The government plans to restart a stalled railway project that will pass through Mrauk-U, an ancient city in northern Arakan State, although authorities and locals are unable to agree on where exactly the railway will traverse.
The project, which started in 2009, will travel 154 kilometres between Sittwe and Mrauk-U, but has stalled because of protests led by locals who object to the railway passing through endangered sites in the ancient city.
Maung Tha Aung, a member of Mrauk-U’s Ancient Cultural Conservation Committee, told DVB that district and township authorities, as well as project representatives, met with the locals on 26 to 29 June to discuss where the railway route will go.
“The map they showed us was not clear so nobody could agree to it. It’s good if it is right; if it is wrong, we will become the culprits of history,” Maung Tha Aung said. “If we allow them to develop wherever they like, more damage will be done.”
The city’s elders then went onsite to see where the government’s proposed new planned routes would go through, and they found that it would still be severely damaging to the city’s ancient sites. According to Maung Tha Aung, Waithali stone steps, certain pagodas and some ancient dias and stages were in danger. Even areas surrounding the planned rail site, which houses a number of pagodas, could be badly affected by construction due to the impact of drilling machines, he said.
The authorities rejected the locals’ suggestion that the railway pass through the western side of Mrauk-U, he said.