Mangrove restoration, a critical challenge for increasing resilience in Myanmar
With the collaboration of the Netherlands Embassy in Myanmar and World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Myanmar, the virtual workshop for the scope of the study on mangrove restoration and increasing resilience in the Ayeyarwady delta was held on 24th September 2020. The workshop was conducted to
- Present the findings from the desk study and stakeholder interviews;
- Discuss challenges and opportunities for large scale mangrove restoration;
- Receive feedback and suggestions/recommendations from stakeholders.
Around 60 participants representing the Netherlands Embassy, government departments, organizations, and universities attended for the purposes of exchanging ideas and discussing solutions to meet the aims of the workshop.
U Soe Myint Oo, Director of the Forestry Department, and Mr Johan Heymans, a representative from the Netherlands Embassy, delivered an opening speech respectively. After that, Mr Frank van der Valk, a freshwater program and policy manager (WWF) introduced the WWF freshwater program and the objectives of the mangrove scoping study.
Then, the first presentation, "Scoping Study on Mangrove Restoration and Increasing Resilience on Ayeyarwady Delta", was given by Dr May Ei Nandar Soe, a lecturer from Yangon Technological University. She brought up the intensity, distribution, and causes of mangrove deforestation in Myanmar throughout the years. Although mangrove deforestation has been accelerating since the 1970s, there were no action or management plans to control the cutting of mangroves for human settlement, fishery (IUU fishing), fuels, logging, and especially for the expansion of paddy fields. As one of the consequences, tens of thousands of people were killed by cyclone Nargis in 2008 because there were only a few mangroves left to shield the cyclone and reduce its intensity. Since then, Myanmar has begun to notice the importance of mangrove and develop action plans to mitigate deforestation while restoring the ruined forests.
70% of mangroves were deforested in three main coasts of Myanmar; Ayeyarwady, Rakhine, and Taninntharyi during 1980 and 2015. It is most intense in the Ayeyarwady region where 100,000 acres of mangroves (about 90% of the original mangroves) are being chopped down from 1987 to 2020. The restoration of mangroves in these areas is vital because they are a crucial component of ecosystem-based mechanisms for adapting to climate change, home to different species, providers for the livelihood of the locals, preventing the coasts from erosions, while also serving as carbon sinks.
Afterwards, U Than Soe Oo from Myanmar Environment Rehabilitation Conservation Network (MERN) presented under the title of "Findings of interview for Scoping Study Mangroves and Coastal Protection". MERN with support from the Netherlands Embassy in Myanmar, WWF, and Dr May Ei Nandar Soe had carried out interviews with the stakeholders to explore the opportunities for the restoration of the forests and reflect the ground conditions of the project areas.
Key findings include;
- The stakeholders (civilians, NGOs, and government) have a limited understanding of mangrove deforestation and the significance of the problem.
- Insufficient staff and capacity from the forest department and related authorities
- Limited budget, technologies, and knowledge
- Lack of coordination between the stakeholders
- Weak empowerment or no mandate at the lower level of government agencies while there is no effective policies and regulations to mitigate deforestation.
- Inadequate comprehensive land use planning and policy
- Least activities to educate the civilians about the importance of mangrove forests
- Limited job opportunities and minimum chances for the locals to make their living without utilizing the mangrove forests
- High market demand for forest products
- Poverty, increasing population, and unavailability of electricity
On the other hand, impacts of climate change, alteration in stream flows and geography, and the rapid rate of mangrove deforestation that is 3 or 4 times faster than the other forests are making the rehabilitation process a lot harder. Depending on the geography, socio-economic situations, and intensity of deforestation, the speakers mentioned some regions in Ayeyarwady delta such as Pyapon, Bogalay and Daydeye where mangrove restoration works are urgently needed. Rehabilitation works have already been initiated in some of those regions.
After the presentations, the audience discussed many scenarios, problems, and requirements on achieving sustainable rehabilitation of the mangrove forests. For example, to avoid being chopped down, the forest department can choose a mangrove type that is not useful for making fuels while restoring the forests. But this action will affect the economy of the locals who make a living by chopping down the trees. Without creating other types of job opportunities for the locals, this is not a sustainable solution for the rehabilitation of the mangrove forests. The audiences gave recommendations on developing management plans, policies, and strategies on the sustainable restoration of mangroves that will help conserve the forests and embrace the socio-economic conditions in the region.
This workshop helped the attendees most of whom are the stakeholders in the mangroves restoration projects to get a better understanding of the problem and have some insights on what tasks and changes should be carried out in the future. The workshop came to an end with the closing speech delivered by Mr Johan Heymans.
Written by Si Thu Khant Min and Thidar Maung Maung.
Presentation files from the Workshop can be downloaded below.