Burma

Student Objections to Tree Cutting Halt Projects at Myanmar’s Yangon University

By Zaw Zaw Htwe 4 November 2019

YANGON – The University of Yangon on Monday temporarily suspended construction of a ring road and the implementation of a landscaping project on campus after facing objections from students and teachers over the cutting down of trees to make way for the projects.

University officials informed the students union and the teachers association on Oct. 31 that trees on the university compound would be cut down to implement the ring road and landscaping projects.

The next day, Yangon University started cutting down the trees, over the objections of the teachers and students.

The student union issued a statement on Nov. 1 opposing the projects, saying they were destroying the greenery and ecosystem of the campus.

It also condemned the use of the university’s budget to implement such projects to celebrate the centenary of Yangon University, which it said was superficial, instead of using the money for necessary educational activities.

A Yangon University student puts a “Don’t Cut It Down” sign on a tree on Monday to protest against the university’s campus development plan. / Htet Wai / The Irrawaddy

Yangon University’s Teachers Association issued a statement on Nov. 3 calling on the authorities of the university to get agreements from teachers, students and stakeholders before setting up development projects on campus.

The teachers association has also demanded that the construction of pedestrian walkways and any trimming or felling of trees must be suspended until students, teachers and stakeholders give their consent.

The University of Yangon’s Student Union held protests on Nov. 2 and 4 demanding that all tree cutting be suspended on campus.

The students told media organizations on Monday that about 50 trees on the campus had been cut down despite university authorities saying that the number was closer to 20.

They also found that up to 100 trees have been marked with an “X” indicating they will be cut down soon. Authorities put the total number of trees to be cut down for the ring road project at more than 60.

On Nov. 4, Yangon University authorities agreed to the request from the student union and teacher association to temporarily suspend implementing the ring road and landscaping projects.

University authorities have agreed to abolish the projects if they are not approved by students and teachers at a meeting scheduled for this month.

A tree slated to be cut down is marked with an “X” on Monday. Trees are being felled to make way for a campus development plan. / Htet Wai / The Irrawaddy

Yangon University also agreed not to cut down the trees without getting the approval of the Forestry Department, students and teachers.

They also agreed not to give priority to physical development projects and to gauge the attitudes of students and teachers in regard to necessary education projects when they claim government funding.

”We [the student union] will keep watching to see if they [university authorities] keep their promises. We will be there to protest if they violate the agreements or fail to implement the agreements,” Ko Nyi Zaw, president of the Yangon University Students Union, told media on Monday.

The ring road and landscaping of campus projects are under the management of the steering committee for centennial commemorations for Yangon University. The committee is led by State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

The steering committee has been given a budget of 300 million kyats (nearly US$200,000) for landscaping on Adhipati Road, the main route through the campus. As well, 1.42 billion kyats have been appropriated for implementing the ring road.

Yangon University was established in December 1920 and will turn 100 years old on Dec. 1, 2020.

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