Battered by landslides and condemned as too dangerous to live in, Hakha has decided to stand its ground and fight back. The Chin State capital is considered to be so precariously located that geologists last year recommended that it be closed down and rebuilt elsewhere. But now the state government has decided to plant grass and trees to stem future erosion.
Social welfare minister Pung Laung Minn Htang told The Myanmar Times the state government had already begun planting in the areas thought most likely for landslides to be triggered.
Undermined by heavy rain, the landslides that struck in July 2015 swept away 7000 houses and forced more than 4000 residents into temporary displacement camps. More displacements occurred last month, and one elderly resident was killed by falling earth.
“We have to try to prevent the ravages of landslides by planting grass everywhere, and we have already begun. We’re also planting trees,” said the minister.
According to Chin State Development Committee, the planting was started at Mindat township and will be extended to Hakha and Falam, and along the main roads.
State development committee minister Salai Isaac Khen said the committee had already directed all departments concerned to get involved with the planting and to share its likely costs.
“We don’t yet have a budget estimate. The matter has to be considered by the state parliament,” he said, adding that the strain of grass used was Vetiver, and it would be used to cover a very large area.
In November last year, following a deadly summer of landslides, a team of German geologists determined that Hakha was too dangerous to live in, and recommended its evacuation and relocation. At that time, U Tin Maung Soe, a state official, told The Myanmar Times, “We’re looking for a new state capital.”
About 700 of 732 replacement houses slated for relocation sites have already been completed. But residents who moved into the new houses say the structures were shoddily built, and leak.
Pung Laung Minn Htang said the capital may not be fully relocated depending on the results of further analysis.
He said that even though some landslide-ravaged villages would be replaced, the capital would stay put. “We have to find a way to stay where we are after we confirm it’s safe to stay,” he said.