On February 27th to March 12th of 2012, a team of KESAN visited Belin Township, Doo Tha Htoo district and conducted several environmental and awareness issues including mining, forestry, land and economic policies of KNU to villagers. During the trip the team had witnessed several loggings and mining that are officially permitted by district authorities.
Many companies including individual business people have approached relevant district authorities for logging and mining operation permission. District authorities have allowed them with little benefit to the KNU and the local villagers. In many occasions, companies and business people that have been allowed to operate in the district do more than what they have been originally permitted or allowed.
Ko Shwe the team leader said "District authorities have no human resources to monitor and check whether the companies do what they are allowed to do and this is very sad."
Many villages have already suffered from mining and logging operations that are being allowed by district authorities. Villagers from Met Baw Kee, Su Kee, and La Kyo Ko villages in Bilin Township are worried about their forests are being logged out and want the authorities to stop logging operation.
Tee Saw Eh, a head village police officer from Met Baw Kee village said, "I don't know what to do now, I, myself including other villagers have told township authorities and other relevant district authorities for the endless logging in our areas several times, but they have ignored our voices."
He continues "If the authorities did not stop this logging, our river will dry out as loggers have continued to do logging near our watershed areas and we will face a lot of problems."
Another major problem that villagers have faced is antimony mining known as the Maw Lu mining operation, has been taking place on Maw Lu Mountain, which is located on the border Bilin township of Doo Tha Htoo and Bu Tho township of Mu Traw District in Karen State. Authorities of two districts have permitted the mining operation and villagers have reported that the mining has polluted the only Htee Hsi Baw river that they have relied on for their daily basic needs, paddy fields and live-stocks for many generations.
Moreover, the river pollution has caused many unusual health problems in the villagers. Villagers who have drunk the water from the river have suffered from skin rushing/itchy, dizziness, vomit, bone and muscle weakness, gastrointestinal bleeding, soar-throat and breathing problem. Cows and buffalos have died after drinking the river water and fish in the river have been found with wounds on their bodies. Even though there is no scientific test to prove whether the river is contaminated with antimony poison, however, the symptoms that are happening to the villagers are a sign of imposing antimony into the body.
Villagers have submitted several complains to township leaders, but there has been no effective decision or solution carried out by Doo Tha Htoo township or district leaders.
On March 5th, the team organized a forum inviting all district and township leaders including villages who have suffered from this mining operation to join and talk about how to solve the problems. Unfortunately, only a few district and township leaders could join the forum.
During the forum, head of district mining department agreed to that he will stop this mining operation after the contract ended in April 2012.
Visited KESAN team also conducted several environmental and policies awareness raising that help villagers to understand more of the issues and they are encouraged to protect their rivers, forests and livelihoods.
Ko Shwe said, "These logging and mining operations are just minor scale in the district, I believe there will be more bigger scale coming in after a cease-fire agreed between KNU and Burmese government has come into action."