NAYPYITAW—In response to opposition from locals, the President’s Office has agreed not to proceed with an Inle Lake hotel project proposed by the son of former dictator Than Shwe.
Last September, the President’s Office received a petition signed by more than 4,000 lakeside residents opposing plans by the Myanmar Naing Group, owned by U Tun Naing Shwe, to build a hotel on 90 acres of land by the lake in Mai Thaut Village, Yawnghwe Township, in Shan State.
The President’s Office sought remarks from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation, the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism and the Shan State government. The proposal, which sought to construct a hotel on 45 of 90 acres the company acquired during Than Shwe’s rule, was rejected by all three. The Shan State government said the hotel project would have negative impacts on the lake’s water levels and its sustainability.
Inle Lake, the home of migratory birds and other wildlife species, was designated as a wildlife sanctuary in 1985. U Tun Naing Shwe’s company acquired 90 acres out of the wildlife sanctuary on the lakeshore in 2011, while Senior General Than Shwe was still in office. Opponents of the project have called for turning the land back into a wildlife sanctuary.
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation also said the land should be returned to a wildlife sanctuary.
Myanmar Naing Group waited five years before moving on the project, submitting an application for hotel construction in 2016. Meeting resistance from local residents, the plan was shelved.
In June 2018, Myanmar Naing Group reapplied for permission, prompting local officials to submit an official complaint.
Myanmar Naing Group, in response to local opposition of local, conducted a counter-petition drive, garnering around 150,000 signatures in 12 village-tracts in Yawnghwe Township in favor of the project. Signatories, however, agreed only on the condition that the hotel project would not negatively impact the area, a local resident of Mai Thaut Village told The Irrawaddy.
The lake, which covers 247 miles, is facing environmental threats from the irresponsible use of chemical fertilizers, the clearing of forests for hotel projects and the expansion of floating farms, plus silting, according to local civil society organizations.
In June 2013, Inle Lake was designated as an ASEAN Heritage Park; two years later it was included in the World Network of Biosphere Reserves, becoming the first ever biosphere reserve in Myanmar. It became the world’s fifth Wetland of International Importance, as defined by the Ramsar Convention, in 2018.
The ethnic Intha make up the majority of Inle Lake’s population of over 200,000. It is also home to Shan, Pa-O and Taung Yoe populations.
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