Forest clearance for dam project drives out wildlife

Oct 10, 2008 (DVB), Wild animals have been forced to flee to the jungles of India from Sagaing division by forest clearance for the Htamanthi dam project which has destroyed their habitats.

The Burmese forestry department granted permission for the Chinese companies involved in the project to cut down all the trees in areas that would be submerged by water.

An estimated 100 square miles of forest between Htamanthi and Khamtee has been felled since the end of last year and wildlife is fleeing to India, according to ethnic Naga El Maung Sar, quoting a Naga hunter.

"All the forests are gone and the animals have nowhere to go so they have moved on," he said.

"Indigenous animals such as elephants, wild boars and tigers have crossed the border in the west and settled in Nagaland and Manipur."

The destruction of the forests is not only forcing the animals to flee but also could lead to the extinction of rare herbs and medicinal plants.

Naga and Kuki people who make a living hunting animals and collecting medicinal plants are also facing difficulties, and three ancient Naga, Kuki and Red Shan settlements have also been forcibly relocated to make way for the project.

Even as the forests are being cut down at an alarming rate, the Burmese government has been hosting international conferences and workshops on environmental protection in Rangoon and sending delegations abroad to attend similar events.

A high-ranking minister from the regime attended an environmental conference in Vietnam on Wednesday.

Reporting by Khin Maung Soe Min

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