KNU worries abandoned coalmine will pollute village water supplies

Karen National Union officials in the Tenasserim Township, Southern Burma are concerned that a coalmine will pollute local waterways posing a health hazard to villagers in the area.

Officials of the local branch of the Karen National Union (KNU) are concerned that a Thai company that left its coal mining operation without covering it up risks poisoning water sources used by nearby villagers.

Following complaints by local people that the abandoned mine site was giving out gas odours, coal was burning and the mine holes were now massive reservoirs filled with foul-smelling water, the KNU’s Tenasserim Township officials inspected the Thai coal mining site at Nong Bwa in southern Burma, east of Mergui District and opposite Thailand’s Prachuap Khiri Khan Province.

The KNU’s Tenasserim Township officer, P’doh Saw Shwe Kyi, told Karen News.

“We went to inspect the site and saw burning coal. It smelt really bad. I could not stand it. The mining site was left open. The company had not bother to cover it over. The coalmine left two big holes that have become water reservoirs. The water is green and looks clean but no one dares use it.”

According to the KNU officials, each of the water reservoirs covers an area of about 10 acres.

The former Burma military regime in 2000 granted the concession for the Nong Bwa coalmine six years ago. The 1,000 acres mining concession was operated by the Italian-Thai Development Company who villagers claim have now abandoned the site.

Saw Shwe Kyi said.

“Two miles from the coal mining site there is a nearby Burmese village, No.9 Mile Bridge village and No.6 Mile village, these villagers and their livestock could be at risk if the pollution problems continue.”

P’doh Saw Shwe Kyi said he fears the mine pollution could ruin water sources.

“The two deep water reservoirs left by the mine are less than 100meters from the Nong Bwa stream.”

P’doh Saw Shwe Kyi claims that the mining site has become a water reservoir because they are close to the stream and its water flows into it.

A KNU’s Tenasserim Township officer, P’doh Saw Ta Ru, who inspected the coal mining site told Karen News.

“When we inspected the site it was in the dry season. So we don’t know yet if the coalmine reservoirs will overflow into the stream used by local people. We will have to wait and see what happens to it during the wet season.”

If polluted water from the coalmine reservoirs overflow outside it will spill into the local waterways polluting Thee Ko stream that is used by three villages – Thee Ko, Meh Wah and Meh Wah Hta.

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