RANGOON — Consultants for the Japan-backed Thilawa Special Economic Zone (SEZ) being built near Rangoon said that they expect to release the findings of an environmental impact assessment (EIA) of the project’s 2,000-hectare second phase in October.
Environmental Resources Management Japan and Burmese company E-Guard Environmental Services are conducting the Strategic Environmental Assessment, which is being funded by Japan.
On Friday, the consultant firms met with residents of villages that are living in the planned second phase area of the project, located southeast of Rangoon, as part of a stakeholders meeting to inform locals about the study.
“We have started the study since last year, it takes time. The draft report will be out in October. We will be sending it to the Environmental Conservation Department,” Aye Thiha, managing director of E-Guard Environmental Services, told the meeting.
“All data will be announced to all stakeholders after taking a considerable time to analyze the data,” said Myo Lwin, director of the Environment Conservation Department of the Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forestry. He added that his department would determine whether the scope and quality of the report would be sufficient or if further study is required.
The consultant firms held a first stakeholders meeting about the EIA late last month.
The social impact assessment for the second phase, which is expected to involve the resettlement of some 4,500 residents, will be carried out by Japanese firm Nippon Koei and implemented by the Thilawa SEZ Management Committee and Rangoon Divisional authorities.
Nippon Koei prepared the EIA study, the social impact assessment and resettlement plan for the first 400-hectare phase of Thilawa SEZ, together with Burmese Company, Resource & Environment Myanmar Ltd.
The previous EIA assessment on the first phase of the Thilawa development found that out of 28 social and environmental factors assessed, the vast majority of impacts due to the project would be negative or required further study.
Despite the fact that only seven factors evaluated were considered to have a neutral or positive impact on the affected area, the project went ahead as planned.
The relocation of some 80 families under the resettlement plan for the first project phase was implemented by Thilawa SEZ Management Committee and Rangoon Divisional authorities and has run into considerable trouble.
Residents have said they have not received proper compensation for their loss of farmland. They said they received only six years’ worth of harvest in compensation and were not paid the value of their land against current market prices, which have risen sharply after the SEZ plan began.
Three villagers have launched an official complaint with Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA), saying it had violated its own guidelines during its involvement in the project.
JICA, Japan’s international aid body, has a 10 percent stake in the SEZ and offers technical support, while three Japanese companies hold 39 percent stake. The Burmese government and a joint venture of nine Burmese companies have invested the remaining 10 percent and 41 percent, respectively.
The Thilawa SEZ is Burma’s most advanced economic zone involving foreign investors, and it is at the center of Naypyidaw and Tokyo’s expanding political and economic relations.