Posted on 04 April 2018
WWF expresses concern to Dawei Special Economic Zone (SEZ) Road
Bangkok, April 3, 2018: Last week, the Myanmar Parliament (Pyidaungsu Hluttaw) approved a $144 million loan from the Neighbouring Countries Economic Development Cooperation Agency (NEDA) under Thailand’s Ministry of Finance. The loan will support construction of a multi-lane road through the dense Tanintharyi forests, connecting the Dawei Special Economic Zone (SEZ) and the planned deep-sea port to Bangkok and beyond.
WWF has significant concerns about the potential social and environmental impacts on the affected area, that harbours a rich array of endangered wildlife, including tigers and elephants, and is also home to local communities who depend on the landscape for their livelihoods and resources.
“If the road is not planned and constructed thoughtfully, this area stands to lose much of its globally important biodiversity and ecological integrity with serious consequences for the well-being of local people. There are critical steps which must be taken in the planning of any infrastructure project and we have concerns that, now the loan has been approved, there will be pressure to speed up the development with these steps being overlooked or ignored,” said Hanna Helsingen, WWF-Green Economy Programme Manager.
These critical steps are :
- Strategic Environmental Assessment for the entire SEZ and road link that fully involves and consults communities.
- robust and legally compliant Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Environmental Management Plan (EMP) is carried out for the road which lays out measures and solutions to avoid and mitigate impacts on people and the environment
To date the current developer of the road has submitted multiple EIA & EMP versions but none have been approved by Myanmar Minister of Natural Resource and Environment Conservations (MoNREC). Only after approval can an Environmental Compliance Certificate be issued and under Myanmar Law any work carried out before the Environmental Compliance Certificate is obtained is illegal and would render the developer liable for all damage to the environment and communities.
“There is also significant concern regarding inadequate stakeholder consultation. This process must include communities, ethnic groups and any other concerned parties, however we have spoken to many villagers along the planned road who have not received information about the project. In addition, multiple affected communities were missing from a recent consultation held at the proposed site of the Dawei SEZ as they had apparently not received invitations,” said Helsingen.
The Dawei Project, including the SEZ and the road link cannot avoid impacting the environment and communities in the region, but WWF believes that those impacts must and can be minimized and mitigated through careful planning and use of mitigation measures from design to development to completion and beyond. WWF remains available to support as needed to ensure a better Dawei road, that will provide benefits to local communities, while protecting this unique forest landscape shared between Myanmar and Thailand.