We have been watching this website for some time now, looking for the right opportunity to link to a story of relevance to the work we do. Huge, unspoiled wilderness area? Tigers? Development threats? This article by science writer Charles Schmidt hit the spot, relevant portions excerpted below:
As Myanmar Opens to World, Fate of Its Forests Is on the Line
Years of sanctions against Myanmar’s military regime helped protect its extensive wild lands. But as the country’s rulers relax their grip and welcome foreign investment, can the nation protect its forests and biodiversity while embracing development?
…The country’s Northern Forest Complex, a 12,000-square-mile tract that runs along the border from India to China in Myanmar’s Kachin State, is home to tigers, bears, elephants, and hundreds of bird species. The heart of that forest, at nearly 8,500 square miles, is Myanmar’s Hukaung Valley Wildlife Sanctuary, the largest tiger preserve in the world.
Now, as Myanmar cautiously embraces democracy and opens up to the world — President Obama will visit the country next week, becoming the first sitting U.S. president to do so — a key question is what impact an influx of outside capital and foreign expertise will have on the country’s wild lands, biodiversity, and natural resources…
…So far, Western conservationists in Myanmar are generally heartened by the strong environmental stance Myanmar’s rulers appear to be taking in advance of an expected surge in economic development. “They seem to be taking a much more measured approach to environmental planning, even without international pressure, and that’s to be applauded,” says Joe Walston, executive director of the Asia program of the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).
In a well-publicized move last year, Myanmar postponed a massive China-sponsored dam that would have flooded more than 64,000 acres at the headwaters of the Irrawaddy River, citing environmental concerns. Mining along the country’s four major rivers has been banned. And during his inaugural speech in March 2011, President Thein Sein said, “We will pay serious attention to conservation of forests… and lay down a new policy in which we will work for economic development in parallel with environmental conservation.”
Read the full story here.