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Salween Riverbank Collapse Worries Island Residents

A section of the river bank along the Salween River near Mottama in Mon State has collapsed due to recent sand extraction activities, resulting in increased damage to farming and paddy fields near Hinthar Island, according to island residents.

A month ago, nearly twenty acres of farmland on Hinthar Kyun (Island), Chaung Zone Township eroded due to river currents and ongoing sand extraction, as the bank collapsed into the river.

River Bank collapsing into the Salween at Hinthar Kyun

U Than Win, head of Upper-Port Village, Hinthar Island said: “The villagers are facing difficulties as the bank collapses, because the village is located close to the river bank. The bank will collapse when it is eroded by river current…before it would collapse by itself, sometimes. But starting last year, they have been extracting sand with their machine, and it extracts both mud and sand from the bank, gouging out the earth; and then the bank just collapses,” said U Than Win, head of Upper-Port Village, Hinthar Island.

U Than Win continued that sand extraction ships did not extract sand during the daytime but at night when the water level rises. Conducting their work at night has prevented seniors and young children from sleeping due to the noise of the machines, he said.

“They are extracting sand [very close] to my farm and at night we cannot sleep [due to the noise of the machines]", said Zaw Myo Naing, who lost four of his ten acres of land when the riverbank collapsed.

On 2nd February, ten farmers from Nge-hit Kyun, located under the Hinthar Kyun Village tract, went to the Chaung Zone Township Administration Office to report the destruction caused by sand extraction activities near the island which have caused the bank to collapse, damaging small dams and paddy fields.

Zaw Myo Naing said: “At the moment, we farmers do not want them to continue extracting the sand because the bank has collapsed. Now, the bank is collapsing very close to where we live. Before, the bank was very far from here. If our area collapses, who will provide us with a place to resettle? We won’t have a place to live."

According to local residents, Hinthar Island’s Upper-Port Village is home to 50 households, but authorities have yet to establish a new village for displaced residents. Currently, two or three families have to live together in one household.

The Hinthar Island sand extraction project began in 2014, and has resumed again. With the project starting up again, local residents are worried that their homes will be dragged into the river along with the ground erosion.

According to the Ministry of Transport, collaborating with Singapore’s Star Asia Pacific Company, the ministry is extracting sand to create greater depth in the river in order to allow easier access to the seaport. Trading and transportation from the seaport will be taxed; tax revenues will be allocated to respective government departments.