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Critics blame logging for Myanmar floods

Mandalay (UCAN): Advocates and politicians from Myanmar’s predominantly Christian, Kachin State have blamed the destruction of hundreds of houses destroyed by floods and landslides in late April on environmental degradation caused by the logging industry.

Steven Tsa Ji, general secretary of Kachin Development Networking Group, said the recent disaster is the result of intensive logging and mining conducted by Chinese companies.

“This is a man-made disaster which brings trouble for civilians. It is a very dangerous area for people to live. The situation may worsen if more flooding occurs,” he said.

About 110 houses were destroyed and more than 700 people from seven villages of the Chipwi township near the Chinese border were hit by floods and landslides on April 24.

Those affected remain in dire need of food as aid groups struggle to reach the isolated area.

The villagers are from the ethnic and mostly Christian Lisu minority, who also practice slash-and-burn agriculture.

The flood-affected region is under the control of the military and the local militia, the New Democratic Army-Kachin (NDA-K).

According to The Irrawaddy, the area has been at peace since 1990, when the militia signed a cease-fire with the Myanmese government. Since then, the NDA-K has generated most of its income from logging.

Lar Mar Lay, a Lower House lawmaker, said that the region’s underdeveloped infrastructure has been severely damaged by the affects of logging and mining by Chinese companies.

“Transportation challenges are hindering aid groups,” he said, noting that the main road can’t be used, while humanitarian aid has been flown in via military helicopters twice.

The London-based Environmental Investigation Agency estimated that the illegal timber trade between Kachin and China’s Yunnan province exceeded 900,000 cubic metres of logs in 2014 and was worth around $3,88 billion (US$500 million) a year.

Myanmar has the third worst deforestation rate in the world and the country had lost an estimated 546,000 hectares of forest cover each year since 2010, according to a 2015 report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation.

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