Saving The Mangroves in Ayeyarwaddy Delta--Myanmar Report

 

by Mangrove Service Network

 

During about six years (1995-2001) of project interventions under the UNDP/FAO food security projects, the grass-root communities of three townships in mangrove delta had received development assistance in local capacity building, enhancement of the environment and establishment of rural revolving fund for poverty alleviation. The villagers were given participatory training in leadership skill, organizational management, operating development activities and financial management of village revolving fund, etc., in the process of participatory development and empowering the grass-root communities. Professional project staff had been closely working and supporting them for required skill and knowledge throughout. The funds in the villages are under the direct control of the Community-Based Organizations (CBOs). The objectives of CBOs in comparison to rural micro-finance institution are far broader and more dynamic, aimed at systematic development of an accountable mechanism at rural level.

 

In spite of the project's effort for two to four years in developing mechanisms for channeling functional skill and credit to the communities, it is still crucial to provide further support to the CBOs well after the exit of the project. As the last project (MYA/99/008) was about to close in February 2002, formation of a service provider was seriously considered at the request of recipient communities to continue assisting and meeting in above requirements. After consequent meetings and discussions among community representatives, a service provider called Mangrove Service Network (MSN) was finally formed in December 2001 with the following objectives:

 

--To render services required for sustainability of existing CBOs formed under MYA/96/008 and MYA/99/008 projects.

To consolidate the existing CBOs and expand community welfare service in possible new areas with available fund.

--To organize funds and services from external sources and donors interested in people centered approach in poverty alleviation and grass-root community development.

--To promote environmental conservation through community participation.

 

MSN is essentially a service provider with members of former experienced project staff and other resource persons who have devoted themselves in this challenging development task. The following services are being and will be undertaken by MSN in achieving the above objectives.

 

--Socio-economic surveys and participatory monitoring and evaluation of community development activities;

--Providing services for formation of target groups, CBO committees and drafting rural regulations and village action plans;

--Providing systematic financial management services for CBOs;

--Providing poor families with income generation support, and giving appropriate technical training;

--Rendering consultancy services for joint ventures, various agencies and market exploration to facilitate and secure wider economic development in the region;

--Cooperating with external financial institutions, NGOs as well as private enterprises in order to promote development activities;

--Promoting environmental conservation through production and popularization of fuelwood efficient stoves, establishment of nurseries, plantations, sale of seedlings, soil conservation, river bank stabilization, etc.;

--Organizing technical training to promote local capacity for self-reliance in the fields of forestry, agriculture, livestock, fisheries and cottage industry;

--Organizing training, study tours, workshops, contests, distribution of extension materials, etc., to promote awareness, exchange of information and networking to build up the capacity of CBOs;

--Assisting CBOs in conflict resolution.

 

 

Effort of saving Mangroves in Ayeyarwaddy delta

 

The fate of the Ayeyarwaddy delta mangroves in Myanmar, where mangrove forestlands were reclaimed mainly for paddy (rice) over many decades, illustrates how mangroves are being degraded and destroyed, generally at a very much higher rate than that of tropical rainforests. The delta was formerly covered with dense mangrove forests, most of which has been cleared during the last two decades to grow rice and to produce charcoal for domestic use. Though the production of charcoal was banned in 1993 the average rate of deforestation in the delta mangroves continued at 2.4 % per annum, about three times higher than the national forest depletion rate of 0.74 %. Satellite photos show that in 1995, only about 6% of the land in Laputta Township and 24% in Bogalay Township were still forested, while Mawlamyuinegyun Township had lost all its forest cover. The combined area of Mangrove Forest Reserve in three townships is registered at 671,492 acres but most of which has turned into vast area of paddy land. (The extent of deforestation in three Townships over the period from 1924 to 1995 is shown in table-1. Please check with author for table.)

 

There are 29 mangrove species, 65 fish species, 13 shrimp species, 4 crab species and 9 other aquatic species found inside Ayeyarwaddy mangrove area. Therefore, Bogalay and Laputta Townships are traditionally famous for a wide variety of fishery products. Besides, 6 mammals, 30 bird species and one crocodile species are also found as mangrove inhabitants. (Detailed list of mangrove species is shown in Table-2.) While the mangroves in many other countries are rapidly disappearing due to commercial shrimp farming at a large scale, it does not pose the threat for the Ayeyarwaddy mangroves today. According to figures available from Fishery Department, a total of only about 600-acre area is occupied for shrimp farming in Bogalay and Laputta townships. The threat from shrimp farming can come anytime depending on economic policy. The mangrove ecosystem in the delta can generally be considered vulnerable and it is urgently required for further attention and care to preserve today's fragile system.

 

The UNDP/FAO projects had approached and initiated a sustainable management of increasingly degrading mangrove ecosystem in delta through various means of community participation. It was also coincident with recently regulated community forestry procedures by Myanmar's Forest Department in 1995 paving the way and legal entity for rural communities in operation of forest plantation and conservation activities which was never allowed before to such a community in Myanmar. With the cooperation of the Forest Department and assistance from the project, 19 rural communities living in Forest Reserves were given permission in August 1998 to establish community managed forestry plantations / conservation measures. It was essentially a 30-year land grant given to proposed community to establish, manage, produce and benefit the products of community forestry established as per the approved management plan. By year end 2001 more than 10,000 acres were permitted for community forestry in three townships. The first 19 user groups have proven satisfactory in either plantation establishment or protection of natural forest so far. (The summary of updated figures is shown in Table-3.) The project had given technical and material assistance in mangrove nursery, plantation and management techniques as well as promoting environment saving measures such as popularization of benefits of mangroves, mangrove ecosystem, sustainable fishery practices and introduction of efficient cooking stoves to reduce the fuel wood production from mangroves.

 

Upon the closure of projects MSN has assumed the role to provide extension, education and social mobilization services in environment matters. MSN has made clear that most work be done through various means of community participation. It is increasingly aware even among local departments that the mangroves can not be saved without seeking will, participation and initiatives of the local community. In some cases the villagers know the benefit of mangroves by lifelong experience, both long-term and short-term benefits, and they have put much greater effort and time believing this work will certainly pay off. On the other hand, there are a number of cases with intention to exploit the forest land grant for other purposes such as agriculture and fishery activities that are found unfriendly and damaging to mangrove existence. Meanwhile there are supports receiving from two Japanese NGOs, ACTMANG and JICA for expansion of community forestry in the area to support more for delta community forestry establishments.

 

A greater transparent and clear-cut land-use policy would also boost the expansion of community forestry in Ayeyarwaddy delta. In reality, the paddy purchase policy inside Mangrove Reserves is against the protection of mangroves. Though paddy cultivation inside Forest Reserve is considered unlawful by Forestry standard, the understanding is that paddy can be grown as long as the grower meets the sale quota for paddy. While the paddy production is getting such high priority in delta, the community forestry can be established only on low fertile soils with salinity problem. From the view of a poor family it is much more suitable and reasonable to reclaim such land than a fertile land. Nevertheless, there are some dedicated communities who really want their mangroves back in delta and it is an encouraging signal that promoting community forestry activities in Ayeyarwaddy delta would lead towards restoration of mangrove ecosystem in Myanmar.

 

References:

Forest Department of Myanmar. 2000. Forest guide for sustainable future

Forest Department of Myanmar. 1997. Integrated Resource Management in Kadonkani Reserve, Bogalay

Forest Department of Myanmar. 1994. NFMI Project document, MYA/85/008

Japan Forest Technical Association (JAFTA). 1995. Forest Register for 1995

Pushparajah, M. 2001. Conservation of Mangroves, a paper presented to the Academy of Forestry Science, Forest Department, Myanmar

 

From: "Htain Lin"

 

 

Source, “The Late Friday News”,  98th Edition,  June 2002

 

Mangrove Action Project: http://www.earthisland.org/map/map.html