No one asked them. No one even informed them. The first indicator the villagers had that something was happening in the Ar Yel Mountains was the arrival of men in construction hats.
At the beginning the disturbance was minimal; it was only one or two companies undertaking site explorations and tests. But by 2014, eight companies were “tearing the mountains apart” in their quest for manganese dioxide. That, said the villagers, was when the problems really began.
The companies clear cut swaths of forests, ploughing under the trees the nearby communities used for cooking fuel and displacing the animals they hunted for food. They dumped toxic sludge into mountain streams, turning the communities’ drinking and bathing water black. And they left heaps of mining waste exposed. When it rained, the waste washed into the rice plantations below.
Then there was the dust. Trucks hurtled along the Sili Nyauk – Maw Twee road all day and night, clouds of thick toxic dust trailing behind them and clumps of the brittle mineral tumbling from their uncovered loads. The people living and working along the route reported that breathing had become difficult. Farmers reported that their crops were failing. One family whose fields once yielded 80 baskets an acre said they were now producing only 30. The loss of income meant that they could no longer afford to send their children to school.
Altogether, 25 villages in this ethnic minority region of Eastern Shan State were affected. A total of 6,910 people, whose health, wellbeing, and livelihoods suffered due to the manganese mines.
Fifteen years ago, Daw Nang Nwe had made one of these 25 villages her home. She had established a shop selling pork along the main road, was liked and respected by her fellow community members, and was elected the head of the local religious association. But the situation was becoming too much. The toxic dust had not only invaded her lungs, it had infected her skin. Red itchy bumps formed across her face and hands. The doctor told her she had to stay away from the dust — and that meant closing her shop. “I was very angry. I wanted to move”, admits Daw Nang Nwe. “But I talked to my family and they said no, we need you. Stay, and together we will fight.”
So Daw Nang Nwe stayed and fought. Together with other village leaders, she spoke with the companies and wrote to the Township General Administrative Department. But their efforts had minimal effect.
Several community members ended up reaching out to paralegals working with Namati’s partner Than Lwin Thitsar (TLT), which had been assisting communities to address land and environmental rights for several years.
TLT’s paralegals began by holding education sessions with all the affected villages on key laws and policies related to mining and the environment. It quickly became clear that the companies were failing to comply with numerous laws. Something could be done, but first, the paralegals said, they had to determine what it was they wanted. A number of people thought it best to be more cautious with their requests, asking only for the companies to comply with the law. But the majority felt otherwise: they wanted the companies gone.
With that mandate, the paralegals and representatives from each village, including Daw Nang Nwe, started building their case. They dug deeper into the legal clauses, gathered evidence of violations, and composed their first official letter stating their demands. “We felt more powerful with paralegal guidance,” recalls Daw Nang Nwe. “We learned how to use the law, and it made us more confident.” The difference in their approach led to a new response; within three months the government had visited the village tract to discuss the issues and see the problems first-hand.
The swift response was promising, but they knew it didn’t necessarily mean a solution would follow. The laws and guidelines around mining and environmental conservation were largely new; they had rarely, if ever, been evoked by ordinary people and were equally untested by the government. Anticipating setbacks, Namati, TLT, and the communities continued their legal research and in doing so, they made a game-changing discovery: none of the 8 companies had valid mining permits.
Whatever reservations or doubts the communities had before were gone. The information, said Daw Nang Nwe, “was good for us. It motivated us. We realized ‘we can fight with this.’” And that they did.
Confronted with the fact that the mines were operating illegally, the government ordered the companies to cease all operations in Al Yer Mountains. Rural villagers, from one of Myanmar’s ethnic minority groups, had successfully achieved the closure of 8 unlawful mines.
More than a year has now passed since the closures. The mountain streams are once again running clear, the forests are showing signs of renewal, and the toxic dust that choked crops and people alike is no more.
As for Daw Nang Nwe, her rash has healed and cough subsided and she is happily back to running her shop. No longer does she think about leaving the community that she made a home. If the mines return, “we will keep pushing”, she says. “We will never stop fighting to ensure they follow the law.”
Last updated January 30, 2013.
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Last updated: May 25, 2018
This Policy describes our privacy practices and sets out your obligations and ours with respect to your use of the Site and the Forum. This Policy applies only to the Site and the Forum and does not necessarily apply to our offline collection of information.
Namati may collect and retain two types of information about Site and Forum visitors: (i) personal information that individual visitors voluntarily provide when interacting on the Site or Forum or on certain other occasions (such as via forms or in emails); and (ii) tracking data, which is data that is automatically collected from every Site and Forum visitor as they use and browse the site.
We may, from time to time, store and archive the information you submit to or through the Site and Forum. The information that we gather may include your name, title, and address, telephone number, email address, credit card number or other elements of personal information. In addition, if you contact us, we may keep a record of your correspondence, including any information contained therein.
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In addition to the information you submit to or through the Site and Forum, we also may collect and store data from and about you gathered in the course of your use of the Site and Forum. We call this “tracking data.”
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Our use of your Information involves various forms of communication with you, including:
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We retain the right to transfer or assign all information pursuant to a merger, purchase or other transaction relating to Namati or our assets.
The current list of third-party service providers we use include:
Personal information you submit via your member account, other than information provided or content posted by you to public areas of the Site as described below, is deleted from Namati’s records following the deletion of your account. However, such information may continue to be retained by third-party service providers to which it has been disclosed for one of the reasons listed above.
Your Information is stored on Digital Ocean servers in New York, USA.
We take reasonable precautions to protect your information from loss, misuse or alteration. You should recognize, however, that there is no such thing as “perfect security” on the Internet, and we cannot guarantee the security of your information. In addition, because Internet communications are unsecure, it is also possible that the information you supply to us or your access of any information via the Site will be intercepted during transmission. We are not liable for any breach of our systems or interception of our transmission, and we hereby fully disclaim, to the fullest extent possible under law, any liability associated with any claim relating to a breach of security, data or information.
You should be aware that any information provided or content posted by you to public areas of the Site, including but not limited to interactions on the Site and information posted to the Member Directory (via your profile), the Tools Database and the Forum, may be read, collected or used by other visitors of the Site, who may not need to log in as a member to view the information. Namati is not responsible for the third-party use of any information provided in such manner. By participating in the use of the Site’s interactive features, you consent to Namati’s use or disclosure of any content that you submit. For more information on posting content, please see our Terms.
The Forum uses data about your posts and other activity to make automated decisions about whether your posts are spam.
The Forum may also use data about your posts and activity to award you badges and calculate a trust level for your account. Your trust level may affect how you can participate in the Forum, such as whether you can upload images, as well as give you access to moderation and management powers in the Forum. Your trust level, therefore, reflects Forum administrators’ confidence in you, and their willingness to delegate community management functions, like moderation.
From time to time, we may email users of the Site or the Forum information regarding important developments affecting Namati and/or the Global Grassroots Justice Network. We may also email users on occasion regarding the Site or the Forum. Such emails may be sent to users of the Site or Forum even if they have not requested to receive any communication from us.
You may choose to unsubscribe from future emails by using the unsubscribe link included in all mass email correspondence from Namati and the Grassroots Justice Network.
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Because Namati is concerned about the privacy protection of children who access the Internet, we comply with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). Accordingly, the Site and Forum are not intended for use by anyone under the age of 13, and we do not knowingly collect information from anyone under 13 years of age without the consent of a parent or guardian.
We reserve the right to disclose any information to comply with any law, regulation, decree, judgment, order, subpoena or any other governmental order (“Order”) without any obligation to contest or verify the accuracy of such Order.
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The section titles in this Policy are for convenience only and have no legal or contractual effect.
The Site, the Forum, and any third party services they use, may be subject to additional terms and conditions regarding privacy and use of information. Your use of the Site and the Forum is subject to those terms and conditions, which are incorporated into this Policy by reference. In the event of an inconsistency between this Policy and any additional posted conditions, the provisions of the additional conditions shall control.
We may need to change the Policy from time to time in order to address new issues and to reflect changes on the Site or in the law. We reserve the right to revise or make any changes to the Policy, and your continued use of the Site subsequent to any changes to this Policy will mean that you agree to and accept such changes. You can tell if the Policy has been updated by checking the last revised date posted on the top of this page.
You can also access, remove, update or correct your information, and raise any questions or concerns regarding the Site or the Policy, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or mailing:
Namati Data Protection Officer
1616 P Street NW, Suite 101
Washington, DC 20036, USA
If you live in a country which has adopted the General Data Protection Regulation (EU; 2016/679), you have a right to lodge a complaint with your relevant supervisory authority about this policy and its application.
The Policy was updated in May 2018 to comply with the General Data Protection Regulations.