Friday, January 21, 2011

2,000 people report skin diseases from Tigyit coal mine

Friday, 21 January 2011 13:26 Kyaw Kha

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – The largest coal mine in Burma, Tigyit, has created air and water pollution which has caused about 2,000 nearby residents to report skin diseases, according to a report released by the Pa-O Youth Organisation.

The report, ‘Poisoned Cloud,’ released on Thursday in Chiang Mai, Thailand, says the massive open-pit coal mine project in Pinlaung Township in southern Shan State has led to skin diseases and itching in about half of the 4,080 residents in nearby Tigyit and Se Gaung villages.

‘The coal mine releases gas and foul smells, and moreover the pile of waste disposed by the mine is higher than the village. Because of the air and water pollution, people have symptoms of skin diseases’, PYO Secretary Khun Chan Khe said at press briefing.

The Tigyit coal mine is among 16 coal mines in Burma and produces about 2,000 tons daily.

The China National Heavy Machinery Corporation initiated the Tigyit project in 2002 about 16 miles from Inle Lake, in partnership with the Burmese companies Eden Group and Shan Yoma Nagar Company.

Coal production from the mine produces at least 100 tons of ash and waste which is disposed in a nearby coal-fired thermal power plant, whose water flows into Belu creek, said the report.

There are about 25 villages within a 5-mile radius of the project which are home to about 11,592 people, all of whom are under a health risk.

When the project was started, 24 houses in Taung Po La and Likah villages were forcibly relocated by companies and local authorities. The project was then expanded and farmlands of local people were also seized by the authorities, the report said.

Win Myint of the Rhakine Nationalities Development Party told Mizzima that the coal mine was the direct cause of the air pollution which has made nearby residents break out in skin diseases.

The waste water released by the coal mine project also flows into upper Belu creek and then flows into the second largest lake in Burma, Inle Lake, which is an Asean national heritage site, the report said.

‘Conservation and the all-round development of Inle Lake is our first priority, and we must guard against projects which damage the lake’, Win Myint told Mizzima.

Most of the local population in the affected area is ethnic Pa-O with smaller concentrations of Shan, Burmese and Taung Yo. Local people grow millet, paddy, tea, cabbage and chili for their livelihood.

It is estimated that Burma has a total coal reserve of more than 270 million tons.

The Pa-O Youth Organization and Kyoju Action Network have monitored the project since February 2010.

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