Kachin residents urge govt to stop quarrying on island

Kachin residents have urged the government to stop large-scale gold mining and sand quarrying on an island in the Ayeyarwady River, as the activities could harm the environment and the livelihoods of villagers.

More than 600 residents from several villages in the state capital, Myitkyina, and Waingmaw township, sent a letter to the state government last Wednesday calling for urgent action.

They said that the mining and quarrying had eroded the nearby riverbank, and the operations are very close to a road.

“The residents are farming maize nearby. The extraction affects not only Labang village but also the riverbank,” said U Naw Gayaung, village head.

The letter said villagers augment their incomes with small-scale gold mining on Katat Island (the name villagers call it). In the summer, they fish near the island.

For a long time, the government prohibited villagers from going near the island following a government directive to conserve the environment.

However, villagers discovered equipment for gold mining and quarrying on the island earlier this year, according to U Tan Khamt, head of nearby Lamyang village.

“They remove the upper layer of sand and gravel, and the extraction is done from the lower layer,” he said. “Villagers are not allowed to enter the site.”

According to the villagers, the supervisors on the island are believed to be Chinese nationals who do not speak Burmese.

About 20 people applied to the state government for business licence. Although they have been given permission, the licences have not been issued yet, said U Kyaw Htin Ko Ko, an official of Myitkyina township.

“These operations are under investigation. If it is found out that they have adversely affected people and caused any losses, the business operations will be closed. Even if they have paid taxes, they will be seized as public possessions,” said U Kyaw Htin Ko Ko.

Source: Myanmar Times

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