23 August 2016 | Montree Chantawong
Even though it’s been raining for nearly 10 days, every creek from Pharlain Mountain remains crispy clear. Not a single creek appears turbid red. No flash flood from high up. The water is as clear as a mirror.
This is a great indicator of how healthy Pharlain Mountain ecosystem is. Even though most of the surface areas of Pharlain Mountain are covered with betel nuts and fruit trees, but local knowledge and traditional farming practices actually help nurtured the soil and the mountain. The ecosystem created by these betel nut and fruit gardens is very similar to healthy natural forests.
Not only that these betel nut and fruit gardens keep the water clean, they actually hold the mountain together. Beneath the soil lies granite bedrock that’s slowly transformed to Gneiss bedrock. Local residents use this easily-crumbled-apart Gneiss rocks to repair dirt road that links each village of Pharlain together.
Healthy ecosystem is a key to protect Pharlain Mountain. Any slight change that may lead to deterioration of Pharlain ecosystem can result in great danger. If the betel nut and fruit gardens are not well nurtured and fail to act like natural forests, long period of raining is highly like to lead to a landslide causing detrimental effects on the foothill villages.
All foothill villages of Pharlain are in landslide-prone zone. However, the way locals plant their betel nuts and fruits to preserve natural abundance actually saves them from harm for many generations. This gardening practice is also the secret to Pharlain’s clean and clear creeks.
(Pharlain Mountain is located in Pharlain of Ye Township in southern Mon State, Myanmar. Local community is fighting to protect their environment and livelihoods from a proposal by a Thai company named TTCL to build a 1,280MW coal-fired power plant. TTCL plans to begin construction by the end of 2016.)