Narinjara news


Leasing rivers and creeks


Sittwe, 9 December:  The Burmese junta officials in the western part of Burma are going to lease the rivers and creeks of Arakan (Rakhine) State in sections to the highest bidder, according to our correspondent quoting a top local businessman.


As the present period of lease runs out in this month, the local state junta officials are making preparations to lease the rivers and creeks to the military and police forces’ “welfare” trusts before the expiry of the present lease period. 


The trusts again would sub-lease the rivers and creeks to the highest private bidders. 


Afterwards the bidders who win the auction will be allowed to collect tolls from fishing boats and fishing nets under their respective areas.  Since Rakhine State is crisscrossed with rivers and creeks besides being a coastal strip of land, almost all the households in its villages and towns possess fishing nets or fishing boats and trawlers. 


Under the present system of leasing out the water bodies, a leaseholder collects   kyat 1,000 for small fishing nets, kyat 5,000 for a 2m net, and kyat 10,000 for a 4m net, and it goes up to kyat 50,000 for a trawling net for the permission to fish in the selected area for one year.   Again the fishermen have to bring their catches for sale to the leaseholders under the ‘agreement’ and that is too for a price determined by the owners of the leased sections of the water bodies.  A large number of people who cannot pay the demanded sum are disallowed from fishing in the natural waters of Rakhine State unlike prior to 1990, when the Burmese junta introduced the system, our correspondent said.


The system serves two purposes to the junta  firstly, it helps to earn money for the upkeep of its troops and the police forces that are poorly paid, far less than the subsistence limit.  Then secondly, the measure restricts on the operation of private fishermen, indirectly wielding control over the fishing community.   But for the general public it surely means increase in fish price and less fish on the dining table, said a businessman from the locality.  The burden so imposed by the price increase is very heavy upon the 80% people who live on a low income, a businessman said.


At Rathedaung Township on the Meyu River of northern Rakhine State in the western part of Burma, the Meyu River is divided into three sections for leasing.  At Maungdaw, close to the Bangladesh border, the Naaf River and its estuaries and creeks are assigned to the local township military and police ‘welfare’ trusts for leasing out to the highest bidders for toll collection  but the payment has to be made in US dollars.    Last year the Aukpuma Creek was leased for $4,669.00, Ngakhura Creek for $10,494.00, and Sapay-baung-raung Creek for $7,337.00  all the creeks produce large quantity of shrimps, according to official records.


In like manner all other rivers and creeks of the state including the Kaladan and Lemro Rivers and their estuaries are leased every year in December.  The leasing out is done and controlled by respective township level military battalions.  The system has caused untold sufferings to the general public of the state most of who are either farmers or fishermen in a region of agricultural lands and fishing grounds.  Lack of industrialization in the state has been a curse to the residents and the rate of jobless population runs as high as 85%, said the source. #