On World Environment Day we were reminded of our environment and to take care not to degrade it. The Earth’s natural environment is composed of living things, mobile and immobile. It is also made up of geological formations such as the snow capped poles, mountains, volcanoes, forests, glaciers, rivers, soil and swamps above ground and other formations beneath the surface of the seas and within the depth of the oceans.
There is much awareness creation about conserving the environment so as to minimize happenings such as emission of green house gases, destruction of the Ozone layer, rise in Global temperature, melting of polar ice-caps leading to rising sea levels, climate change inducing raging storms, flooding, land slides, and other catastrophic events. There is much discussion about conserving the eco-system which is defined as being a ”community of living organisms in conjunction with the non-living components of their environment, interacting as a system”. As such, it can be said that human beings are as much a part of the eco-system (even if others think otherwise) as are all other living entities. Human beings live in countries, communities and societies and are usually most affected by both natural and man-made environmental changes.
As for the communities that are “displaced” and “resettled” in some other place due to, say for example a “Mega Project” with a potential to more or less “change” the entire Environment, the lives of the inhabitants will be affected to a greater or lesser extent. The Environmental Impact Study of the Project probably looked more at the changes on the physical environment which could result, and had to be conserved; but they probably did not fully take into account the long term impact to the disruption to life, community and society which the human habitants would suffer. Due care needs to be exercised to tackle the “human” aspect of environmental change made by “humans”. What is most regrettable is the suffering of the people who were inhabitants of the place and who earned their living from the natural environment before the “behemoths” moved in to change the landscape and their lives. Perhaps we should give more importance to the human factor while conserving the Environment, to avoid to the extent possible, disruptions to communities and societies and the suffering to the “people” involved. After all the people are the key. If they have to be moved, they should be provided with alternate places in which they can earn a good living and live safely.
The recent landslides in the Phakant jade mining area, involving rain soaked jade mining waste rubble piles built high over the years of mining operation by private companies, which caused the death of over 160 people was an extremely tragic event. Most of the local mining people displaced as the result of the mining permits that were granted to private companies, somehow returned to live in the vicinity to make a living as “prospectors” as before, out of searching (now the rubble) for jade stones. This is not the first time that such landslides have caused death and destruction of the jade “prospectors”. It seems that the surface mining operations of private companies using heavy machines in the process of extracting the jade stones, without effective measures for safe disposal of the rubble they generate was the cause of the “major accident” – the term is as defined in the Occupational Safety and Health Law (2019), of Myanmar. The repeated occurrence of such landslides resulting in death and destruction points to weakness in exercising “due care” by the mining companies concerned in conducting their operations. They should come forward now, as we hope they will, to render necessary help and assistance to the victims’ families. At the same time they should take “due care” to prevent such “major accidents” happening in the future. With Charity to all and Malice to none.