The Irrawaddy

Mon State’s Mottama Wetlands Receive International Recognition

Mottama wetlands in Mon State (Photo: Hintharnee / The Irrawaddy)

MOULMEIN, Mon State — The Mon State government held a ceremony in Kyaikto Township on Tuesday to mark the designation of Mottama wetlands as the fourth Ramsar Site in Burma.

A Ramsar site is a wetland site recognized for international importance under the Ramsar Convention, an intergovernmental environmental treaty established in 1971 by UNESCO for the conservation of wetland areas worldwide.

Since Burma ratified the Ramsar Convention in 2005, three sites have been designated as Ramsar sites in the country—Moe Yun Gyi Wetlands Wildlife Sanctuary in Bago Division, the Indawgyi Wildlife Sanctuary in Kachin State and the Meinmahla Kyun Wildlife Sanctuary in the Irrawaddy Delta.

The fourth site, a 45,000-hectare wetland, is located to the mouth of the Sittaung River, stretching along the eastern shore of the estuary in the Kyaikto and Bilin townships of Mon State.

Mottama is one of the world’s most important wintering areas for the critically endangered spoon-billed sandpiper, with half of the world’s estimated 1,000 spoon-billed sandpiper population visiting each year.

The government made the bid for recognition of the Mottama wetlands as a Ramsar Site in 2014, said Mon State chief minister Dr. Aye Zan in his speech at the ceremony.

The area, however, was suffering from illegal fishing and overfishing, which led to serious steep decline in fish stocks and fish production, said the chief minister.

“Silting and changes in direction of waterways have also resulted in bank erosion, and locals have consequently lost their farms and houses,” said the chief minister.

The ceremony was attended by ministers of the Mon State government, lawmakers and some 600 locals.

The Mottama wetlands meet six of the nine Ramsar criteria, said Mon State minister for natural resources and environmental conservation U Min Kyi Win.

Currently, there are 2,265 Ramsar sites across the world. According to a 2014 survey, there are 99 potential Ramsar sites in Burma—11 in Mon State, three in Arakan State, three on the Chindwin River, and 85 in Irrawaddy Delta, said the minister.