An interview with a local woman from Myitkyina
Due to the round-the-clock gold mining with the use of heavy equipment, sandbanks form in the middle of Ayeyarwaddy River in Kachin and water channels have changed, according to locals. Sandbank areas of Ayeyarwaddy River become wider. Water channels have changed and water level has declined.
The Network Media Group (NMG) interviewed a local woman from Myitkyina about rampant gold mining along the Ayeyeawaddy River with the use of heavy equipment.
Q: I have heard the news that the gold mining along Ayeyarwaddy River reaches the middle of the river. How are they doing gold mining? May I know the extent of deterioration?
A: The deterioration of the Ayeyarwady River and the natural environment will become worse beyond 2021. The situation before 2020 was not bad. At that time, the gold mining was small-scale. They did not use heavy equipment. The government issued the rules for gold mining areas. However, gold mining became rampant after the 2021 coup. The situation becomes worse. They use heavy equipment in the gold mining. The use of backhoes can help expand gold mining. Work done within one hour is very huge. Rivers and creeks are contaminated as gold mining is taking place along rivers and on the lands. There is no clean water and clean river.
Q: Where and how are they doing gold mining now?
A: In the past, the terrible problem was the Myitsone dam project. The dam project has been suspended till date. This is a historic and significant place. This is the watershed area of Ayeyarwady River. This is the life blood of Myanmar. So we protect it till date. Now the Myitsone dam project is suspended. The gold mining on the upstream of Myitsone with the use of backhoes is terrible. I have never seen such big equipment before. They dig gold on the bank of the River at the depth of 300 feet. Big lakes form on the upstream of Myitsone. Gold mining is terrible. Big water lakes emerge. Water level becomes high. What will happen to these lakes when there are floods in the rainy season? The collapse of these lakes may destroy the Myitsone and villages. The Myitsone dam project is suspended due to the public outrage. Now gold mining is becoming more and more rampant.
Q: Where and how the gold mining is being done?
A: Gold mining is being carried out in untapped Putao and Swanparabwan with the use of backhoes every day. They said they are working for development. They will implement development tasks and build churches and roads in the villages. They enter the region citing regional development. As a matter of fact, all natural environments have deteriorated. They transform the mountains into the plain areas and then the plain areas into the holes and lakes. All rivers and creeks become narrow and shallow. River channels have changed. We cannot drink river water. Now it has become poisonous. Due to the gold mining, water from Ayeyarwady River and creeks are poisonous. It is terrible. Fish are contaminated.
Q: Where is the gold mining taking place in addition to the gold mining in Myitsone?
A: Gold mining is taking place along the river and on the upstream of the river-crossing Balaminhtin Bridge. River channels have changed. This year, the region has no rain. Water is drying up a lot. This time in the previous years, the region got rains. The Ayeyarwaddy River flowed naturally. However, this year, the river doesn’t flow, and the water level has declined. So many sandbanks form due to rampant gold mining. We can go to the other side of the river bank easily. River channels have changed. Gold mining is rampant along Ayeyarwaddy River to Putao-Swanparabwan. We cannot use river water for hot tea. The situation is similar to that in Myitsone, upstream and downstream of Myitsone. The situation becomes like that after the 2021 coup.
Q: Who are the businessmen involved in the gold mining which causes such deterioration?
A: Those involved in the gold mining are the persons who have power and authority. No one listens to what the public says. Gold mining is official due to the involvement of the persons who have power and authority. They officially do gold mining. I don’t know. Those who have power and authority can officially do gold mining. I think they are the ones who shut the mouths with money. They don’t listen to the voices of the public despite the protests.
Q: As a local from Kachin State, which message do you want to convey to the relevant government?
A: I cannot imagine how our Kachin State and our Myanmar will become if this situation continues. Thanks to these natural environments, we can survive. These natural environments, rivers, creeks and lakes will deteriorate. There will be no plants on the mountains. As such, all our natural environments will deteriorate. If the situation continues, there shall be huge impacts on health, social and natural environments. The destruction of these natural environments makes our individual development hard. Our villages, cities and our country will become verdant if our natural environments are verdant. Our Myitsone and village will deteriorate less than five years if the situation continues. As a result, the people living along Ayeyarwaddy River face destruction. The people may become homeless. So they should not do gold mining with the use of heavy equipment.
Q: May I know your view on the rampant gold mining with the use of heavy equipment after the 2021 military coup?
A: The dam should not be built on the Maykha-Malikha confluence. So the entire people are demanding the total suspension of the dam construction. Now the dam project has been suspended till now. Whatever government takes office, the suspended Myitsone dam project should not be implemented. We must totally protect it. Our natural environment is very important. River courses will change and there will be landslides if the gold mining on the upstream and downstream of the Myitsone with the use of heavy equipment continues. There will be river bank slides due to bank erosion. We cannot drink water. What I want to say is the natural flow of clean and fresh and verdant Ayeyarwady River is very crucial. The entire people can protect it.
Q: Do you have anything to add?
A: What I finally want to say is that those involved in the gold mining said they are doing gold mining officially. Who grants permits for the gold mining? Now the country has no government we can rely on. I want to ask who officially permits gold mining. They are doing this gold mining taking advantage of the current political situation.
Sent by NMG