By SU MYAT MON & THOMAS KEAN | FRONTIER
YANGON — The Asian Development Bank says it will force a Chinese contractor building a highway in Kayin State to stop sourcing limestone from a quarry until environmental and social safeguards are met.
The decision was taken after Frontier published an article, “An army, a mountain and the ADB”, on December 21 detailing residents’ opposition to the quarry.
In an email to Frontier on December 22, the ADB said it would not allow the highway contractor, China Road and Bridge Construction, to use the quarry at Mount Lun Nya near the state capital Hpa-an unless it could show livelihoods would not be harmed.
Prior to publication the ADB said it was reviewing the use of the quarry.
“ADB will not allow any materials produced by the quarry to be used for project activities unless an environment assessment is conducted and can prove that the quarry meets ADB’s safeguard requirements, and that people’s livelihoods would not be adversely affected,” ADB external relations officer U Tin Tun Zaw said in an email.
Tin Tun Zaw said the quarry was “not envisioned during the preparation of the project, as it was expected that construction materials would be sourced from a commercial supplier”.
However, the Initial Environmental Examination prepared by the Ministry of Construction for the ADB in May 2015 mentions “the existing Lun Nya quarry” as a potential site for highway construction materials.
In recent months residents of Lun Nya village have been lobbying for the quarry to be closed, submitting a petition to the state government in November.
Earlier in the month several residents also said they were shot at from a car while inspecting the quarry site.
The quarry has links to a Tatmadaw-controlled Border Guard Force formerly known as the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army. In February 2017 the state General Administration Department licensed the quarry to Chit Linn Myaing Toyota, which is owned by BGF commander Colonel Saw Chit Thu. Under Myanmar’s amended mining law, most quarries do not require an environmental or social impact assessment.
Although licensed to Chit Linn Myaing Toyota, residents have been told China Road and Bridge Construction is operating the quarry. When Frontier attempted to visit the site, which is guarded by BGF soldiers, it saw workers wearing CRBC helmets.
In July 2016 CRBC won two contracts from the Ministry of Construction to build a 66.4-kilometre stretch of highway from Eaindu in Hpa-an Township to neighbouring Kawkareik Township. The ADB is providing a soft loan of US$100 million for the project.
While the Kayin State government declined to comment for the original article, Minister for the Environment, Forestry, Mines, Road and Communication U Saw Pyi Thar told Frontier on December 27 that the state government had “received a letter” concerning the potential environmental impact of the quarry.
“So I’ve [instructed] the state environmental department to examine the impact there,” he said.
He declined to say who the letter was from or provide more detail on the contents.
A representative of Chit Linn Myaing Toyota declined to comment.
But Lun Nya village resident Saw Hla Ngwe said villagers had been told that Saw Chit Thu, the BGF commander, would meet them after Kayin New Year, which was on December 18, to discuss the quarry project.
“But he has not come to the village yet,” said Hla Ngwe.
Saw Hla Ngwe said the noise from the quarry had been deafening since production began in late November. Residents were so upset that they gathered outside the house of the local administrator, Saw Aung Win Shwe, who has been a vocal supporter of the quarry together with the community’s leading monk.
“The village administrator just told us to talk to the monk,” Saw Hla Ngwe said. “We are just being bullied. Whatever we say, they don’t care and they don’t listen to us.”
Saw Aung Win Shwe could not be reached for comment.