Mandalay — The Myanmar Geosciences Society (MGS) is working to nominate Mt. Popa as a Unesco Global Park in the next two years as the extinct central Myanmar volcano is set to be designated as a national-level geopark in June.
Mt. Popa, 1,518 meters above sea level, is the highest peak in Kyaukpadaung Township, Mandalay Region. The west of the mountain hosts forests and fossils, said MGS secretary U Than Tun.
The designation of Mt. Popa as the first national-level geopark in Myanmar has been a few years in the making with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation, Mines Department, Forest Department and MGS involved in the process.
“Based on our research, we concluded that we have attractions to show that meet international norms. We have taken action with the approval of the Mandalay Region government and Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation,” said U Than Tun.
Several universities have carried out research and data collection since December 2016.
“Our target is to get the recognition of [the United Nations’ cultural body] Unesco. We will try to submit a nomination two years after we have set up the national-level geopark,” said U Than Tun.
A geopark is a site of geological heritage that is protected and used sustainably while promoting the economic well-being of residents.
Designation as a geopark will contribute to the conservation of fossils, water sources and geological features around Mt. Popa, he said.
“For an area to become a global geopark, the most important thing is it must have international geological significance. It must be a unified geographical area. There must be a separate governing body and cultural, traditional and archaeological value,” said U Than Tun.
The society has prepared up to 20 sites for public display at the geopark showing fossils, herbs, deer and a dam. One of the highlights will be a 15-meter-long piece of petrified wood found 3 meters below the village of Thanbo.
Another must-see will be elephant fossils that are believed to be around 15 million years old, according to U Than Tun. “The entire west of Mt. Popa is thickly covered with forests and filled with fossils. We will excavate carefully,” he said.
“We welcome the plan for designation of Mt. Popa as a global geopark. We are cooperating for that to happen,” said secretary Ko Aung Hein of Mt. Popa Lovers environmental group.
“We hope that this will allow the people to learn the geological features which will be well-preserved as a global geopark. And we hope this will also create an income for residents,” he added.
Myanmar has over 20 potential sites to become Unesco global geoparks, according to MSG. It will prioritize 10 sites, including Mt. Hkakabo Razi, Putao and Indawgyi Lake in Kachin State, and Pindaya Cave and Inle Lake in Shan State, after nominating Mt. Popa for Unesco recognition.
There are over 170 Unesco geoparks around the world, including more than 40 in China.
Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko
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