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Deep sea port and airport on Kalagote Island, Myanmar


Description:

During the Mon State Investment Fair 2019 Chief Minister of Mon State, Dr. Aye Zan, informed the media that a deep sea port would be built in Kalagote island, an isolated island located in the Bay of Bengal, with a land area of 1,427 hectares and measuring about 14.5 kilometers long and 1 kilometer wide. He said that the water depth around Kalagote island, between 18 and 23 meters, is deeper than waters around Yangon, where Myanmar’s established main port is located, and that the country would benefit from a deep seaport. He said “Whether it is for rice or other things, Kalagote island is the main place for any trade”. At the event, held on 29th-30th November, in 2019, Dr. Aye Zan explained that the deep sea port plan is part of Mon State Vision Master Plan 2035, developed by Surbana Jurong, a Singaporean infrastructure and management services consultancy firm. Information presented at the Mon State Investment Fair 2019 purported to show that this strategic plan, designed to address the needs of Mon State, was drafted with inputs from local organizations and Mon State authorities. But a young person said that residents of Kalagote island were not well-informed of the plans, saying: “We saw some people did a land survey last year. But we don’t know who they were. Some people said it is for a deep-seaport. There will be huge hardship for the fishing community if a deep-seaport is built. Some villagers (who don’t understand the impact) think there are benefits when the company comes.” [1]

Residents express concerns over megaproject

On 26th February 2020 it was reported that construction of ‘coming large-scale projects’ on Kalagote island, namely the deep seaport and an airport, was the source of serious concern for local people. According to island residents red flags had been planted during the last rainy season and a new road had been built in the area around Pauk Chaung near the upper harbour. Kalagote Village Administrator, U Daung Sein, said “They [the navy] said it was for the airport, however really, we are not sure about that. They are experimenting [doing ground testing] with backhoes and bulldozers.” Residents had not been fully informed about the projects by local authorities and were worried they might lose their farmlands and local businesses. An island resident, Nai Aung Min, said “I do not want these projects here. If the [projects are implemented], we will surely lose our main source of livelihoods such as our farmlands, so how can we move forward if this happens?”[2] Human Rights Foundation of Monland (HURFOM) reported that after learning of the megaproject plans, for a deep seaport, a bridge, an airfield and other related infrastructure on Kalagote island villagers expressed concerns over their livelihoods from fisheries, farming and gardening. One villager said “We could not work anymore if this project is to be implemented. We only know how to fish. We don’t know [how to do other work] to go to foreign country. Therefore, we don’t want such an airfield and deep-seaport.” A few months previously, villagers, who had been hearing about the deep seaport and airport since August 2019 but had not been informed, had gathered to ask authorities about the plans and learned that an airfield 2,438 meters in length and 1,219 meters wide was planned. One villager said: “They did not call to tell us. They told us [only] when we asked after gathering. They told us that all so we just know that. Later, red flags were set in the ground, including in my plantation. When we asked them [marine battalion], they said it was the order from above.” HURFOM attempted to interview the Village  Administrator regarding but was only given a “no comment” response. Villagers decided to form a group to monitor the project. The population of Kalagote island is approximately 5,000 and there are about 1,000 houses.[3]

Kalagote island seized by the Navy in 2001

Kalagote island, also referred to as Kaleguak, was confiscated by the Mawyawaddy Navy Command in 2001, following seizure of more than 80 hectares in the lower portion of the island for an artillery base in 1996. In June 2014 General Kyaw Nyunt, Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Defence, stated that no army base had been established on the island but there were no plans to return the seized land. Residents continued to live and work there. Representatives from the affected constituencies were enquiring whether the army planned to return seized land that was not required for the country’s defence strategy. On 24th July 2014, at the 10th regular session of the Pyi Thu Hlataw (Lower House) representative Mi Myint Than, presented the issue. She said locals had been forced to give their signatures without being paid compensation and asked “will this army-seized land also be returned to the people, as lands [in other parts of Burma] have been returned?” General Kyaw Nyunt responded that the Ministry of Home Affairs had handed the entire 1,427 hectares of Kalegauk island land to Mawyawaddy Navy Command free of charge and that 920 island residents had agreed to the land acquisition, providing their signatures in the presence of the former Ye Township Law and Order Restoration Council, the Township People Police and an official from the Land Marking Department. But island residents say their lands have been passed down through the generations. They claim that no-one gave up their land for free, they had merely given their signatures for land-grant applications for their properties.[4]

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Deep sea port and airport on Kalagote Island, Myanmar
Country:Myanmar
State or province:Mon State
Location of conflict:Lamaing sub-township, Ye township
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Infrastructure and Built Environment
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Land acquisition conflicts
Transport infrastructure networks (roads, railways, hydroways, canals and pipelines)
Ports and airport projects
Aquaculture and fisheries
Specific commodities:Land
Water
sea

Project Details and Actors

Project details

The Mon State government gave a preliminary green light to a number of megaprojects, including a deep-seaport, an electric power station and an industrial zone in March 2014, noting that before construction could get underway the projects would require approval of the Union government. On 9th March 2014 officials from Mon State and Bedock Construction and Engineering Co. Ltd. signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) granting the latter the rights to develop the initiatives. According to U Min Htin Aung Han, Mon State Minister for Electricity, Energy and Industry and interim director of the Municipal Development Corporation, the projects are anticipated to boost job opportunities. He added that the state team would forward the project proposal and MoU to the Union government and approval from the Myanmar Investment Commission was also required.[5]

At the Mon State Investment Fair 2019 the Mon State government invited investors to participate in six sectors: agriculture, fisheries, tourism, trade and logistics, manufacturing and infrastructure. Chief Minister of Mon State, Dr. Aye Zan, said: “The location of Mon State means there is strong potential to leverage the trade channels with Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand.” U Htun Htay, Mon State Minister for Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Transportation said: “We are seeking local and foreign investors to develop cold storage and cold chain infrastructure which will support the agriculture sector in Mon State. Surbana Jurong presented its Mon State Vision Master Plan (2035), described in an article in Myanmar Times as ‘a dynamic conceptual zoning layout of major urban centres in Mon State with distinctive development potential, providing a guide for the strategic and systematic future growth of the state’. One speaker at the event, Gopikrishana Rengasamy, KPMG Singapore director for infrastructure and energy, sais “Myanmar has resources such as good soil and a variety of climactic zones to grow different crops” making recommendations including contract farming whereby production is carried out according to agreements between farmers and buyers.[6]

In February 2020 Kalagote island residents expressed concerns over proposed construction of a deep seaport and airport. Red flags had been planted in the ground and new road constructed near the island’s upper harbour. Village Administrator U Daung Sein said backhoes (excavators) and bulldozers were in operation. Villagers were informed that an airfield 2,438 metres long and 1,219 metres wide is planned.[2]

Type of populationRural
Affected Population:5,000
Start of the conflict:01/08/2019
Company names or state enterprises:Bedock Construction and Engineering Co. Ltd. from Myanmar - MoU signed between Mon State government and Bedock Construction and Engineering Co. Ltd. to construct a deep water port on Kalagote island in March 2017[2]
Surbana Jurong from Singapore - Development of Mon State Vision Master Plan (2035)[6]
Relevant government actors:Mon State government
Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Transportation
Municipal Development Department
Myanmar Investment Commission (MIC)
Ministry of Defense
Ministry of Home Affairs
Mawyawaddy Navy Command
Ye Township Law and Order Restoration Council
Township People Police
Land Marking Department
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Human Rights Foundation of Monland (HURFOM) - http://rehmonnya.org/

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Development of a network/collective action

Impacts

Environmental ImpactsPotential: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Global warming, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Oil spills, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Fires, Genetic contamination, Soil erosion, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsPotential: Other Health impacts, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
Other Health impactsIllnesses caused by pollutants emitted by aircraft and ships
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Militarization and increased police presence, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Violations of human rights

Outcome

Project StatusUnder construction
Conflict outcome / response:Strengthening of participation
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Kalagote island was seized by the Navy in 2001 and land ownership has not been returned to the people who continue to live there. Villagers concerned over loss of their farming and fishing livelihoods have not been informed about plans for megaprojects including a deep seaport, airfield, bridge and a road has already been constructed.

Sources & Materials

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

[3] Villagers concerned livelihoods will be lost due to mega-projects, Rehmonnya.org, 27 February 2020
http://rehmonnya.org/archives/5763

[4] No plans to return seized land on Kalegauk Island, says MoD Deputy Minister, Burma News International (BNI), 27 June 2014
https://www.bnionline.net/en/independent-mon-news-agency/item/17171-no-plans-to-return-seized-land-on-kalegauk-island-says-mod-deputy-minister.html

[5] Mon State extends initial approval to seaport, industrial zone projects, Mon News Agency, 14 March 2017
http://monnews.org/2017/03/14/mon-state-extends-initial-approval-to-seaport-industrial-zone-projects/

[6] Mon State throws open doors for investors in six sectors, Myanmar Times, 2 December 2019
https://www.mmtimes.com/news/mon-state-throws-open-doors-investors-six-sectors.html

[1] Mon State government plans to build deep seaport at Kalagoke island, Burma News International (BNI), 3 December 2019
https://www.bnionline.net/en/news/mon-state-government-plans-build-deep-seaport-kalagoke-island

[2] Villagers in Kalargote Island deeply concerned of coming large-scale projects, Burma News International (BNI), 26 February 2020
https://www.bnionline.net/en/news/villagers-kalargote-island-deeply-concerned-coming-large-scale-projects

Meta information

Contributor:Rose Bridger, Stay Grounded, email: [email protected]
Last update26/03/2020

Images

 

Bulldozers on Kalagote Island

Kalagote Island villagers’ concerns about construction of an airport and deep sea port were reported on 26th February 2020. Source: Burma News International (BNI) https://www.bnionline.net/en/news/villagers-kalargote-island-deeply-concerned-coming-large-scale-projects

Source: Mon News Agency 2019

Kalagote Island seen via Google Map