Sunday, July 26, 2009

Charcoal kilns destroyed by Burmese government, citing fear of environmental destruction

IMNA - Burmese government forces are destroying charcoal kilns in Tenasserim Divison, citing concerns over ongoing and future damage to the coastal environment. Area Kilns use Mangrove wood, which is important to the region’s environmental stability.

The commander of the Burmese military Costal Region Command (CRC), Brig-Gen Khin Zaw Oo, has ordered the destruction of nearly 300 charcoal kilns in Kawthaung township, Tenasserim division which has caused problems for residents who using charcoal for their cooking. The loss of charcoal production facilities has dramatically decreased the availability of charcoal in the area, and driven up prices of remaining stockpiles.

Charcoal kilns in Kawthaung, Myeik , Pulaw, BaLauk and Bokpyin township have been destroyed. Owners of charcoal kilns that were destroyed have not received any compensation from the CRC.

Mangrove trees grow naturally in salty water along coastal regions. The trees and roots form dense shrubs and walls, which when submerged provide food, shelter and a breeding ground for fish. They also form a natural breakwater for tidal shifts.

Mangrove trees have been particularly popular to use in charcoal production. Sources close to charcoal kiln owners describe the product as being denser when made from Mangrove wood. One resident explained, “Charcoal made from mangrove trees is good for cooking and the it burns a longer time.”

Despite the environmental concerns, some charcoal kiln owners have been able to fend of the destruction of their facilities by paying a tax to the CRC. In a undersupplied market the remaining owners make a higher profit, and residents who were dependent on the charcoal for cooking, can continue to cook.

The order to destroy charcoal kilns in Tenasserim came from Nay Pyi Daw about one month ago. The reason given for the targeted destruction of costal charcoal kilns by the CRC is concern that Tenasserim division’s environment has been negatively impacted by the loss of Mangrove trees, specifically with a decreased in the number of fish and higher likelihood of erosion, mudslides, and flooding. Thus they cite loss of the trees as increasing the potential for damage from cyclones, like Nagris, according to a resident who is close to a charcoal factory owner.

According to the Burmese Flowers News journal, about 50% of the Mangrove forests in Tenasserim division and Arakan state have been destroyed. After cyclone Nargis, 60% of mangrove forest in Irrawaddy division was destroyed. According to an article published in May by Irrawaddy news, the mangrove forests provided protection against Nagris when the cyclone struck, but were heavily damaged.

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