July 04, 2017

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Conservation wins big — Inle Lake becomes Myanmar’s first UNESCO Biosphere Reserve

A fisherman prepares his fishing net while rowing with his leg on Inle Lake, which has been named Myanmar’s first UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, in Nyaungshwe Township, Shan State.
A fisherman prepares his fishing net while rowing with his leg on Inle Lake, which has been named Myanmar’s first UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, in Nyaungshwe Township, Shan State.

MYANMAR has opened a new chapter in its commitment to biodiversity and ecosystem conservation by launching the country’s first UNESCO Biosphere Reserve at Inle Lake on 4 December.
Inle Lake was designated as Myanmar’s first Biosphere Reserve under UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere (MAB) programme at the 27th Session of the MAB International Coordinating Council meetings at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris in June 2015.
UNESCO has worked closely with the Myanmar Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forestry (MoECAF) to provide technical assistance for the nomination process of Inle Lake in collaboration with UNDP and with generous funding from the Government of Norway under the framework of the Inle lake Conservation and Rehabilitation Project.
In his opening remarks at the ceremony, U Aye Myint Maung, Deputy Union Minister of Environmental Conservation and Forestry said the designation of Inle Lake as UNESCO Biosphere Reserve has “opened a new chapter in our endeavour, determination and commitment to conserve biodiversity and ecosystem services in harmonisation with livelihood development.”
H.E. Ann Ollestad, Norway’s ambassador to Myanmar, congratulated Inle Lake communities and stakeholders on this landmark achievement and stressed the importance of all stakeholders pulling in the same direction with trust, cooperation and coordination for environmental sustainability, a subject which has received much attention from the government and multiple political parties.
Dr Shahbaz Khan, director of UNESCO’s Regional Science Bureau for Asia and the Pacific, noted in his keynote address that the Inle Lake Biosphere Reserve, endorsed by the 195 member countries of UNESCO, reaffirms Myanmar’s strong commitment to environmental conservation, biodiversity preservation and sustainable development. Addressing the future, he highlighted the need for innovative technical and eco-technological solutions, which are key for preserving the lake, along with education and research activities through an inclusive management framework for the lake.
Following the ceremony, a panel discussion consisting of senior officials and representatives from the Nature and Wildlife Conservation Division of MoECAF, the Inle Lake Wildlife Sanctuary, the irrigation department, agriculture department, United Nations Development Programme and the Inntha Literature, Culture and Regional Development Association discussed strategies for preserving Inle Lake’s biodiversity.
The panel recognized the need for promoting a variety of solutions to preserve the lake, including responsible waste management, practicing sustainable agriculture methodologies such as organic model-farms, dredging for regular removal of unwanted sediments in the lake, effective management of check-dams, addressing relevant issues in the up-stream areas in the long-term and ensuring sustainable fishing and transportation activities on the lake.
They panel also highlighted the need for greater coordination among all stakeholders, including local communities, through a sustainable and inclusive financial and managerial framework. Under the UNESCO’s MAB program, Inle Lake has now joined the World Network of Biosphere Reserves, which includes over 651 biosphere reserves in 120 countries.

Environmentalists pose for photo in front of Inle Lake Biosphere Reserve in Nyaungshwe Township.
Environmentalists pose for photo in front of Inle Lake Biosphere Reserve in Nyaungshwe Township.

Biosphere Reserves are experimental sites which aim to reconcile biodiversity and sustainable resource utilisation by promoting local solutions to global challenges. As such, the designation of Inle Lake as Myanmar’s first Biosphere Reserve will further encourage and enhance environmental conservation initiatives to safeguard biodiversity and ensure sustainable livelihood development in the region.
Established in 1971, UNESCO’s MAB Programme aims to safeguard natural and managed ecosystems and promote innovative approaches to economic development that are socially and culturally appropriate, as well as environmentally sustainable.
Also present at the opening ceremony of Myanmar’s first UNESCO Biosphere Reserve were Dr Nyi Nyi Kyaw, director-general of the Forestry Department, and Mr Sardar Umar Alam, the head of office of UNESCO Myanmar.

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