vehicles use the current road each day.
According to U Soe Myat, the company proposed the project in a bid to reduce traffic jams and travel time on the existing route. A build-operate-transfer contract was entered into for a period of 50 years between the company and the government in February. Nearly one third of the road has been constructed.
Local residents have expressed annoyance at the delay.
“My own land was included in the road’s route but I willingly donated it as there were more advantages than disadvantages for me in having this new road. We have donated our land to the project yet the government has halted it – What reason could they have?”, said one farmer from Ponenar Kone village, Patheingyi township. – Translation by Khine Thazin Han
‘We have donated our land to the project yet the government has halted it – what reason could they have?’
Patheingyi township farmer