Myanmar's pipeline to China sparking more alarm

MYANMAR - Local communities and experts are becoming increasingly concerned about what they describe as a lack of preparation for accidents along the controversial pipeline that will transport gas from Rakhine State to China.

The controversial Shwe Gas Line Project comprises two 800-kilometre pipelines, one for natural gas and the other for crude oil, which will run alongside each other from the coastal township of Kyaunkphyu in the northwestern state through Mandalay Region and Shan State before entering China's Yunnan province.

The project has been heavily criticised by environmental groups and local residents who say it has already damaged the environment and livelihoods. The lack of public information on contingency plans for accidents is sparking a rising sense of alarm, they say.

The project is a joint venture project between China National Petroleum Corporation's South East Asia Pipeline Co. Ltd. and the Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise, with the former holding 50.9 per cent of the project and MOGE holding the rest.

Under the deal, Myanmar will receive US$6.09 million (S$7.4 million) in royalties a year for the pipeline as well as US$1 for each barrel of crude oil it transports, according to energy minister Than Htay. The pipeline is expected to transport 22 million barrels of crude oil each year.

Tun Lwin, coordinator of the Kyaukpyu Social Network Group, said such royalties are more than 20-fold lower than those China pays African and Middle Eastern countries for oil and gas.

Local residents are deeply concerned about possible oil spills, pipeline ruptures and other environmental impacts, said Tun Lwin.

Win Aung, a member of the Thai-based Shwe Gas Movement, said that people living along the pipeline's route had not received compensation for farmland lost to the pipeline or the loss of livelihood. Environmental and social impact assessments are being flouted, Win Aung added.

Tun Lwin said people living along the route of the pipeline are demanding that the project be suspended until compensation rates have been reviewed, and the EIA and SIA are made public. They also want the name of the company that conducted the assessments to be made public, he said.

Only 0.013 per cent of the project's cost had been set aside to compensate those affected by it, he added.

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