World Environment Day Speech by Ms. Renata Lok- Dessallien, UN RC/HC and UNDP Resident Representative in the Republic of the Union of Myanmar

Jun 5, 2015

-    Your Excellency U Thein Sein,  President of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar,
-    Your Excellency U Sai Mauk Kham, Vice-President of Myanmar,
-    Excellency U Win Tun, Union Minister for  Environmental Conservation and  Forestry,
-    Excellency ministers and deputy ministers,
-    Members of Parliament from Pyithu Hluttaw and Amyotha Hluttaw,
-    Representatives from diplomatic missions, development partners and NGOs,
-    Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen:

Mingalarbar, and a very good morning

It is a great honour for me to be here with you today on this important occasion:  World Environment Day.

Myanmar is an extraordinarily beautiful country with rich and diverse natural environments ranging from the sea to rolling plains, dense forests, and snow-capped mountains.

Myanmar is home to 51 million people, and to many species of plants, animals and marine life, some of which are endemic to the country. Two hundred and thirty three globally threatened species including 37 critically endangered and 65 endangered species are known to live in Myanmar. It has a rich variety of natural habitats, including 14 terrestrial ecoregions identified by the World Wildlife Fund for Nature.

Myanmar is the most forested country in Southeast Asia, but forest cover has been declining rapidly from 58%  in 1990  to 47% in 2010. This is of great concern; it signals that Myanmar’s rich natural heritage is at risk of being rapidly depleted if current trends do not change.

In Myanmar, the main drivers of deforestation are agricultural conversion, fuel wood and charcoal consumption, and commercial logging. Additionally, population growth and high resource demand from neighboring countries, and international demand for forest products and agricultural commodity exports have been contributors.

Wildlife hunting both for international trade and local consumption is highly organized, widespread and increasing. Myanmar is among the South-East Asian countries that is a major source of wildlife trade, involving a wide variety of native species, which, in many cases, are declining as a result of unsustainable, and often illegal, harvest.  In addition, rivers and wetlands are threatened by alien species invasion, pollution from mining activities, river flow modification, and overexploitation of fisheries. Dams are also an increasing threat to aquatic systems and species. Overall, rapid economic growth is increasing the pressures on Myanmar’s natural resources. With the opening up of the country, and the expansion of businesses, choices have broadened and consumption has increased. If not managed well, these trends will contribute to the deterioration of the environment.

Whose responsibility is it to take care of the environment? While the Government holds prime responsibility, it is also everyone’s responsibility. Why should people care about the environment? Because the well-being of the Myanmar people, the environment, and the functioning of the economy, ultimately depend upon the responsible management of the country’s natural resources.
Globally, people are consuming far more natural resources than the planet can sustainably provide. Many of the Earth’s ecosystems are nearing critical tipping points of depletion or irreversible change, pushed by high population growth and economic development.

In Myanmar, the situation is not so critical yet, however, it could easily slide into dangerous territory if efforts are not made to protect the environment now.

That is why the Government of Myanmar has taken a number of important initiatives. Some of these include the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan and Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) Readiness Roadmap which aims to address climate change and rural poverty, while conserving biodiversity and sustaining vital ecosystem services. These are potentially very significant endeavors, not only for Myanmar but also for the whole world. Community groups and local non-government organizations across Myanmar are also organizing around protecting and conserving the environment.  Their advocacy is vital to safeguarding the environment for future generations.

Globally, by 2050, if current consumption and production patterns remain the same and with a population expected to reach 9.6 billion, we will need three planets to sustain our current ways of living and consumption.

That is why the World Environment Day theme this year is "Seven Billion Dreams. One Planet. Consume with Care."

Living within our planetary boundaries is the only viable strategy for ensuring a healthy and sustainable future. Human prosperity need not cost the earth. Living sustainably is about doing more and better with less. It is about knowing that rising rates of natural resource use and negative environmental impacts are not a necessary by-product of economic growth. New technologies and new consumption patterns can accommodate environmentally sustainable development for all.

World Environment Day falls on June 5. But caring for the environment should be our concern every day of the year.

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