Environmentalists in natural resource rich northern Burma marked the 40th anniversary of Earth Day today with myriad programmes despite mounting military tension between the country’s military junta and ethnic armed groups.
A variety of environmental awareness programmes were held day and night on Earth Day in Kachin communities in Kachin State and Shan State in collaboration with environmental activists and churches, said Sino-Burma border-based environmentalists.
With help from a local NGO Life Vision Foundation (LVF) and different Kachin churches, different programmes were organized in Muse, Kutkai and Lashio townships in Northeast Shan State. There were environmental awareness programmes for people at all levels, said organizers.
Over 300 saplings were planted this morning in the three townships and local ethnics like Shan, Palaung, Kachin and Lisu joined the activities in Namtau in Muse Township, said a LVF member.In Lashio, a special concert on environmental awareness was held at night and hundreds of local people and university students attended, organizers added.
LVF distributed over 1000 posters in Kachin and English titled “Let us make the earth healthy and green”, in Kachin state and Shan state through churches, said a LVF leader.
The Kachin Developing Networking Group (KDNG), based on the Sino-Burma border also conducted a small-scale public environmental awareness programmes in two places on the border and Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin State, said the group’s chairman Awng Wa.
Awng Wa said, over 40 participants including Baptist preachers, students and NGO workers joined the service on the border held in the Christian way of worship with prayers and environmental sermon.
The border-based two environmental activists Awng Wa and Patrick La Ring pointed out, that natural resources, the environment and ecology and animals in Kachin State are being severely destroyed in two ways – because of local people, who lack environmental awareness and the corruption of the Burmese military junta.
Heavy gold mining and use of mercury for the mining in Hukawng Valley are destroying streams and paddy fields. Fish in Irrawaddy River are also being increasingly poisoned by Mercury pollution because of heavy gold mining upstream for years, added the two environmentalists.
According to environmentalists, some residents in Myitkyina are afraid of eating fish from the Irrawaddy River because of Mercury poisoning.
Similarly, rampant logging, replacing mono-crop plantations in natural forests and planting GM seeds from China, and using chemical fertilizers in Northeast Shan State is destroying natural soil, said a woman LVF activist.
She added, many streams in Northeast Shan State have become dry in the last three years and now local people are facing shortage of drinking water sources because they sold the forest areas near their villages to Chinese log businessmen.
The junta is criticized by environmental activists because it is selling all natural resources in the country for rampant militarization.