Drones to aid mangrove rehabilitation


Source: The Myanmar Times

Date: 8 February, 2018

Worldview International Foundation is testing a project aimed at speeding up the rehabilitation of mangrove forests in Yangon Region using drones to replant the shrubs, which only thrive on saline or brackish water along coasts, a senior executive of the organization said on Wednesday.

U Win Maung, project manager of the Worldview International, said the pilot project using drones to plant mangroves was begun near Letkokkon Beach in Kungyangon township at the end of last year.

"We are doing the pilot project. We haven't decided the exact acres of mangrove area to plant with drones," U Win Maung said during the demonstration of mangrove monitoring using drone technology at an event held in the National Races Village in Thaketa township.

Drones can plant up to 100,000 trees a day and that will hasten the rehabilitation of the mangrove forests more than by using human labour, said U Thein Toe, director of the Yangon Region forest department.

"We will use that technology to monitor and replant deforested mangrove in Yangon. If the test is successful, it will make replanting quicker than by using human labour," he said.

Dr Kyaw Tint, chairman of Ecosystem Conservation and Community Development Initiative (ECCDI), said there is great potential for success in planting mangroves by using drones.

"Mangroves grow in a bog. It is almost the same planting mangrove by drone as by humans," he said. "But flying drones in the forest freely is the question. If the drone can fly in a mangrove forest there is no way the project will fail."

U Phyo Min Thein, chief minister of Yangon Region, said Yangon residents suffered from Cyclone Nargis in 2008 because the mangrove forests in the area were gone. He noted it is very important to reforest mangrove in order to mitigate natural disasters such as cyclones.

"We have to replant mangrove forests to protect Yangon," he said, adding that he will classify the land along Gulf of Mottama as a mangrove forest area.

"If we can protect mangrove forests in that area we can conserve fish resources and ecosystem. Although mangroves are replanted every year, the deforestation rate is also high. It is not that replanted mangroves have difficulty surviving. They were destroyed by humans," U Phyo Min Thein said.

Daw Phyu Phyu Khine, an officer of the forest department in Thanlyin township, said that 150,000 mangrove shrubs will be planted in Yangon Region this year and some of these will be planted by using drone technology.

"Over 20,000 acres of mangrove forest will be replanted along the Gulf of Mottama in Kyauktan, Thongwa and Kayan townships to protect them from waves," she said. "About 150,000 mangrove plants will grow this year. In some areas where the soil is soft, we will use drone to plant mangroves."

Daw Phyu Phyu Khine said using drones to replant mangroves will be the first such attempt by the department, and she hopes to save more time and solve the problem of lack of labour.

She said the areas where the mangroves will be grown would be declared protected forests but people can have access to these areas so they can earn a living.

"We will allow people to fish and gather wood in the forest and also give permits to develop community forests that allow use of land for 30 years," said Daw Phyu Phyu Khine. "But farming and fish farms that can damage mangrove forests will be forbidden."

She said developing mangrove forests on the gulf will benefit people as it will protect the community from storm surges and mitigate global warming as a carbon sink. It will also help in the government's poverty reduction efforts by providing the community with a source of livelihood.

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