Activists Discuss Irrawaddy River in Rangoon

By Nyein Nyein 16 July 2012

Hundreds of Burmese environmentalists and civil society group members gathered in Rangoon over the weekend for a three-day seminar on protecting the Irrawaddy River.

“Our Irrawaddy, Our Future” was organized by JUU Foundation from July 14 to 16 to allow concerned people around the nation to come together and discuss how to safeguard the vital waterway.

“The Irrawaddy River is our Union. If the Irrawaddy River did not exist, there would not be a Bagan era, Tharakhittara, Amarapura or Mandalay either. Protecting the Irrawaddy is protecting the Union,” said Jimmy (aka Kyaw Min Yu), a leader of the 88 Generation Students group who attended the closing ceremony.

Ko Tar, a writer and organizer of the seminar, agreed and said, “We have a lot to do to preserve the Irrawaddy River—from deforestation to gold mining and electric shock fishing. It is important to spread this information via awareness among grassroots groups with the help of the media.”

Organizers also held an exhibition about the Irrawaddy River at Gallery 65 in Rangoon on Sunday which called for the permanent end of the suspended Myitsone Dam in Kachin State.

There have been rumors that the Chinese CPI company recently resumed work in the area despite reformist President Thein Sein saying in September that the project would be postponed for his administration.

“The Irrawaddy Myitsone Dam project is important for us as CPI do not stop and always want to keep on with work,” said Ko Tar. “But on our side there are other important things happening right now. The Myitsone issue is one of the important ones. If we unite, we can help each other.”

Cartoonists, artists, composers, activists, writers and poets from all over Burma joined hands at the event for the preservation of the Irrawaddy River. Environmental experts such as Win Myo Thu, from ECODEV (Economically Progressive Ecosystems Development), as well as Dr. Khin Ni Ni Thein and Sein Myo Myint gave speeches on “why we must protect our Irrawaddy.”

“As the specialists said, we have to do more awareness programs from the grassroots level,” added Jimmy. “It is not enough that President Thein Sein postponed the Myitsone Dam project in his administration. It is important to advocate having candidates who will guarantee the preservation of the Irrawaddy River in the upcoming 2015 general election.”