31 March 2003

Japanese Government Supports Opium Eradication, Alternative Development in Myanmar

VIENNA, 31 March (UN Information Service) -- The Government of Japan has decided to provide $1.2 million in assistance to the Drug Control and Development Project in the Wa Region of the Shan State in Myanmar. The goal of the project -- to be implemented by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) -- is to support the opium poppy eradication effort in that opium-producing region. Planned activities include training in construction of an irrigation system, building communities' capacity to manage and monitor the system, developing flat paddy fields, and introducing double cropping of rice.

The project is expected to contribute to increasing the food security of opium farmers, improving their living standard, and eventually eradicating opium poppy cultivation.

UNODC alternative development projects have already contributed to a substantial reduction of areas under opium poppy cultivation in Myanmar. According to the UNODC 2002 Annual Opium Poppy Survey, with an estimated production of 828 tons in 2002 -- although 25% less than the previous year -- Myanmar is the second largest producer of opium in the world. The first is Afghanistan with an estimated 3,400 tons in 2002 and the distant third is the Lao PDR.

"The Myanmar experience offers the evidence that alternative development, along with eradication and law-enforcement efforts, represents a vital part of the effective drug supply reduction strategy," Mr. Antonio Maria Costa, the Executive Director, UNODC, said following the announcement of the grant by Ambassador Yukio Takasu, Permanent Representative of Japan to the UN in Vienna.

The UNODC alternative development project in Myanmar -- launched in 1998 with an $11.6 million budget -- aims at establishing sustainable, community-based development, in order to provide farmers an alternative to growing opium. The government of Japan previously contributed $200,000 for the implementation of a health-related component of the project in 2001.

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