Road Construction Could Damage National Park in Chin State

By San Yamin Aung 8 July 2014

RANGOON — Road construction in Chin State’s Natma Taung National Park could harm biodiversity, the administrator of the protected mountainous area has warned.

Natma Taung National Park is located between Kanpet-let, Mindut and Matupi townships of Chin State in western Burma. The park covers 72,300 hectares of the Chin Hills and contains Burma’s third-highest mountain Natma Taung, which was previously known as Mount Victoria.

The area is outstanding for its highly diverse plant life, which offers insight into the biogeographical history of Asia. It also stands out for the presence of a locally endemic bird species and restricted-range Eastern Himalayan birds.

Surveys have recorded 808 plant species, including 70 species of fern, as well as 233 bird, 23 amphibian, 65 reptile, and 77 butterfly species in the park, according to United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unseco).

“There is an expansion of an old road and two new roads being constructed connecting to Kanpet-let and Mindut Township through the park,” said Tin Mya Soe, the administrator of the Natma Taung National Park, which comes under the Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forestry.

He said that the construction of the roads was started in the last fiscal year and although the work would help locals travel around the area, the construction inside the park would have adverse effects.

“After the construction, more vehicles and people will enter into the park. It will be a disturbance for wildlife and multiple threatened bird species that can be only seen in the park. There will be more hunting and cutting trees in the park too,” he said.

He said that if more money was allocated, the roads could have been built along different routes to avoid the park.

Natma Taung National Park was identified as a “priority candidate” for recognition as a Unesco World Heritage Site, together with Indawgyi Lake Wildlife Sanctuary in Kachin State during a meeting between Unesco and Burmese government officials in Naypyidaw in February.

It is also an Asean Heritage Park and was listed as an Alliance for Zero Extinction Site because of the White-browed Nuthatch, a bird that is endemic to the park.

Tin Mya Soe said that the park was becoming famous among tourists for ecotourism, and bird watchers made up a lot of the visitors to the area.

“Before it’s decided whether it will get on the World Heritage List or not, the park could be damaged if we don’t protect it. It is not something that we [the Forestry Department] can do by ourselves. We need residents’ participation and other government’s departments’ support to protect the park,” he said.

Moe Moe, who runs a villa for tourists in Kanpet-let Township, said that Natma Taung National Park is one of the most visited places in Chin State, and that visitor numbers are currently on the rise.