China was variously described as plunderer and arch destroyer of Burma’s natural resources on the 38th World Environment Day today, by local people and environmental activists.Mindless logging and rampant mining in northern Burma by China for over two decades has led to widespread deforestation, pollution of rivers and land with Mercury used in gold mining. There is now varied ecological dysfunction that the country has to contend with.

Chinese trucks loading with timber from Kachin State headed to the China border. Photo: Kachin News Group.

Since 1988, China has been the only super power ally of the natural resource-rich military-run Burma. It is the only country authorized to access these resources by the Burmese military junta.

All natural resources in Kachin State have been controlled by Chinese companies. Besides, all wild animals in the state have been exported to China as food and traditional medicine since a ceasefire agreement was signed between the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) and the junta in 1994.

The Kachin state-produced natural resources like the world-class and famous Hpakant jade, timber, gold mines and other mineral mines like Molybdenum and Graphite are controlled by Chinese firms.

According to businessmen on the Sino-Burma border, there are no hardwood and teak, east and west of Irrawaddy River in Kachin State because of rampant felling for over a decade. Only small timber is left near the Indo-Burma border in western Kachin State.

Since 2006, the junta-backed Yuzana Company headed by Chinese-Burmese U Htay Myint seized over 200,000 acres of land in Hukawng Valley from native Kachins. It swept clean natural forests for crops and felled trees for export.

Timber in Hukawng Valley is mainly logged for export by two companies backed by the junta— Htoo Company owned by Burmese business tycoon Tay Za or Teza, the son-in-law of junta supremo Snr-Gen Than Shwe and Yuzana Company.

Timber traders on the border say, hundreds of thousands of tons of logs were damaged in the logging forests in Kachin State without being brought to the border timber camps given the extra demands for bribe by local Burmese military units.

Rampant gold mining is also taking its toll on rivers, paddy fields and forests in the valley, destroying and polluting the paddy fields, forests and rivers.  The Chinese-sponsored Sea Sun Stars Company is mainly involved in gold mining activities.

Hukawng Valley was dubbed the world’s largest tiger sanctuary in 2004 by the US-based Wildlife Conservative Society (WCS) but, while the name has stuck Hugawng tigers are endangered given the widespread deforestation and gold mining activities.

Now, Chinese gold mining activities are on in other places around Kachin State such as the Irrawaddy River, Mali Hka River, N’Mai Hka River, Puta-O district, Waingmaw district, Myitkyina district and Bhamo district.

Chinese companies are also secretly mining Molybdenum, lead and graphite in Bhamo district and Waingmaw Township, near the border with China’s Yunnan province for several years now.

China imports wild animals including mammals, birds and reptiles such as elephants, tigers, bears, monkeys, wild buffaloes, tortoises, different birds including falcons and parrots, rhinos, crocodiles, elks, deer and snakes. All these are now in the endangered species list in Kachin State, said local environmentalists.

Since 2006, China’s state-owned China Power Investment Corporation (CPI) is constructing seven hydropower projects in Irrawaddy River’s confluence called Myitsone, Mali Hka River and N’Mai Hka River in Kachin State. It will generate over 20,000 MW of electricity to be sold to China.

Since 2007 native Kachins and environmentalists have urged that the Myitsone dam project be halted as it poses risk of social and environmental disaster. However the pleas have been ignored by the authorities.

Many people and environmentalists feel China is being hypocritical for it regulates strictly domestic environmental protection laws but is eager to plunder all the natural resources of the political pariah state of Burma.

Sources close to Chinese authorities on the border said, China’s economic policy vis-a-vis military-ruled Burma entails “Grab economic benefits as much as possible”. However, it wants its citizens in Burma to come back home because of the fear of civil war.

Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao visited Burma on June 2 and 3 and reaffirmed the ties between the two countries. He discussed energy issues– oil pipeline from the coast of Rakhine (Arakan) state and hydropower projects in Kachin State.