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Pilgrims at Kantkawtaw Pagoda Festival Troubled by Shwe Gas Project

Many local pilgrims gathered at the festival of Kantkawtaw Pagoda in Kyaukpru in Arakan State from 17 April this year, but faced trouble with taking rest around the pagoda because the grounds are reportedly being used for keeping pipes from the Shwe Gas Project.

news-date-22-4-2012

The Kantkawtaw Pagoda is one of the famous ancient pagodas in Arakan State and it is situated in Goonshein Village four miles from downtown Kyaukpru, the main hub for the Shwe Gas Project. The festival is traditionally held every year for devotional offerings.

“The pagoda grounds were wide and open and there were no difficulty for the pilgrims to stay or take rest on the ground in the festivals in previous years, but this year there is not enough space on the ground for the pilgrims because it is being occupied by piles of pipes from the Shwe Gas Project,” said a trustee of the pagoda on condition of anonymity.

He also said the road to the pagoda has been heavily damaged after vehicles from the project have driven on it overweight loads, but the project has neglected to repair the road.

“We, the local people, have asphalted the road on our own self-help basis because it is the road going to the pagoda. Now the road is also very badly damaged by the over-weight trucks from the project. The international companies on the project have promised us that they would repair the road before the festival was held, but they have still neglected to do so. Now the road is very dangerous for the pilgrims not only for their travel, but also for their health, because the road is badly ruined and dusty,” he said.

Kantkawtaw Pagoda is noted for a two-fee-deep natural well for drinking water and for the fields of arum plants that have been eaten as vegetables on the premises since ancient times. According to local people, the water in the well never dries up in any season, even when being continually pumped out, and the arum plants are sweet if they are cooked and eaten around the premises of the pagoda, even though they would be itchy if taken home and eaten there.

This year, the pagoda festival was held from 17 to 22 April with cultural events and traditional sports and nearly three lakh people from Kyaukpru, Man Aung, Rambree, Mraybon, Taungup, and Ann Townships made the pilgrimage to the pagoda.

According to the trustee, many pilgrims had to leave from the pagoda before the end of the festival due to the shortage of space on the pagoda grounds.

Ma San San Kyi from Kyauknimaw also said she had to come back from the pilgrimage early after staying just one day at the pagoda grounds because of the shortage of space. “We had come to the pagoda on the morning of 17 April, but we were unable to stay until the festival finished. We could stay for only one day this year because there was not enough space on the pagoda grounds for the pilgrims to stay as in previous years,” she said.

She added that her who body was turned white with dirt when she was traveling to the pagoda because the road to the pagoda was ruined and very dusty.

According to the sources, dissatisfaction with the Shwe Gas Projects is now growing among the local residents following the inconvenience on their pilgrimages to the pagoda festival.