News / Asia

    Burma-India Transport Project Raises Opportunities, Concerns

    Workers from Indian conglomerate Essar Group construct a new port  in Sittwe in Rakhaine state, Burma, May 19, 2012.
    Workers from Indian conglomerate Essar Group construct a new port in Sittwe in Rakhaine state, Burma, May 19, 2012.
    Daniel Schearf
    An India-funded transportation network being built to cross Burma has been criticized for a lack of transparency and concerns about damage to the environment.  The Kaladan  project promises to connect India with Burma's remote and impoverished west and improve trade links.  But, activists and biologists warn, officials on both sides are ignoring risks to wildlife, the environment and people. 

    When finished in 2015, the Kaladan project will connect a highway system and inland waterway from India's northeast Mizoram state through Burma's western Chin state to a deep sea port in Rakhine state.

    The transport network will allow trade to flow more easily between the impoverished and isolated areas, increase incomes for farmers, lower food prices, and provide jobs.

    But activists say officials are not providing enough information about the project to the public, and are ignoring risks to the environment and people.

    Cultural, environmental impact

    Cultural heritage sites in Rakhine were damaged during the port's construction and Burmese authorities have failed to make good on promises made a year ago to conduct impact assessments. 

    The Kaladan Movement, a coalition of local rights groups, called last week for the project to be suspended until their concerns are addressed.

    Twan Zaw, director of the Arakan River Network, spoke at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand.

    "So far we haven't seen any report about the environmental and social and health, the impact assessment yet.  That's why it is concerning about the local social livelihoods in regards, in terms of the sustainability on the ground," he said.

    The Indian government is financing the entire project, estimated at $214 million, as part of its "Look East Policy" to improve links with Southeast Asia.  It is India's largest development project in Burma.

    But so far, the only known impact study was conducted in India on a 99-kilometer highway being built to connect Mizoram to Burma's Chin state.

    Wildlife concerns

    Kashmira Kakati, a wildlife biologist and author of the 2011 report, which focused on the effect on wildlife, told the FCCT the highway to Burma cuts through a wildlife sanctuary, a fact India's Ministry of Environment and Forests has ignored.

    "I've written, I've faxed to the director of ministry.  Nobody has even acknowledged the report.  And, the next thing I know about, there's no information forthcoming from the ministry," said Kakati. "And, when it finally, I read about the Kaladan report, it's been passed in the minutes of the meeting, it says that the report has been approved with no objection from… the inspection committee, which is patently wrong."

    Activists say the road construction in Mizoram is about half finished.  Kakati says, when completed, it will also pose a threat to wildlife outside the sanctuary.

    "And one of the biggest fears that we anticipated in the report is that this would become a major wildlife trade route," said Kakati. "We're already talking about tigers disappearing.  There is a lot of illegal wildlife trade across the border.  And, we anticipate that this is going to turn out to be a major route for wildlife trade."

    Indian officials have dismissed the need for independent impact assessments in Burma. 

    Rajesh Swami, first secretary at the Indian Embassy in Bangkok, read out a statement in support of the project.  He says suggestions to provide more information to local people merits consideration but is no reason to suspend the project.

    "The need for the project and the fact that the project will bring about only positive changes to the region are the basic facts accepted while commencing the project," he said. "The people of the project area and the local government are certainly competent and knowledgeable to discuss any aspect of the project and cooperate for speedy implementation of the project for the benefit of the people who urgently need proper transport connectivity."

    Compensating farmers

    The Kaladan Movement says farmers in India were not adequately compensated for land in Mizoram and they worry about worse abuses in Burma.

    Burma is to provide land and security for the Kaladan project.  But, despite having only two years to finish, many locals in Chin state are still not aware of a plan to build a highway on their side of the border to India. 

    Activists say that raises concerns of last-minute land confiscations as Burmese officials scramble to meet the deadline.

    Salai Za Uk Ling, program director for the Chin Human Rights Organization, says increased military activity is another concern.  He told the FCCT the army may resort to forced labor to complete the project.

    "Large-scale infrastructure development in Burma, especially road construction in past involved forced labor," he said.

    Burma's army has a long history of forcing villagers to carry military supplies or build roads, and Chin state has a large military presence.

    A survey released in 2011 by Physicians for Human Rights found nine out of 10 households in Chin state experienced forced labor, the highest recorded rate in Burma.

    A Burma government spokesman was not available to comment on concerns about the Kaladan project.  But, a report last week in state media promoted the highway through Chin state.  The New Light of Myanmar newspaper said when completed, the new road would boost border trade and form a trade corridor connecting India to Burma and Southeast Asia.

    You May Like

    Vietnam Urges US to Lift Lethal Weapons Ban Amid S. China Sea Tensions

    US president’s upcoming visit to Vietnam underscores strength of relationship, and lifting embargo would reflect that trust, ambassador says

    Are US Schools Turning a Blind Eye to Radical Qatari Preachers?

    Parade of radical Islamist clerics using mosque at Qatar’s Education City draws mounting criticism for American universities that maintain satellite branches there

    Why Islamic State Is Down But Not Out

    Despite loss of territory, group’s ferocious attacks over past three months seen as testimony to its continued durability and resourcefulness

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: humactdoc
    June 17, 2013 11:02 AM
    Construction on the India-Myanmar-Government international development Kaladan Multi-modal Transportation Corridor started several years ago. Along the path of this development project there has been forced displacement and land confiscation. Rakhine and Rohingya employees with the Indian company in Sittwe quit because of irregular compensation, other labor problems and unethical business practices of the Indian company.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroadi
    X
    May 02, 2016 1:36 PM
    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora