Burma

Logging Ban Requires a Strong Government Hand, Say Environmentalists

By Nyein Nyein 3 June 2016

The Burmese government’s proposed logging ban must be matched with robust implementation, stressed environmentalists, following the announcement from the Minister of Resources and Environmental Conservation Ohn Win that a nationwide ban would be in full effect before the end of Burma’s fiscal year, in April 2017.

Ohn Win said during Thursday’s session of the Upper House of Parliament that the government is planning to completely suspend logging, in order to stem Burma’s rapid rate of deforestation. The ministry would also impose a ban on teak industry in areas without young teak growth.

Environmentalist Win Myo Thu, director of EcoDev, deemed the ministry’s plan “agreeable,” saying it was merely expected for the government to take action in a context where over 1.5 million hectares have been lost over a decade.

However, Win Myo Thu said an additional plan to “monitor teak regeneration” would be needed. In the absence of strong enforcement policies, the logging ban would be “political dressing up,” he said.

Since 2014, Burma has restricted logging according to an annual quota. Log exports were suspended from April the same year. Burma currently has 29 million hectares of forest, amounting to 43 percent of the landmass, according to ministry figures in 2015.

Win Myo Thu added that the natural regeneration of Burma’s teak forests “would not be so easy” in the midst of so much human interference, which extends beyond logging to local livelihood pursuits, such as firewood collection, bamboo shoot harvesting and gold panning.

In Thursday’s Upper House parliamentary session, lawmaker Khin Swe Lwin–representing Chin State Constituency 9—asked  if logging would be halted in Chin State’s Kanpetlet Township.

Khin Swe Lwin stressed the devastation wrought by the torrential rains brought by Cyclone Komen in late July and early August last year: villages on the banks of Mone River tributaries were underwater, with substantial loss of farmland.

In response, the minister Ohn Win described a plan to plant 50 acres of teak this rainy season [which commonly runs between late May and early October] in Kanpetlet Township. The locals would also be permitted to grow and administer 273 acres of forest.

According to the plan, the ministry would then document the forest resources of the area before any logging activities could resume. The Burma Timber Enterprise would be charged with preserving the remaining forest.

In the torrential rains of July and August last year, severe flooding occurred across 12 of Burma’s 14 states and divisions, affecting thousands of people, many of whom—including those in Chin State—have to yet to recover from the losses to their livelihood. Widespread deforestation in Burma in recent years was blamed for much of the flooding.

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