Photo credit: Keith Roper via Flickr/CC BY
The world's largest tiger reserve was recently put into place in the Kachin state in Burma, news which conservationists and champions of the fast-declining species cheered. But it looks like the cheering came too soon -- reports have surfaced that a Burmese real estate corporation is continuing to clear-cut the forests throughout the reserve anyway. It plans on using the land for harvesting crops in a gigantic 200,000 acre monoculture operation, regardless of the declaration by the government that the land was to be used as a reserve. Such declarations from the 'government' of Burma -- truly a brutal ruling military junta -- are clearly not to be trusted. The real estate firm reportedly has close ties to the junta, and it seems doubtful that it will step in to halt the clear-cutting. Yale 360 has more:
A coalition of organizations promoting sustainable development, the Kachin Development Networking Group, says in its report that Yuzana Company is still bulldozing trees to establish sugar and tapioca plantations and plant jatropha to be used as biofuel. The chairman of Yuzana is U Htay Myint, a prominent businessman with close ties to the government of Burma, also known as Myanmar. "Today, a 200,000-acre mono-crop plantation project is making a mockery of the reserve's protected status," the report says. According to the report, local farmers are being forcibly removed from their land to make room for the plantations.Here are some pictures of the operation:
And this is all that's left of the forested land after clear cutting: An unironic sign that reads 'Tiger Reserve' ...Clearly, this is far from a healthy habitat for any tiger.
While I noted that the initial news of Myanmar (the name the nation's military rulers use for Burma) was surprising, this latest development is anything but. The military junta is renowned for ruling with an iron hand, driving its citizens into forced labor, and not allowing free press or assembly. That it would put the profits of a major corporation it has ties to before an endangered species or the local populace is par for the course.
Hopefully, further international attention to the issues -- both conservation-related and humanitarian -- will help to discourage this kind of behavior. It must be said, however, that so far it has not.