Burma Activists Hold Day of Action Against SHWE Pipeline

Compiled from shwae.org

Community members and international supporters have made a stand against the Shwe Gas Project because of the negative impacts it has imposed on local communities and the missed opportunity for development for Burma. Around the country, our allies have led peaceful protests and advocated to their countries along with the Shwe Gas Movement. Below we have highlighted a few of these protests.

In cooperation with Burma’s military junta, a consortium of Indian and Korean corporations are currently exploring gas fields off the coast of Arakan State in Western Burma. Discovered in December 2003, these fields–labeled A-1, or “Shwe” (the Burmese word for gold)–are expected to hold one of the largest gas yields in Southeast Asia. These Shwe fields are destined to become the Burmese military government’s largest single source of foreign income. By examining past gas pipeline projects under the Burmese military regime (State Peace and Development Council, or SPDC), it is clear that the Shwe Project poses an imminent threat to Burma’s cultural heritage and environment.

As with the Yadana/Yetagun pipelines in eastern Burma during the 1990s, the offshore Shwe wells and related infrastructure will damage the local fishing industry. Local fishermen claim that they are not allowed into a radius of 10 miles of the Shwe drill ship and semisubmersible drilling platform. Construction of permanent production facilities would further decrease this access by local fishermen, yet to date no debate has been held regarding possible alternatives or modes of compensation.

Western Command have all confiscated land from farmers and have turned these into 160-250 acre large prawn farms, with income funneled back into the military. The remaining Mangroves along the Arakan coastline are now further threatened by the infrastructure of the Shwe gas project. Already endangered animals such as the Arakan forest turtle (heosemys depressa), among the most endangered turtles in the world, [d] and the Irrawaddy River Dolphin (orcaella brevirostris) now risk extinction, with the development related to Shwe.

Perhaps most pressing are Burma’s growing energy needs, which the SPDC’s Shwe Project ignores in favor or exporting gas for profit. This hunger to fulfill basic daily energy needs such as cooking and heating is leading to rapid deforestation. Not only are Burmese forests dwindling from precious wood exports, but because wood represents a basic fuel source for most Burmese. Fuelwood accounts for nearly 90% of domestic energy consumption in Burma, in comparison to less than 1% from electricity. Together with logging, this is putting considerable strain on Burma’s remaining forests.Rising energy demand is outstripping supply and the annual deforestation rate was in 2000 was estimated at 1.4% per year. However, instead of addressing these local needs, the military regime is exporting an important energy source in exchange for cash—in hopes of securing its own perpetuation.

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