Road con­struc­tion halted as govt urges felling of fewer trees

The Myanmar Times - - News - THAN NAING SO thannaing­soe@mm­times.com HLAING KYAW SOE hlaingkyaw­soe@mm­times.com

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

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