A worker is carrying crude oil in plastic Container by his motorcycle from well to the market. Dahatpin oil field, Myanmar.

Two workers are pouring oil from a barrel to the plastic container for carrying by motorcycle to the market. Dahatpin oil field, Myanmar.

Three workers are putting pipes in the well after digging it. Htankhi oil field, Myanmar.

Thet Neing Win is running in front of a forest fire. Brahopin oil field, Myanmar.

Thet Neing Win is playing guitar at the end of another hard working day. Htankhi oil field, Myanmar.

Landscape of Dahatpin oil field. This is how crude oil ruined the crop fields. Dahatpin, Myanmar.

Relatives of a dead person are crying. Four people from Minywar village died in a road accident. Minywar, Myanmar.

Workers are carrying oil barrels to the market. Htankhi oil field, Myanmar.

Ko Chokhai is enjoying his time with a prostitute. Htankhi oil field, Myanmar.

Kyaw Swar and his friend are having fun on the way returning their tent after a bath. Htankhi oil field, Myanmar.

Oil Rush

Crossing the dust sea when I arrived at Htankhi oil field, it was 10 o’clock on my watch and 35 degree celsius on the thermometer. Under the burning sun I was thinking that it is spring in my town and I was trying to feel it. I looked around, and I found hundreds of triangular tents. I felt a very alien silence of hundreds of oil machines’ monotonous humming. I walked to a restaurant for a drink with my new friend. Restaurant means bamboo made food shop. Very strong smell of alcohol and petroleum was floating in the air and very hi-pitch music from the amplifier.

There are many oil fields to the left and right all along the Irrawaddy River, and still so many basins all over [Burma] that haven’t explored or developed yet – but the problem is that there is no good estimate of how much oil is in place. Htankhi, Dahatpin and many other oil fields situated there and very unique in the globe. Because no giant petroleum companies but thousands of people are drilling crude oil here. These oil fields are under control of MOGE (Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise) but officials take illegal money and allow people to drill.

The opportunities for wealth may be great, but there are no health and safety rules here, no environmental protection and no employee regulations. Following the order of MOGE, Some landowners, mostly farmers, tried to block the wells. Prospective oil drillers and crude traders stopped the attempt. As a result, farmers say they have been unable to grow their crops.

People from different parts of the country gather here to try their luck. It’s not like everyone will get petroleum from every well. Someone is getting 5 barrels of petroleum every day and someone is only digging frustration. It’s a 24 hours job and they have to live in hut or tent by the side of the well.

by Debasish Shom

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