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Villagers Demand Better Govt Compensation For 1,000 Trees Lost to Power Line Installation

Gaw Set Yang village, Waingmaw township of Kachin State, northern Burma.

Villagers in Waingmaw Township have demanded higher compensation rates for trees cut down in their community forest to make way for a power line.

Locals from Gaw Set Yang village in Washawng village tract have said that the compensation scheme offered by the government is too low, considering the value of the trees lost.

“We registered our community forest. Therefore, we want compensation,” Hkawng Ze, a member of the community forest ownership, told KNG. “We didn’t know when they started to install the electrical power line, we only knew it later. We told them not to let the electrical power line cross through our community forest and suggested that they use another way around it. If they want to cross our forest, they must pay compensation,” he explained.

The government compensation rate is 3,000 to 7,000 kyat (US$2.15 to $5) per hardwood tree and 15,000 kyat (under $11) for each teak tree with a trunk six inches in circumference. Trees will be cut down 15 meters around the posts to which the power line will be attached.

“Their compensation is completely different from what we want,” Hkawng Ze said.

Some 1,000 trees stand to be cut down.

Villagers have sent two letters to the respective government departments—electricity and forest.

Sut Ring Seng La, director of the Waingmaw Township forest department, said that the power line will also cut through the Maina community forest, but that the Maina community “understands us.”

“It’s the government’s project. It’s for regional development. We tried to pay 100 kyat more than the government’s set price,” Sut Ring Seng La said. “Maina community forest is okay with our payment. Gaw Set Yang community forest is not okay with our payment.”

The dispute comes from the Gaw Set Yang community’s demand that the trees be priced as they would be when they would be harvested.

“Their calculation is completely absurd. They said that they would cut the trees when the circumference of the trees is six feet. So they want the compensation rate for six-foot circumference trees. It’s completely unreasonable,” the forest department director said.

Negotiations with the villagers are ongoing, Sut Ring Seng La added.

There are at least 40 registered community forests in Waingmaw Township, with at least 10 local organizations getting permission to own their forests. The total land area of community forests in the township is 25,000 acres.

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