Friday, August 18, 2017

Volcanic mud may lead to re-zoning at Kyaukphyu

Volcanic mud has thrown a spanner in the works for the Kyaukphyu special economic zone in Rakhine State, with concerns parts of the proposed site may need to be rezoned.

Workers on the salt fields at Kyaukphyu. Photo: StaffWorkers on the salt fields at Kyaukphyu. Photo: Staff

The SEZ was originally slated to sit in the eastern part of Kyaukphyu township, occupying over 100,000 acres.

In mid-2014, officials working on the project said the potential for even minor damage caused by mud volcanoes posed hurdles when it came to procuring site insurance.

Questions remain over a 250-acre section of the project, which has not yet been clearly demarcated

The winning bid for developing the site, which has been decided but will not be announced officially until early next year, will see the developer conduct a feasibility study on the land, said U Than Maung, a member of the Bid Evaluation and Awarding Committee (BEAC) for the SEZ.

“We haven’t heard any plan to move the land. As some hotel projects will be included in the SEZ, [some might appreciate the volcanic activity] as a tourism attraction. But it [might not be possible to have] construction in the area,” he said. 

The site’s low-level volcanic activity is considered similar to a site to that at Minbu in Magwe Region: It is not generally considered dangerous and is not an igneous volcano in that it does tend to produce lava.

However, there are around 10 sites within the SEZ zone which will not play host to construction because of this geological quirk, BEAC member U Ba Maung told The Myanmar Times. 

In 2014, swathes of farmland in the township were affected by mud that spewed forth from the ground.

Under the regional master plan, recently submitted to the Hluttaw, a site demarcation of 4289.37 acres was outlined.

There has been some controversy over the demarcation, with local Rakhine villagers pushing for a suspension of the project until the matter is resolved. This, U Ba Maung said, was a misunderstanding.

“They just got confused and misunderstood the demarcation and today it was discussed in the hluttaw by representatives. So [we hope it will be] tackled soon,” he said.