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Ceremony held for controversial pipeline

The China National Petroleum Company (CNPC) has held ceremony in the city of Mandalay last week to celebrate the commencement of welding on the Burmese section of the Shwe gas pipeline as locals continue to complain of land confiscations.

The pipeline will run from Kyaukphyu township in Arakan State on Burma’s west-coast to southern China’s Yunnan province.

A local in Mandalay’s Kyaukpadaung township, through which the pipeline will pass, told DVB that farmlands and toddy plantations owned by local villagers are likely to be destroyed to make way for the pipeline’s construction;

“The pipeline is passing across our farmlands and toddy plantations so we are likely to lose them. Now we have been informed [by the authorities] which areas will be affected by the constructions. They said to call a meeting with farm owners,” said the Kyaukpadaung local.

He said the CNPC are negotiating with farm owners but it is not clear yet whether they would be paid compensations or not.

“The Chinese are here for the construction and they are currently negotiating and yet to specify the [compensation] – apparently they are also looking to build roads.”

The pipeline will carry natural gas from off shore Burmese blocks for nearly 800 km’s in Burma and also take Middle Eastern oil into South West China as the Chinese look to diversify supply routes away from the crowded Malacca straits.

The impact of the pipeline has been questioned along its entire length where activists have claimed that livelihoods are being destroyed with only vague promises of compensation to the affected. With a report by the environmental group Earth Rights International (ERI) earlier alleging; “numerous instances of land confiscation without adequate compensation.”

Whilst the same report also spoke to locals who alleged torture for merely expressing opposition to its construction.

The pipeline puts huge Chinese strategic imperative on Burmese soil as the value of planned oil imports from Saudi Arabia alone will be in the region of US$ 20 million per day.

Such imperatives will be tested by the volatile north of Burma where fighting has been raging between ethnic armed groups, such as the Shan State Army and the Burmese military. With some suggesting that the recent fighting is a Burmese attempt to pacify these areas specifically for such Chinese infrastructure projects.

It was earlier reported that as a result of the fighting there was a month long break in work on the pipeline, with work resuming at the end of June. Large numbers of pipes were seen being delivered to Burma from China.

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