Yangon, Myanmar (October 5, 2015) – Myanmar’s protected areas are facing critical funding shortages, with several unable to cover the costs of essential equipment, maintenance, and operational activities, in addition to needing more dedicated staff with increased technical capacities. A new report offers an assessment of the financial status, constraints, and opportunities for financing of these areas.
The report, Sustainable Protected Areas Financing in Myanmar, was published by WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) under a research project funded by the European Union.
“Despite the importance of our protected area network, there are still many challenges to managing these areas effectively,” said Dr. Nyi Nyi Kyaw, Director General of the Myanmar Forestry Department. “In particular, our protected area network has limited funding to support effective management. Fortunately, this is gradually changing, and this important report highlights the need to increase the size and diversity of the financial support to our protected areas.”
U Than Myint, Country Program Director for WCS in Myanmar said, “As the largest country in mainland Southeast Asia, Myanmar is a global priority for biodiversity conservation. This work is critical to maintaining Myanmar’s protected areas and the ecosystems within them. We are grateful to the European Union and the Helmsley Charitable Trust for their financial support and for making this effort possible.”
Myanmar is home to a rich variety of habitats and ecosystems, including 14 terrestrial eco-regions supporting 233 globally threatened species. Among those species are 37 that are critically endangered and 65 that are endangered. The country contains large expanses of species-rich and globally threatened ecosystems such as lowland tropical forests and mangrove ecosystems that are critically threatened elsewhere in the region. WCS works on many iconic species in Myanmar (myanmar.wcs.org) from tigers to Irrawaddy dolphins.
Myanmar currently has a network of 36 protected areas covering.6 percent of the country’s land area that were established to ensure the lasting protection of the country’s unique biodiversity. A new government initiative looks to expand the protected area network to at least 10 percent of the national terrestrial area to better represent the globally significant ecosystems within the country.
However, a booming national economy threatens the future of Myanmar’s protected areas. Increasingly, large portions of forested land are being converted to industrial plantations, or face degradation from illegal mining and poorly planned and implemented infrastructure development.
Ensuring effective response to these threats relies on sustained and reliable funding for the country’s protected areas, as well as initiatives for promoting sustainable livelihoods for the communities living in and around them. A newly elaborated plan to provide adequate resources for the management of these assets will be crucial for securing their future protection.
WCS has worked for the past 22 years supporting the Government in the establishment and management of several national parks and wildlife sanctuaries across Myanmar and encourages a broader discussion around the range of concrete options proposed in this report. These include increasing the size and diversity of financing sources, enhancing revenue retention and direct reinvestment in conservation, and streamlining financial planning procedures.
“While achieving these goals requires a number of enabling conditions and requirements be met, the suggested actions can create a viable pathway for achieving a strong and financially sustainable Protected Areas system in Myanmar,” said Joe Walston, WCS Vice President of Field Conservation. “This is only an early step, but a critical one, in a longer journey to effectively protect Myanmar’s globally important natural heritage.”
WCS works in close partnership with the Forest Department, Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forestry in Myanmar. All activities are conducted in close collaboration with the Nature and Wildlife Conservation Division, whose mandate is to manage Myanmar’s Protected Area network and the country’s rich biological diversity.