13 This women presenting about community forest idea, Ter Nyat Der,  Mutraw districtTo prepare for and resist natural disasters, and to reduce the possible damage from natural disasters, the Karen indigenous people have been using their traditional knowledge for a long time. Each indigenous group has its own knowledge. Among the Karen people, the elders have been handed down this knowledge from generation to generation so as to help avoid disasters. The elders identify selecting a location for establishing a village as the most important part of this traditional knowledge. 

When building a house or establishing a village, there are several places for the Karen people to avoid in order to minimize possible damage caused by natural disasters. These places are:

  1. Day Mu Baw (Htee Per Hsu)
  2. Haw Nar Doh
  3. Haw Koh Th’daw Nar Day
  4. Haw Koh Moh
  5. Haw Koh We Hee Hsaw
  6. Haw Koh Wah Baw Law Hsu Law T’Lu
  7. Haw Koh Htee Kay Klaw Pu (Guthay Blo)
  8. Tar Ah Ray
  9. Area around Htee Nu Har Taw, and
  10. Htoh Lwee Bway Law K’Lar

1. Day Mu Baw (The Per Hsu)

In some places, one river splits and forms two rivers. After these rivers flow for several miles, they rejoin and become one river again. This process forms an area surrounded by rivers. This area is known as “Day Mu Baw.”

2. Haw Nar Doh

This is the area around or near a waterfall and ravine. The Karen elders do not allow people to build their houses or villages in this area.

3. Haw Koh Th’daw Nar Day

In some places, two different rivers join together to make a big river. In the area between the two rivers before they join, there is a small ridge of land that goes down slowly and becomes flat as the two rivers join together. It looks like the head of shrimp. In Karen, it is known as “Haw Koh Th’daw Nar Day.” This area is also one of the areas that people need to avoid when establishing a village.

4. Haw Koh Moh

Sometime, when one walks on the ground or sits on it, it sounds like there is a hole under the ground. In this kind of place, there could be a cave under the ground and the soil over the cave could be very thin. This place is known as “Haw Koh Moh.”

5. Haw Koh We Wee Hsaw

This area looks like a series of molehills, and can be seen on mountainsides. In this area, the mountainside is steep. It slopes down for some distance and forms a small area of flat land that looks like molehills, before becoming steep again down to the bottom of the mountain. The distance from the flat land to the bottom of the mountain can be hundreds of yards. People should not live in this kind of place because the possibility of landslides is very high.

6. Haw Koh Wah Baw Law Hsu Law T’Lu

Some people call this place “K’ser Kaw Tee.” It means the bottom of the mountain. The side of the mountain above this area is too steep. If a bamboo is dropped from the top of the mountain, it will fall as fast as water falls, and will even penetrate into the ground deeply. This place should be avoided because landslides can happen at any time.

7. Haw Koh Htee Kay Klaw Pu (Guthay Blo)

This is the area near a river that flows in a highly circuitous route like a snake. It is not safe to live in these places because the river usually changes its direction or finds a new path.

8. Tar Ah Ray

This area is usually located on a hill or on a slope that people intentionally leave untouched when they do rotational farming around it, so that animals can travel from place to place. This area itself has a good forest, but the area around it has no forest because of the rotational farming. Therefore, it is vulnerable and can be seriously affected by wind and lightning, which can easily destroy the trees and the plants. Therefore, it is not safe to live in this place.

9. Area near “Htee Nu Har Taw”

In some places, a river makes a tunnel under a mountain and flows through the mountain. The sinkhole where the river starts entering the tunnel is usually small. It can be easily blocked by trees, plants and soil. If this happens, it can create a reservoir and can easily flood the surrounding area. When the soil in the surrounding area becomes soft, landslides can easily happen. Therefore the area near a sinkhole should be avoided.

10. Htoh Lwee Bway Law K’Lar

This is a valley that is mostly surrounded by high mountains. In this valley, if one shouts loudly, one can hear the echo over and over. The Karen elders avoid living in this kind of place. They said that this place could circulate or intensify the wind.

These are the places and areas that are defined by the Karen elders as unsafe places to establish villages or to live. The elders do not want their families, especially their children’s generation, to live in these places, because they have seen with their own eyes and personally experienced that all these places are very dangerous. The potential for flooding and landslides, earthquakes, lightning and avalanches, storms, and other natural disasters to happen is very high in these places. These natural disasters can also happen suddenly and without warning in such places. Therefore, these are some of the principles defined by the Karen elders, and these principles have been followed from generation to generation in order to avoid disasters and possible damage.