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Chaung-zone farmers left adrift

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By Jaloon Htaw:

Rice farmers from Dayal village, in Mon State’s Chaung-zone Township, are seething after an abortive attempt to repair eroding paddy lands has left them deprived of both farmland and funds.

Residents of the area explained to IMNA that flooding has plagued Chaung-zone Township since the construction of the Salween (Thanlwin) Bridge over the Salween River in Moulmein, completed in 2005. Farmers complained that the bridge’s construction altered river flow, and the redirected water routinely washes silt onto Chaung-zone fields.

Dayal Farmers explained to IMNA that they have petitioned the Chaung-zone Township Peace and Development Council’s (TPDC) Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation for several year to send the village a bulldozer to push silt out of their farmland, and create gravel barriers to protect their lands from further flooding. This year, a small group of farmer took matters into their own hands, and paid for use of a Chaung-zone town bulldozer for a period of 20 days. The vehicle arrived on March 14th of this year, but left again after a mere 4 days of work on March 19th, after the State-level Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation in Naypyidaw ordered that the Chaung-zone TPDC send the vehicle to the site of a similar project on Hinnter Island, south of Balue Kyunn Island, where Dayal village is located.

“We want to repair our farms because the farms are being eroded all the time. We, all the farmers who are working near the water, requested that the village chairman report [this erosion problem] to the Chaung-zone Township Peace and Development Council (TPDC). A lot of farms are falling down into to the water [destroyed by flooding]. Every year we have reported [the problem] and asked the TPDC to send a bulldozer to us. [We received one this year] but now the bulldozer has gone back [to Chaung-zone town]. They [the bulldozer and TPDC] were supposed to work at repairing [the erosion] for 20 day but they repaired it only for 4 day. Our farms are not finished yet,” said one farmer.

“The total [acreage] of farmland that [was to be] repaired is 100 acres. Almost 10 acres was finished. They only finished one owner’s farm. Also, we have lost money, and we also tired,” he added.

Dayal village contains over 3000 acres of farmland; 300 of those are located along the Salween river shoreline. According to sources in the village, a small party of 8 frustrated farmers took charge of hiring the bulldozer to repair their own farms. The group covered the expenses of the entire transaction, including engine oil and transportation costs for the bulldozer, themselves. Reportedly, each member of the group contributed 100,000 kyat to the project, hoping that they expense would result in cleared, protected, productive farmland; deprived sufficient funds to purchase the use of a second bulldozer, these individuals must now watch helplessly as the upcoming rainy season brings even more destruction to their fields.

“The Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation department from Chaung-zone town wants [more] money. We already reported the issue to the District-level Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation department. They will send [a bulldozer] again after rainy season they said. If it does not arrive [before rainy season], the farms will become like they were before,” said another farmer.

According to a retired Ministry of Agriculture worker, the Burmese government’s Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation has wronged Dayal’s farmers in yet another respect; under Burmese law, the ministry is required to respond to farmers’ needs without demanding payment.

“The farmers are repairing their farms by themselves, the ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation Department does not give them a full amount of help, and also it send the bulldozer to Hinntar island. This is a very bad thing and not fair for the farmers,” he commented. .

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