RANGOON — Meinmahla Kyun in Irrawaddy Division’s Bogale Township was added to the list of Wetlands of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands on World Wetlands Day, which fell on Thursday.
Burma’s Forest Department and the Norwegian Environment Agency (NEA) observed World Wetlands Day at Moe Yun Gyi Wildlife Sanctuary during which the Ramsar Secretariat announced the designation, director U Zaw Lun of the marine and wetlands area conservation program told The Irrawaddy.
“The designation means the world has recognized of Meinmahla Kyun as an important place for biodiversity. Some think that no extraction can be done in a place when it is designated as a conservation area. It is not like that. We will systematically govern the area, and utilize resources sustainably in cooperation with locals,” he said.
However, Meinmahla Kyun estuary is not the first Ramsar site in Burma: Moeyungyi Wildlife Sanctuary in Pegu was designated as a Ramsar site in 2004, followed by Indawgyi Lake in Kachin State’s Mohnyin Township in 2016.
Meinmahla Kyun is home to mangroves, mudflats, and turtle nesting beaches. The reserve was established in 1986.
“The new Ramsar Site will not only protect the Irrawaddy Delta’s last remaining important mangrove estuary, which hosts Burma’s largest crocodile population, but will also protect the delta from storm surges caused by cyclones,” said Dr. U Nyi Nyi Kyaw, the director-general of the Forest Department, as well as the head of the Ramsar Administrative Authority of Burma.
The Ramsar Convention Secretariat prioritizes habitats of endangered species in designating Ramsar sites, U Zaw Lun explained.
“We have to collect comprehensive data for at least three years. Besides this, we have to thoroughly study how to govern the area as well as [consider] the feedback of locals. Only after that, can we submit the application,” he said, regarding the process of submitting application for Ramsar site status.
According to Fauna and Flora International (FFI), Meinmahla Kyun hosts the world’s largest number of critically endangered mangrove plant species, and more than 20 species of threatened fauna, including the critically endangered mangrove terrapin, an endangered wild dog, the Irrawaddy dolphin and the lesser adjutant stork.
Threatened migratory bird species found in the area include the critically endangered spoon-billed sandpiper and the endangered Nordmann’s greenshank, which makes the Ramsar Site important for shorebird conservation along the Australasian flyway, said FFI.
FFI provided technical assistance and funds for the nomination of Meinmahla Kyun for international recognition as a Ramsar site, said U Zaw Lun.
World Wetlands Day is celebrated annually on Feb. 2, marking the date of the adoption of the Convention on Wetlands on Feb. 2, 1971, in the Iranian city of Ramsar.
Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko