Magwe Govt to Reconsider Roadside Tree Felling

By Zue Zue 28 December 2016

Magwe divisional government is reconsidering its plan to cut down 503 trees on the Magwe to Kyaukpadaung section of the Rangoon-Mandalay highway following protests from locals.

The divisional government approved a plan to cut down the trees as part of a project to widen the road from 18 feet to 24 feet on a 60-mile section of the road carried out by Kaung Mun Co.

Locals expressed concern after the company began work on Dec. 6 and cut down 20 trees—including rain trees and acacia trees—that were not within the construction area.

The divisional government has promised to reconsider its plan after civil society organizations met the divisional minister for resources, environmental conservation, electricity and energy U Myint Zaw and the minister for construction and transportation U Tin Nwe Oo on Sunday and Monday and expressed their concerns, said Ko Kyaw Ko Shein, a member of campaign group Stop Cutting 503 Campaign.

The ministers and local civil society organizations reached a tentative agreement to cut only around 300 of the 503 trees it originally planned to cut down, Ko Kyaw Ko Shein said.

He quoted minister U Tin Nwe Oo as saying the divisional government would only cut down about 10 trees that are six feet in circumference and that most of the trees planned for cutting are two or three feet in circumference. The government said it would not cut down shady Banyan trees.

“Minister U Myint Zaw also said that [he] would issue a notice and stop [the company] from cutting more trees, and would also review the company’s proposal regarding the number of trees to be cut. He said he would issue a statement within five days and the divisional government would only cut trees that need to be cut,” said Ko Kyaw Ko Shein.

Civil society organizations, youth networks and tree lovers launched a petition against the cutting of trees on Dec. 25 and plan to continue the campaign until Jan. 15 despite the divisional ministers’ promise to reconsider the plan.

“We value their love for trees. But the intention of widening the road is to improve the transportation for the convenience of the public,” said U Tint Lwin, a divisional lawmaker representing Yenangyaung Township.

“I also learned that [the divisional government] has a plan to grow ten new trees for every tree cut down,” he added.

The Stop Cutting 503 Campaign will wait for the minister’s statement but plan to monitor the entire cutting process from beginning to end, said Ko Kyaw Ko Shein.