YANGON – Lawmakers of Nyaung Shwe Township, southern Shan State, have joined local residents in objecting to the proposed construction of a hotel on 90 acres of prime land in a village in the Inle Lake area.
The Inle hotel zone already occupies more than 620 acres of land, and residents and lawmakers urged that there should be no more new hotels built in nearby areas.
The land in Mai Thaut village was once a wildlife preservation area, but the protected status of the land was removed just before the former military junta ended its authoritarian rule. U Thein Aung, the former forestry minister and then chief minister of Irrawaddy Region, in March 2011 approved the removal of 90 acres from the Inle wildlife sanctuary so that a luxury hotel could be built on it by Myanmar Naing Group Co. Ltd.
Local residents told The Irrawaddy this week that they will continue their objection, simply to protect the biodiversity and wildlife in the Inle area.
“We did not know about the hotel project before. We have become aware of the importance of preserving these areas; we oppose [the plan] and we will continue doing so,” said Ma Khaing Khaing Tun, an Inle resident.
The developers initially planned to start the hotel project in 2016, as they received permission to do so in 2011, but it was stopped after local residents objected. Their efforts resumed in mid-June this year. According to a notice from the district resettlement and land record office, any objection to the hotel project would have to be made before Aug. 15.
“We will see whether the government will allow the hotel project to continue or not, as the deadline for the objection is on Wednesday,” said U Nay Myo, a Lower House lawmaker representing Nyaung Shwe.
Innthar Ethnic Affairs Minister Dr. Tun Hlaing, Lower House lawmaker U Nay Myo and state lawmakers U Khin Maung Win and U Thein Zaw Moe joined the locals’ signature campaign against the hotel project this month.
“As a resident of Inle region, I want the area to be preserved, as Inle Lake already faces a lot of environmental challenges,” U Nay Myo said.
In order to protect its rich biodiversity, residents of the Inle Lake region cannot build structures — not even huts — within 10 miles of Inle Lake, said Inle residents, on the orders of the wildlife preservation committee.
“We have a hotel zone already, and as it is inside the Inle Wildlife sanctuary, it will affect the natural biodiversity,” added U Thein Zaw Moe, a state lawmaker from Nyaung Shwe Constituency 2.
The lawmaker said there had been some efforts by the developers to persuade locals to accept the project by promising to support village development with infrastructure like roads and bridges.
“No permission should be given to build the hotel on this important land,” said Dr. Tun Hlaing, who is also the vice chair of the Inle Lake conservation committee.
“If the cabinet approves the hotel project on those 90 acres, it will have both environmental and social impacts,” he said, partly because locals are not even allowed to build any structures designed to protect the sanctuary. The minister added that the cabinet must uphold its responsibility to conserve natural diversity.