A new report by the Kaladan Movement raises community concerns about the lack of government transparency surrounding the implementation of the Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project.
The $214 million Kaladan Project—estimated to be fully operational in 2015—will see the construction of a combined inland waterway and highway transportation system connecting Mizoram State in Northeast India with a Bay of Bengal deep-sea port at Sittwe in Rakhine State. The deep-sea port will transfer cargo from large container ships to smaller 300-tonne barges (from 50 to 200 metres in length) that will ply the 160 km inland waterway north to a port complex at Paletwa Town in Chin State.
At the Paletwa port, cargo will be transferred to trucks, and driven on a yet-to-be-built 130 km highway connecting to a new Land Customs Station at Zorinpui on the southern-most tip of the 1,634 km India-Burma border. The Project, classified as Indian development aid to Burma, is a cornerstone of India’s “Look East Policy” aimed at expanding Indian economic and political influence in Southeast Asia.
The Kaladan Movemnet says the report, titled “One cannot step into the same river twice: making the Kaladan Project people-centred”, provides an overview of the current on-the-ground impacts arising from the lack of transparency, and focuses on the concerns and hopes of the local people.
“The report also aims to highlight the potential benefits of the project, particularly for Arakan [Rakhine] and Chin States, the two most impoverished regions of Burma,” the report says.
While acknowledging the need for improved infrastructure and the potential benefits of increased trade opportunities for local farmers and producers, Kaladan Movement says the prospect is enhances of further land confiscation and forced evictions, as well as disruption and loss of existing livelihoods, and increased militarization in connection with the project.
“Local people must have full participation in major development decisions in Burma,” said Twan Zaw, Executive Director of Arakan Rivers Network, a core member of the Kaladan Movement. Twan Zaw added, “Comprehensive environmental, social, and health impact assessments should be conducted and made public before the Kaladan Project proceeds any further. Unless the Kaladan Project is implemented with a people-centred approach, it may lead to increased tension between India and Burma rather than improving ties.”
Zo Indigenous Forum Director C. Lalremruata said, “People living in the project area in Mizoram State want the Kaladan Project to be a sustainable development which brings local economic benefits and does not destroy the environment.
Indigenous peoples in both India and Burma must be involved in all decision-making regarding their ancestral lands, and the principle of free, prior and informed consent must be the foundation of this kind of infrastructure development project. There must be fair compensation for land acquisition for the Kaladan Project.”
The full report can be downloaded at: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/102872850/KM_Report_Eng.pdf