MANDALAY – Environmental activists in the Hpakant and Lonekin jade mining regions of Kachin State have urged the government to impose strict controls on the dumping of waste soil by mine operators, as the practice exacerbates seasonal flooding.
More than 1,000 local residents were affected and dozens of homes were inundated with mud as floodwaters in the area washed the waste soil into residential areas on Monday.
According to local residents, the nearby Uru River commonly floods in the monsoon season. However, the muddy floodwaters that have inundated the area since 2006 have been even more damaging than regular floods, they say.
“Jade mining has intensified dramatically in our region since 2006, and we’ve experienced muddy flooding,” explained Ko Nawng Latt, the director of Green Land, a local environmental conservation group.
According to the group, the main cause of the muddy inundations is the dumping of waste soil by jade mining companies. It said the dumping destroys the watershed area of the Uru River, which flows through the Hpakant and Lonekin regions, and urged the government to prioritize the creation of proper rules regarding the dumping of waste soil.
“The waste soils are dumped directly into streams that flow into the Uru. These fill in the riverbed and pollute the river, resulting in the muddy floodwater,” Ko Nawng Latt told The Irrawaddy.
After the river flooded on Monday, many houses were inundated with 1 to 2 feet of mud. Locals had to use pumps to clean up their homes.
In June, landslides caused by heavy rain in Hpakant killed at least five and destroyed 60 houses, along with bridges and roads.
“Climate change and deforestation in the region also contribute to these disasters,” said Ko Nawng Latt. “We want the government to impose strict environmental controls on jade mining companies. If it does not, our region will face even more severe disasters in the very near future.”
In 2012, severe, weeklong muddy flooding displaced thousands of people in the Hpakant and Lonekin regions.
People whose homes were affected by the recent flooding and landslides had been able to return to their homes with the help of local civil society groups, according to local residents.
“The flooding only lasted a day, so we were lucky. However, we are still worried that more flooding is possible, as this is just the beginning of the monsoon season, and more rain will come,” said U Kaung San, the secretary of the National League for Democracy’s office in Hpakant.
“Although we face seasonal flooding every year, we really dread the muddy flooding, as it is more destructive than normal flooding,” he said.