Government-approved projects to develop and cultivate portions of forests are closely scrutinised by relevant authorities to ensure there are no wrongdoings, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation said today.
During the second day of the fifth session of the second Mandalay Region Hluttaw, U Aung, MP from Pyin Oo Lwin Constituency 1, asked if all approved works conducted in forests were being carried out in accordance to proper guidelines.
U Aung asked if works such as “clearing and cutting of forests, leveling of lands, dividing and selling of plots, and the extraction of natural resources in the forestry land areas [in the villages of Pyin Oo Lwin township] which were done with heavy machineries”, were being closely monitored.
“When the machineries are submitted for use, the forestry department staff would do fieldwork to ensure the machines do not cause any environmental damage, and do not harm the forests and marshlands,” said U Zarni Aung, Mandalay Region Minister for Electrical Power, Energy and Construction, on behalf of the environmental ministry.
“Officers also lay down rules and regulations so that environmental conservation laws were being followed.”
He said companies found to be in violation of these rules would have their work permits revoked, and would be charged under forestry laws.
U Zarni Aung said that apart from deforestation and development, among the permits granted for work in forest lands also included replanting trees and managing reforestation.
“Till the end of February, of the fiscal year of 2016-17, there were about 38 cases, charged with illegal trespassing in the forestry lands of Pyin Oo Lwin,” he said.
According to the Forestry Department’s official statistics, Pyin Oo Lwin township had about 483,823 acres of land, out of which 241,182 acres of land were forestry and environmental conservation land, 115,898 acres were vacant or virgin lands, and the remaining land was for miscellaneous use.
A total of 34 staff, together with the township officer-in-charge, are responsible for the protection of forestry and conserved lands of Pyin Oo Lwin. This means an individual staff was responsible for the protection of 7,094 acres.
U Aung said that the use of heavy machinery in many areas of affected forests had led to destruction.
“The government requested [the lands] for agricultural use. They did not complete their project, but instead, they divided and sold the forest lands.
“Heavy machineries were involved to do these projects. I do not think machineries would be necessary if they were going to cultivate ordinarily.
“The agricultural lands of Pyin Oo Lwin have been destroyed because of these actions. Therefore, in order to prevent future destructions, I had to raise this question,” he said.
– Translation by Kyaw Soe Htet