World’s largest tiger reserve open for oil drilling?
News late last week of a new contract for oil drilling in Burma’s Hugawng Valley seems to be incorrect. However, the valley, home of the world’s largest tiger reserve, is open for oil exploration.
On May 4, Silver Wave Exploration & Production Pte Ltd of Singapore announced that it will commence oil drilling operations in Block B2 in Burma within this year. The announcement located the block in the Hugawng Valley of Kachin State. However, according to oil block maps of the Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise, Block B2 is not in Kachin State but in northern Sagaing Division.
There is an inland oil block located squarely in the Tiger Reserve called Block A which is open to foreign investors. In 2008 a Russian company, “Nobel Oil” was granted an exploration concession for this Hukawng Valley block.
Meanwhile, Htay Myint’s Yuzana Company continues its destruction of the valley for massive sugar cane and tapioca plantations. A report released by the Kachin Development Networking Group (KDNG) in August 2010 details how fleets of bulldozers and backhoes have been razing forests and destroying animal corridors, leaving only conservation signboards standing.
In his inaugural speech on March 30, Burma’s new President and former army general Thein Sein said the country must pay serious attention and take measures to preserve forests and conserve wildlife. In June last year at the Global Tiger Summit, the military government claimed it would double the tiger population in the Valley from 50 to 100 within twelve years. “The military government’s fine words about wildlife conservation are just hot air. The tiger reserve is clearly up for sale. Investors can put money on the table. Tigers can’t” said Ah Nan, a spokesperson from KDNG.
The Reserve was established in 2001 with the support of the US-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). WCS has remained silent on destruction in the Reserve and continues to fund wildlife conservation projects, claiming that Hugawng Valley will be a cornerstone of tiger conservation in the future.
Contact: Ah Nan +66 84 885 4154 firstname.lastname@example.org
The Kachin Development Networking Group has been monitoring the situation in the Hugawng Valley since 2006, publishing “Valley of Darkness” in 2007 and “Tyrants, Tycoons and Tigers” in 2010, available at http://www.aksyu.com. Photos and video from the Reserve are also available for media.