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Locals in Kachin state’s Hpakant township, famed for producing some of the world’s best-quality jade, say excessive dumping of mining waste into the Uru Chaung River is causing the river to dry up.
An Hpakant resident said sections of the river near Lonekin, Hpakant and Saitaung excavation sites, where intensive mining has been on-going, has been hit hard by the excessive dumping.
“There has been flooding in the river annually near Hpakant and Saitaung, but the river is now getting very shallow,” said the resident.
Locals said several small tributaries that fed into the waterway had already begun to dry up while the river, which used to be about 300-500ft wide, now measures about 50ft across.
Companies are reportedly operating machinery larger than that which they are licensed to use, as well as using excessive amounts of fertiliser.
There have also been reports that companies are eyeing operations within the riverbed where quality jade veins are rumoured to exist. From 2010 to 2011, there are reports that companies paid off local authorities and carried out mining operations in the river under a faux programme entitled ‘Cleaning up the Uru Chaung.’
Locals said that the mining companies were also digging up the riverbanks near Hpakant town, which could potentially trigger landslides.
The Uru Chaung River, which originates in Kachin State, runs through Lonkin, Hpakant, Saitaung, Tarmakan and Hongpa mining villages and flows into Chindwin River. The villages have experienced devastating floods in the region since 2006.