Waste Water Flowing Freely Outside Mandalay

2004-09-24
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BANGKOK—Residents outside Burma's second-largest city Mandalay are wading through contaminated waste water after a junta-backed group locked down the sluice gates to keep its own fish farm clean.

Thingazar Creek, which feeds into the Irrawaddy River, began running black and dirty in mid-September, local sources told RFA’s Burmese service.

The waters began overflowing when officials closed sluice gates at the point where the creek feeds into the Irrawaddy, apparently to keep the polluted waters from flowing downstream into fishponds owned by the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA), the sources said.

The USDA is a civic group sanctioned and patronized by the ruling military junta, the sources said.

Polluted water is thigh-high

The contaminated water, which appears to comprise sewage and industrial waste, has been flowing thigh-high in parts of Aungmyathazan Ward, a suburb of 500 homes on the western outskirts of Mandalay, witnesses said, on condition of anonymity.

“In some places it reached people’s knees and thighs,” one witness said. The high water level has made it difficult to travel in the area, which includes a sugar-cane factory and lumber factory, they said.

“For two weeks, because of this waste water, people have had trouble going from place to place,” said one resident.

Officials won't reopen sluice gates

Some people are already having skin troubles after coming into contact with the contaminated water. Local residents have asked officials to reopen the sluice gates and allow the water to drain downstream, but they have refused, sources said.

Local residents said they were afraid to speak at length about the contamination, and little is known outside Burma about Thingazar Creek and its surrounding villages.

An article in the official Burmese media reported that junta leader Gen. Than Shwe had on April 18, 2003 "inspected sanitation works carried out for cleanliness and beautifying of Thingazar Creek and progress in upgrading Strand Road to an eight-lane facility..."

On the Web:

New Light of Myanmar newspaper

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