A village headman has reported that more than 10 acres of farmland has been damaged through the digging for “turtle stones.”
The land, which is part of the 2,000 acres collectively owned by the residents of Ngwe Pyaw Sanpya village, is situated within the 70,000-acre N’khai Bum National Park in Kachin State.
People reportedly began searching for turtle stones—which are known for their cracks that make them resemble tortoise shells—near Ngwe Pyaw Sanpya in early February. Forest department officials set up signboards around the area on February 15 making clear that the harvesting of the stones, found in creeks and waterways, was banned.
Tawng Sar, the headman of the village, said that the officials arrested more than 350 people looking for the stones, but later released them.
“The state government has banned digging for turtle stones. It’s good,” Tawng Sar said. “Ngwe Pyaw Sanpya depends on water that comes from the mountain. If the government didn’t ban it, we would not be able to get water, and the mountain could collapse.”
Villagers have planted hardwood trees as a long-term investment on their land. The community of Ngwe Pyaw Sanpya was established in 2013 as a home for resettled internally displaced persons. Some 1,000 people from 300 families live in the area.