Myanmar

Myanmar: Revival of delta mangroves begins

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Dec 23, 2009 (DVB)-In a bid to rejuvenate Burma's cyclone-stricken Irrawaddy delta, a Burmese environmental group is replanting swathes of mangrove forests and boosting the breeding of salt water fish.

The programme is being undertaken by the Forest Resource Environment Development and Conservation Association of Myanmar (FREDA).

According to the vice-chairperson, U Ohn, the forest environment in the delta region was destroyed by cyclone Nargis, which struck in May last year flooded some 800,000 hectares of farmland.

"When mangrove forests are destroyed, it lowers the population of water creatures living in the mangroves," he said. "While replanting mangrove forests, locals can survive on fish, shrimps and crabs for food and income."

In a report delivered to a Southeast Asian ministers' conference in July, U Ohn had warned of the possible contribution that heavy deforestation in Burma is making towards climate change.

Following the cyclone last year, the head of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Surin Pitsuwan, said that destruction of Burma's mangrove forests may have contributed to the devastating impact it had.

Population increases had led to an "encroachment into the mangrove forests which used to serve as a buffer between the rising tide, between big waves and storms and the residential area," he said in a speech in Singapore.

The World Rainforest Movement highlighted the problems caused by deforestation in Burma in a 2002 report in which it described the mangroves of the Irrawaddy delta as "some of the most degraded or destroyed mangrove systems in the Indo-Pacific".

Around 140,000 people were killed in Burma's worst recorded natural disaster, which also ranks as the second deadliest North Indian cyclone in recorded history.

"Planting mangrove trees is not a difficult job. We did it successfully with about 14 to 17 different kind of mangrove trees 12 years ago," said U Ohn. "Although they are not difficult to grow, they are very difficult to maintain."

The programme will start in Irrawaddy division's Phyarpon district in early 2010. If successful over the next one to two years, the programme will be extended to other parts of the Irrawaddy division, he said.

"We have groups providing funding for next year so we will grow more kinds of plants and will get a chance to research which plants are best."

Reporting by Thurein Soe