Myanmar is rich in biodiversity because of diverse ecosystems and of different elevations from sea level to high mountainous region, with an elevation of near 6,000 meters. It has a long coastline covering almost the entire east coast of the Bay of Bengal. Myanmar is also a country prone to heavy rainfall, as floods regularly occur during the mid-monsoon period (June to August) in areas traversed by rivers or large streams. Cyclones, landslides, earthquakes, tsunami, fire and drought are also very real threats to Myanmar’s environment. Nargis, a category 3 cyclone, struck Myanmar on 2 and 3 May 2008, devastating lives and livelihoods in the Ayeyarwady Division.
Myanmar applies the Myanmar Selection System (MSS) to manage its forest. Myanmar has adopted Agenda 21 and the Rio Declaration on environment and development. The Forest Law of 1902 highlights forest reservation and protection, management of forest land, establishment of forest plantation, extraction and removal of forest produce, establishment of forest industry and administrative action in respect of offences and penalties. In addition, the Protection of Wildlife and Wild Plants and Conservation of Natural Areas Law 1994, focuses on identification of nature reserves, establishment of zoological gardens and botanical gardens, protected wildlife and wild plants, permission for hunting, conduct of research studies, administrative action, offences and penalties.
The Government of Myanmar has collaborated with the UN in the past to assess environment performance (EPA), in 2004-05 and again, this year 2009-10. According to the recent EPA report the priority concerns of environment activities are:
1) forest resource degradation1,
2) land degradation,
3) water resource and quality status,
4) threat to biodiversity,
5) inadequate solid waste management,
6) climate change, and
7) impacts of mining industry on environment.
UNDP and FAO have initiated programmes to improve the livelihoods of community and environment through community participation in cooperation with line government ministries. Mangrove reforestation was a major activity in environmental rehabilitation in 2008 and continued in 2009 under UNDP’s post-Nargis reforestation strategy. The strategy focuses on the establishment of nurseries, incorporating four types of tree planting activities – public tree planting, agro-forestry, private forestry and community forestry. In 2009, some 1.07 million fresh water seedlings were produced, and an additional 500,000 mangrove seedlings were grown and planted in villages in the saline zone of
Since May 2009, UNDP has been facilitating the Environmental Thematic Working Group, comprised of multiple NGOs, UN agencies, and several ministries within the Myanmar government. The group began formally meeting in mid-2009 and has since met once a month to share information, problem-solve and mainstream activities into the National Medium Term Priority Framework. The Working Group has identified the following issues that need to be addressed:
Sustainable agriculture land use practices are unsustainable and deforestation rate is increasing. Population growth, limited income opportunities, landlessness and high employment have resulted in intense population pressure on forests that lead to
poverty and land degradation.
Scarcity of forest resources. To meet the needs for firewood, charcoal, poles, posts, roofing materials like Nipa, and conversion to other land use, forests have been exploited beyond the limit of sustained yield. Consequently these forest resources have become scarce and forest products are imported from other parts of the country with higher prices.
Lack of awareness on all aspects of environmental conservation. Forests are assumed to be a common property resource by local communities. The innumerable benefits accrued from forests and the invaluable services has been overlooked for far too long causing irreparable damage on forests. Increasing awareness on water and sanitation, soil conservation, IPM, energy efficiency and other activities will also be addressed.
Lack of integrated pest management. To fulfill the fast growing demand of food and livelihoods, fertilizer and insecticides are used improperly and there are needs to improve IPM for safe use of insecticide, fungicide and spraying methods, etc.
Climate change adaptation and mitigation. Environmental resources directly underpin the livelihoods of poor people especially in Ayeyarwady Delta, Dry Zone and most border areas. Pre-exiting environmental damage has been exacerbated by the impact of climate change, while the other challenges have appeared as a result of disaster. There is an urgent need to develop climate change adaptation programme particularly on agriculture and livelihoods.
Climate change not only heightens disaster risks but also reduces local resilience to disaster impacts by degrading water and soil resources and diminishing agricultural production. As a result, climate change will likely aggravate existing vulnerabilities (i.e. declining natural resources and poverty).
Rehabilitating and protecting the natural resource base, however, is a cross-sectoral issue and will require a coherent and integrated approach. This will require an enabling framework for policy formulation and implementation that promotes environmentally sustainable development at both national, regional and local levels.
Challenges remain in the environmental sector, among these challenges is the limited financial sources for environment activities. There are a number of opportunities for climate change adaptation for Myanmar, such as:
• The Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF) was established under UNFCCC and is managed by the Global Environment Fund (GEF). The Fund addresses the special needs of the 48 LDCs which are especially vulnerable to the adverse impact of climate change.
• UNDP-UNEP Poverty-Environment Initiative (PEI) would be another opportunity for Myanmar. PEI is to contribute to the achievement of relevant national development priorities such as poverty reduction and other development objectives through improved environmental management of natural resources.
• I GEF Small Grants Programme (SGP) would also be an opportunity for Myanmar especially energy efficiency and climate change adaptation.
Although Myanmar is eligible for these funding support, the present UNDP Executive Board mandate places limitations, therefore UNDP Myanmar must explore ways to increase funding available to address and implement the issues addressed by Environmental Thematic Working Group.