Inle Lake Becomes Myanmar First UNESCO Biosphere Reserve

Intha fisherman at Inle Lake, Myanmar sunrise Photo: fredcan
Intha fisherman at Inle Lake, Myanmar sunrise Photo: fredcan

Myanmar’s commitment to biodiversity and ecosystem conservation is took a concrete step earlier in December with the country launching its first UNESCO Biosphere Reserve at Inle Lake. Designated as a Biosphere Reserve under UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere (MAB) programme last June, the dream of turning Inle Lake into a protected conservation area under UNESCO auspices is now a reality. The Lake has now joined the World Network of Biosphere Reserves, which includes over 651 biosphere reserves in 120 countries. Biosphere Reserves are experimental sites which aim to reconcile biodiversity and sustainable resource use by promoting local solutions to global challenges.

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 funding from the Government of Norway. Fundings were attributed for a Norway-supported “Inle lake Conservation and Rehabilitation Project“.

During the launching  ceremony, U Aye Myint Maung, Deputy Union Minister of Environmental Conservation and Forestry said the designation of Inle Lake as UNESCO Biosphere Reserve “opens a new chapter in our endeavour, determination and commitment to conserve biodiversity and ecosystem services in harmonisation with livelihood development.” A statement also praised by Dr. Shahbaz Khan, Director of UNESCO’s Regional Science Bureau for Asia and the Pacific.

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.

Lake preservation will include 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. Coordination will be necessary among all stakeholders -including local communities- to achieve these various goals.