Kachin State’s Hkakabo Razi to be Considered for UNESCO Natural Heritage Status

By Nyein Nyein 10 November 2016

The Burmese government plans to submit an entry for the country’s highest mountain area, northern Kachin State’s Hkakabo Razi, to be listed as a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) natural world heritage site in 2018.

As a result of collaboration since 2013 between UNESCO and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Preservation’s department of forestry, seven natural forest sanctuaries are being submitted on the tentative list for inclusion as heritage sites, according to ministry spokesperson U Myo Min.

The seven locations include the northern mountain forest complex of Hkakabo Razi, the Hukawng Valley Wildlife Sanctuary and the Indawgyi Lake Wildlife Sanctuary in Kachin State. In Chin State, the Natma Taung National Park is being submitted, and in Tenasserim Division, the Tenasserim forest corridor, the Irrawaddy River corridor, and the Myeik Achipelago are also up for consideration, U Myo Min told The Irrawaddy via email.

Among these sites, the government set Hkakabo Razi, at 5,881 meters of elevation, as the first priority and in 2015 began carrying out the necessary assessments and field research for the location to be considered for the honor by UNESCO. A team of both international and domestic experts conducted field visits to the areas to see whether it is in accordance with the UN criteria.

Despite the plan to submit seven sites for consideration, the government has not yet been able to conduct field research in all locations simultaneously, according to U Kyaw Zaw, a director within the forestry planning department.

“We could not conduct [research] in every area [on the tentative list] but we started off with the Hkakaborazi landscape,” U Kyaw Zaw told The Irrawaddy.

To be considered as a natural world heritage site, the respective country has to pledge to protect the natural and cultural legacy of the area in question. The area itself must be determined, standardized and well preserved.

Although Burma has a number of cultural and religious buildings across the country, the ancient Pyu cities of Halin, Beikthano, and Sri Ksetra make up the only current World Heritage sites in the country, designated as such in June 2014. The Pyu are thought to have lived in central Burma from 200 BC until 900 AD.

Seven of Burma’s natural parks, including three of those to be considered by UNESCO for their heritage value, have been on the list of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ (ASEAN) heritage parks, which aim to collaborate in protecting ecosystems, preserving the region’s biodiversity and promoting sustainability.

Burma hosted the fifth ASEAN Heritage Parks Conference in late October of this year.