COUNTRY OVERVIEW

Myanmar is the largest country in mainland South-East Asia, and is rich in natural diversity, with large extents of intact forests, numerous rivers and wetlands, and a long and diverse coastline.

This rich biodiversity is however under increasing threat. The country’s opening-up to foreign investments in 2011 has resulted in increased pressures from commercial overexploitation of animals and fish, agricultural expansion, logging and large infrastructure developments. Additionally, climate change is expected to intensify in the coming years, and Myanmar is expected to be one of the countries with the greatest impacts.

At the same time, conservation measures - especially protected areas - are seriously underfunded and inadequately managed. Marine conservation is in its infancy, with just a small fraction of the marine realm under protection. Overall, Myanmar’s conservation and impact management measures are inadequate to safeguard the country’s unique biodiversity.

The current political situation adds new uncertainties and challenges. The process of democratization and opening-up was patchy and difficult, and is now facing a major reversal. Any improvements in poverty reduction and biodiversity conservation are similarly at risk due to the current political uncertainties. The legacy of poor management leaves Myanmar and its 53 million people (who represent ethnically diverse groups) as one of the poorest countries in the region. Future development and conservation trends are hard likely to decline, and future industrial investments are expected to decline in both volume and environmental standards.

PRIORITIES

The overarching Myanmar Sustainable Development Plan (2018-2030) is the main guiding document for the country and provides guidance for the Development Aid Coordination Unit on newly proposed projects by Development Partners.  The plan’s Goal 5 “focuses on the legal, institutional and policy frameworks required to better protect and manage our natural environment and ecosystems, through strengthened conservation efforts, improved development and infrastructure planning, and increased enforcement against illegal natural resource related practices, pollution, and other harmful activities”.  

The key guiding documents for this overarching government policy referenced therein, include the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (2015-2020), and the Marine Spatial Planning Roadmap for Myanmar (2016) – both of which were produced with significant technical input from WCS. The Myanmar government also reiterated its commitment to developing a national Marine Spatial Plan by 2021, at the Our Ocean’s conference in 2017.

After decades of isolation, technical work on these plans increased in recent years, with a detailed assessment of Myanmar’s ecosystems, following the Ecosystem Red List assessment process.  This was completed in 2020, and provides a high-quality class baseline for terrestrial ecosystem types and status, as well as basic data to support further technical assessments.

Myanmar has formally identified 159 Key Biodiversity Areas (KBA), through a series of processes since 2003, and with an update process started in 2019 and still ongoing.  Incorporating new data from the Myanmar Ecosystem Maps and Ecosystem Red List, the process expects to identify new KBAs using the new KBA criteria.  Myanmar has vast areas of Intact Forests, some of the larger tropical forest areas remaining in the world, and the KBA process expects to identify several important sites of outstanding ecological integrity.

NBSAP:  https://asean.chm-cbd.net/documents/nbsap-myanmar

KBAs:  http://www.keybiodiversityareas.org/kba-data

Ecosystem Red Listing:   https://www.myanmar-ecosystems.org/

Intact Forests:  https://www.forestintegrity.com/

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INDUSTRY & INFRASTRUCTURE

Agriculture, fisheries, and the extraction of natural resources are the main livelihoods for millions of Myanmar’s rural people. Land, forest, water, and fisheries are depleted and continue to decline; management systems have changed little since the colonial era, with local communities excluded and marginalised from most resources.

Industrial development has gained pace in recent years, with major extraction of offshore gas, construction of pipelines, and coastal infrastructure.  In addition, several Asian Highway Network projects, and the Belt and Road initiative, have major plans for linear infrastructure development.

© Eleanor Briggs

MITIGATION

A new Land Policy (2016) provides a strong basis for improved land management, but is yet to be translated into law. Community Forestry Instructions (2017), and the reformed Forest Law (2018) and Conservation of Biodiversity and Protected Areas (CBPA) Law (2018) have the potential to drive system-wide changes, though they need national and local government capacity to implement them. 

The Coastal Resources Management Committee, has committed to a process of Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) for Myanmar to provide a foundation for the coordination of interests, including fisheries, transportation, exploitation of natural gas, national defence, tourism, biodiversity conservation and the needs of local communities

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TEAM

Kyaw Thinn Latt
Than Myint

PARTNERS

The Myanmar Biodiversity Fund is a partner on this project as it is the first and only trust fund incorporated in Myanmar, with an intention to support biodiversity conservation.   The Trust Fund was formally established in July 2019, and has been developing basic structures and operational procedures.

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OBJECTIVES & ACTIVITIES

Objective:

Develop data and tools to support spatial planning and decision-making to avoid and mitigate impacts on priority biodiversity and support progress towards national biodiversity objectives in coordination with stakeholders

Indicative Activities: 

  1. Develop and launch online access platforms to biodiversity data for Myanmar, including in Burmese language, for use by government, industry and the public
  2. Work with the Myanmar Biodiversity Fund (MBF) and relevant partners to identify roles and responsibilities, legal frameworks, financing guidance and other components for development of biodiversity offsets.
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RESULTS

  • Developed a pilot Biodiversity Data Portal, and will launch Beta version for testing this year.
  • Capacity building work with local partners and collaborators is ongoing.
© Eleanor Briggs

PRODUCT

Ecosystem Red List:  https://www.myanmar-ecosystems.org

Ecological Sensitivity Mapping for oil spill risk management.

© WCS

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