Source: The Myanmar Times

Date: 9 February, 2018


One year after part of the Mottama Gulf was declared a wetland site of international importance under UNESCO's Ramsar Convention, the Biodiversity and Nature Conservation Association (BANCA) is trying to get the entire gulf included under the designation.

The area accorded Ramsar status covers roughly 45,000 hectares, from the mouth of Sittaung River in Mon State to the eastern coasts of Kyaikto and Bilin townships.

Mottama is the fourth site in Myanmar to be accorded such status, the others being the wildlife sanctuaries of Indawgyi and Moe Yoon Gyi, and Meinmahla Kyun in Ayeyarwady.

The parts of Mottama Gulf not covered under Ramsar also need protection as they hold important water resources and are home to rare migratory birds, said U Pyae Phyo Aung, BANCA program manager.

"We are trying to get it done this year. The coverage would be broadened to include the area from Thaton and Paung townships in Mon State to Kawa and Thanatpin townships in Bago. It will start in March or April. The extended areas have rich water resources and special ecosystems. Mottama Gulf is important not only for Myanmar but also for the world," he said.

The areas to be incorporated qualify on six of the nine criteria stipulated under the Ramsar Convention. The regional government and local people will discuss the extension and BANCA will move ahead only after an agreement is reached, its officials said.

There are over 2200 Ramsar sites in the world.

"We will start in the spring if they agree. As these areas are just shoals, locals don't need to move or evacuate. They can continue with their everyday lives," said U Thaw Phyo Swe of BANCA. Mottama Gulf straddles the Yangon and Bagon regions and Mon State. The Sittaung River is the main source of water: it empties into the Bay of Bengal.

The gulf is bell-shaped and covers 150,000 hectares, of which 75,000 hectares are muddy. Mottama, which has many small streams flowing into it, is also one of the largest muddy zones.

It is internationally recognised as a rough tide and alluvial area which is on the East Asian Australasian Flyway and is visited by 150,000 to 200,000 migratory birds yearly.

"Even if the entire area is declared a Ramsar site, there will still be illegal fishing, but we can deal with the problem," said U Pyae Phyo Aung.

Mottama is a dynamic river valley and home to migrating spoon-billed sandpipers, of which fewer than 500 are left in the world. For locals, it is an important source of food and water. Myanmar joined the Ramsar Convention in 2015.