Monday, July 24, 2017

Environmental impact report in the pipeline

As controversy continues to swirl around the now-complete natural gas pipeline from Rakhine State to the Chinese border, critics say they will soon release a report on the environmental and social impact of the project. The group, Myanmar-China Pipeline Watch Committee, is also continuing to press the issue of compensation for land acquired by the pipeline operators.

Although finished, it remains unclear where the profits from the pipeline will wind up, one watchdog group said.

“We are collecting data on land use and the impact of both the natural gas and crude oil pipeline projects. This process is expected to be complete by mid-December. We will say more about the pipeline impact at that time,” said U Tin Thit, an adviser to the Myanmar-China Pipeline Watch Committee.

The committee comprises 25 civil society groups active in 21 townships along the route of both the natural gas and crude oil pipelines from Rakhine State to the border with China.

“In our study, the total acreage of land for permanent use amounted to 6499 acres, of which 5638 acres can be cultivated. Some landowners got less compensation than they should have because of measuring mistakes by government officials,” said U Tin Thit.

The Ta’ang Students and Youth Union (TSYU), an ethnic association based in Namhkhan township, northern Shan State, said, “The compensation process is not complete. Only a third of the money has reached the landowners. The rest is still in hands of the administration,” said Mai Amm Ngeal of TSYU. The organisation has watched the pipeline projects since construction began.

The pipeline spans central Myanmar, with unloading points at Kyaukphyu in Rakhine state, Yenanchaung in Magway and Thaungtha in Mandalay. Myanmar will receive 2.5 billion cubic metres of natural gas a year from the pipeline.

“We pay attention to land issues. There have been complaints about the social and economic impact, some because of external instigation. We accept responsibility for these issues. That is why we built schools and clinics,” an official at SEAGP/SEAOP, the Southeast Asian Gas Pipeline and Oil Pipeline company that operates the lines.

SEAGP/SEAOP has spent K30 billion for land compensation so far, said the company.

“We work with MOGE (Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise), regional administration officials and residents or landowners in awarding compensation,” said the official.

The country will receive US$30 billion a year over the next 30 years from the gas pipeline, but the disposition of that income may be unregulated, according to a report by the Shwe Gas Movement.

The Myanmar government awarded purchasing rights for the gas to China in 2008 with an agreement to export 6.5 trillion cubic feet over 30 years. SEAGP/SEAOP, a consortium of energy companies from China, Korea and India and MOGE operates the line, which runs between Kyaukphyu and Muse on Myanmar territory. The estimated cost of 792.5 km-long line is $2.01 billion.