YANGON: To most people in Myanmar, food waste is nothing but garbage, and that attitude leaves Inda Soe Aung baffled.
But the 35-year-old environmentalist isn’t complaining, because what he views as his compatriots’ lack of imagination has given him the business opportunity of a lifetime – turning what they throw away into fertiliser.
“People think that food waste is just trash, trash, trash,” he said. “It’s difficult for me to introduce to the public that food waste is a natural resource.”
Each day, he collects about a tonne of food waste from wet markets near his home in Yangon’s North Dagon Township, pouring baskets of leftover vegetables into a cart before processing it into organic compost over the course of several months.
He started his business, Bokashi Myanmar, nearly two years ago and has so far created 500 tonnes of fertiliser, which he sells mainly for use in gardens and home farms.Advertisement
His aim is to triple production and help the environment by reducing greenhouse gases, while persuading other people to adopt the techniques for soil preservation and combating climate change he outlines on his company’s Facebook page.
Yangon authorities estimate that, across all categories, the fast-growing city generates 2,300-2,500 tonnes of waste each day, inundating landfill sites that are decreasing in number as demand for land grows.
Inda Soe Aung gets help from his wife, Aye Aye Than, who says she is proud of the business and its contribution to the environment.
“I thought that only poor and grassroots people worked with trash. But, I later realised that this job is providing a clean environment for my neighbours around me,” she said.
It was Burmah Oil Company (BOC) that monopolized Myanmar (then Burma)’s oil industry in the colonial period. Based on the corner of Merchant Street and 32nd Street in Yangon (then Rangoon), the building today houses the National Library of Myanmar.
Built in 1908 by the architect and contractor Robinson and Mundy, the building was originally the headquarters of the Scottish trading firm Fleming and Co which exported textiles and imported a variety of European merchandize, including shoes, paint and beverages.
The BOC took over the four-story building from Fleming and Co. It started operations in 1886, one year after the country’s last monarch, King Thibaw, was dethroned and exiled in India. The firm piped crude oil from Upper Myanmar to Thanlyin oil refinery across the Yangon River.
It produced petroleum, gasoline and candles and distributed internationally and domestically, reaching the most remote areas of the country.
The company also sold petrol, kerosene lamps and candles and its headquarters were alive with wholesalers and retailers, petroleum inspectors, representatives of foreign oil companies, tanker operators and globetrotting oil workers from the United States, UK, India and elsewhere.
One street away from the BOC’s headquarters, the Steel Brothers and Co Ltd, which monopolized the country’s rice industry in the colonial period, opened its headquarters on what is now Bo Sun Pat Street.
The simply designed BOC office played an important role in modernizing the colonialized society which had no access to electricity or the international fuel markets. The country’s oil only made up for 1 percent of total global production, but 20 percent of the British Empire’s overall output.
National crude oil production rose to 1 million tons annually by the 1930s, with 80 percent of that total coming from BOC. The company also established BOC College to train engineers, technicians and workers for its operations.
BOC enjoyed its most profitable years during the 1920s when it was listed among the top 10 British manufacturing firms. Crude oil was the second-largest source of foreign currency income ahead of World War II, according to Myanmar Encyclopedia.
Indigenous oil workers earned a tiny fraction of the salaries of British officials at the BOC and endured miserable, crowded living conditions.
In a bid for better conditions, thousands of oil workers marched about 650 kilometers from Chauk in today’s Magway Region to Yangon despite a violent crackdown by the colonial government. They were joined by thousands of other workers, farmers and people from all strata of society in what would become the first movement for independence.
The movement in 1938 was significant as a national uprising against colonial rule and became known as the Revolution of 1300, named after Myanmar’s calendar.
The British general manager of the BOC, Harold Roper, was kept busy having to report to the board of directors in London about the strike, negotiate with the colonial government and answer media questions. On March 15, 1939, oil workers managed to block all entrances to the BOC’s head office by lying down on the pavements around the building. Hours later, the police forcibly dispersed the protesters and detained 123 of them.
When World War II broke out, the BOC – which exploited the country’s oil resources under the umbrella of the colonial government – abandoned its head office, burning documents and maps.
The abandoned building survived the war but the interior was a shambles with no furniture or equipment. As oil fields and equipment were destroyed by the retreating British, the country’s supplies of kerosene and candles ran out.
After independence, BOC shared the building with the Ideal Nursing Home, also known as the Sanpya Clinic. In 1963, the BOC was sold to the Revolutionary Council government, ending 55 years of foreign ownership.
The building then housed the office of the state-owned Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE) for the next 40 years. It was left vacant when the MOGE moved to Naypyitaw in 2005 and 2006. Most of the roof was destroyed by Cyclone Nargis in 2008 and the building was renovated by the Construction Ministry in 2010.
After the National League for Democracy won the 2015 general election and U Htin Kyaw, the son of influential intellectual Min Thu Wun, became the president, he allowed the building to house the National Library.
While some colonial-era buildings house hotels, restaurants and shopping centers, the 112-year-old former BOC office has become a public building.
Around 200 homes and other buildings were destroyed by fire in Myanmar’s conflict-torn Rakhine state, Human Rights Watch reported Tuesday. The rights group says satellite images recorded the destruction on May 16.
Northern Rakhine state has been riddled by conflict between the Myanmar military, also referred to as the Tatmadaw, and the Arakan Army (AA), a militant group of Rakhine Buddhists seeking self-governance.
No one has claimed responsibility for the May 16 destruction.
The most recent account of mass burning in Rakhine was in August 2017, when the Myanmar military and militant civilians destroyed at least 392 Rohingya villages.
The Rohingya Muslims, densely populated in Rakhine, are an ethnic minority in the Buddhist-majority country. Since 1982, the government has refused to recognize the Rohingya as its citizens, viewing them as illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh.
The 2017 violence involved massacres, extrajudicial killings, mass gang rapes and villages burned by the Tatmadaw — events a fact-finding mission established by the United Nations Human Rights Council described as rising to the level of “both war crimes and crimes against humanity” and in “genocidal intent.”
The current conflict between the Tatmadaw and AA has pushed more Rohingya to flee, leading hundreds to the sea to find safety in neighboring countries.
Citing concerns about COVID-19 earlier this year, Malaysia denied entry to nearly 400 Rohingya Muslim refugees, leaving them stranded at sea for two months until Bangladesh took them in. The coronavirus causes the COVID-19 disease.
With the view to protect the Loktak lake from further deterioration, a mobile research laboratory has been launched to study and evaluate the ecosystem of the lake. On the occasion of its launch, Manipur Forest and Environment Minister Mr. Thounaoujam Shyam Kumar expressed his concern over the increased pollution penetrating in the lake and the need for floating laboratory of Institute of Bio resources and Sustainable Development (IBSD) to monitor its ecosystem.
With water quality machine installed, the boat is built to operate across the lake for twenty- four hours assessing the quality of water and thereby, has been made proficient to tap on the temperature scales, chemical composition apart from the rest. More than four months were spent by ISBD to shape the boat as remarked by IBSD Director Professsor Dinabandhu Sahoo.
Mr. Shyam Kumar observed that through this whole process of research, scientists have extracted alcohol from the grass present in lake and soon it would be sold, and also the possibility of making organic compost from phumdis has been recognised.In an effort to encourage tourism, it has been proposed to install mobile bio toilets at the Loktak lake.
As part of the task of saving the lake and the environment around it, the state and the central government would be working collectively, in addition to the Loktak Development Authority (LDA) and Institute of Bio- Resources and Sustainable Development (IBSD).
In an effort to sensitise the local communities lodged around Manas National Park toward environmental conservation, High Commissioner of New Zealand to India Ms. Joanna Kempkers employed a van as an educational and knowledgeable tool to build a relationship of concern and proximity among the community members toward their environment.
An engaging conservation tool developed by Aaranyak was put in place with the view to spread awareness about the need to conserve and the measures to be adopted to practise environmental conservation. Part of Manas Tiger Conservation Programme (MTCP), this vehicular initiative was undertaken to attract the communities and interact with them about the positives about conservation-based education. With striking outer design of the bus, beautified by the local flora and fauna of the ecosystem of that place, this van helps in catching the attention of the community members and enables an opportunity of interaction with other members surrounding the landscape.
Conceived as a mobile educatory tool, the van is well installed and equipped with the needful resources both theoretical and practical. This comprises banners, display tools, extensive audio-visual media accessories like projector, generator and more. For demonstration purpose, a small laboratory like equipment is also placed in the van. To make it convenient and accessible at all times, folding tents exhibiting educational materials are also carried for on the spot awareness.
To further the engagement streak with the target audience, a conservation theatre has been conceptualised too, showcasing popular folktales disseminating conservation messages in a modernised manner. Experienced theatre artists have been chosen to perform conservation narratives through its theatrical tangent. To expand its conservation-based education amid the youth and the young nurturers in school across Manas Tiger Reserve in Assam, this van helps in organising educative shows in school.
Aaranyak in collaboration with the Forest Department BTC, Panthera, Wildlife Conservation Trust, and Awely have continuously worked and strived toward conservation and community centric amelioration in the landscape of Manas.
Myanmar’s slackened shrimp exports has caused its largest export market – Japan to support Myanmar in mushrooming its shrimp export supplies and its capacity building aspects. A host of reasons leading to the culled supply of the same stems from the report detailing exports to Japan. The report is backed by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). The reasons span from inefficient breeding technology, virus in the farmed fishery sector, loss of their natural habitat and inept preservation of fishery resources.
To allay the region’s limited supply of shrimps, Japan’s development aid agency has come forward to assist the country in boosting its export market and thus, enabled the Myanmar Trade Promotion Organisation(Myantrade) to review aquaculture practise. JICA’S mentor Mr. Kazuo Mishima asserted, “The country needs to increase its export supply capability as well as product quality and value.”
It’s been reckoned that the availability of 120,000 hectares of land and the right resources makes Myanmar fit for shrimp farming, given it is supported by the appropriate infrastructural requirements as per the department of Fisheries. On this, Vice Chair of the Myanmar Fisheries Federation Mr. U Kyaw Tun Myint expressed, “The Rakhine and Ayeyarwady coastlines can be used to farm and produce white Vietnamese shrimp for the purpose of export.”
The recent percentage of shrimp export from Myanmar to other countries is as follow – 24% to India, 4% to Japan and 27%to Vietnam. However, to accelerate this percentage share, productional raise of the shrimps has been proposed by Myanmar Trade Promotion Organisation (Myantrade) via tax incentives and procedural ease.
Recommendation of an effectual and sustainable aquaculture strategy to fix supply shortage of shrimps has led to framing of a National Aquaculture Development Plan (NADP) to formulate a long-term development of this sector.
As part of the Denmark- Myanmar 2016-2020 programme, Denmark shall assist and cooperate with Myanmar’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment Conservation for a project on Administration of Mangrove Forests. Denmark’s Ambassador to Myanmar Mr. Peter Lysholt Hansen signed an agreement with the Environment Ministry at Nay Pyi Taw wherein Denmark has earmarked US$5.5 million for the project, along with its technical know-how. This assistance by Denmark is stipulated for a period of over five years, catering to the people of coastal regions of the Rakhine State and the Tanintharvi region.
The project strives to promote locally produced forests, discouraging excessive dependence on mangrove forests. With primary focus on environment protection and conservation, enhancing local’s capacity to concentrate on other projects while generating maritime business is also an underlined part of this association. Director General of Forest Department Dr. Nyi Nyi Kyaw remarked, “We will suggest best practices that won’t damage the environment and the daily lives of local people but will develop social and financial benefits.”
While observing the importance of mangrove forests in conserving the environment, Dr. Kyaw further highlighted the urgency of technical and financial aid in meeting the conservation needs sufficiently.
Sustainable development of mangrove forests is the need of the hour for Myanmar’s vulnerability to climate change is immense. Being reckoned as natural sinks of greenhouse gases and cyclone fighters for the well-being of coastal communities, mangrove forests need immediate rehabilitation and restoration.
The need for long-term sustenance of the coral reefs and continuous and active fish breeding grounds has attracted employment of conservatory and management tools: Marine Protected Areas (MPA) and Locally Managed Marine Areas (LMMA), encircling the coral waters of the Myeik Archipelago of Myanmar.
In the pursuit to protect the coral reefs, its sensitive natural habitats, rich marine biodiversity and the mangrove nestled coastline in the interest of local community’s livelihood, the 800 islands comprising the Myeik Archipelago have been identified as the first fish conservation zone.
Mr. U Khin Maung Maw, Director General of the Fisheries Department, stated that the coral reefs abounding the Myeik Archipelago will be the first locally managed marine conservation area in the country.
The local community’s dwellings around the archipelago depend on the fishery as their main economic activity. However, with the emplacement of LMMA, and with the subsequent goal of the sustainable fishery, a zoning system has been adopted wherein only the fishes that have attained maturity shall be caught and coral areas will be rendered a no-fishing zone.
This has been put to practice due to the depletion of marine resources owing to exhaustive and illegal methods of fishing, excessive use of dynamite, and other devastating and destructive means, which have also injured the health and productivity of the marine ecosystem.
U Zaw Lunn, Marine Biologist at Fauna and Flora International (FFI) said, “The coral reefs are a natural habitat of marine creatures and the destruction of the coral area will result in the destruction of the natural habitat and breeding ground for marine life.”
Thereby, it is imperative that strict vigilance and attention is devoted to the health of the coral structures, for it enables the fishes to keep spawning which, in effect, forms a protective layer for itself too.
Swati Prabhu Doctoral Candidate, Centre for European Studies, School of International Studies, JNU
With talks about climate change and sustainable development doing the round these days, the entire global fraternity is bearing the brunt of it and Myanmar is not left alone. With nearly 75% of the country’s population depending on agriculture, threats of water shortages, drought, heat waves etc, could easily take a toll on the livelihoods of people. The country’s anatomy is peculiarly shaped in the form of a kite with a long tail that runs south along the Malay Peninsula. It is also the northernmost country in the Southeast Asian region with China situated towards the north and northeast and India to the northwest. However, the country is not untouched by the damaging effects of the changing climate and fears of the worsening environment. According to the recent Asian Development Bank (ADB) report released earlier this year, climate change could prove to be disastrous for Asia, especially for Myanmar. President Trump’s appalling decision to withdraw support from the Paris Agreement, it may appear to have caused massive repercussions on the Asian dream of curbing emissions. However, with China taking a positive stance to press ahead with emissions reduction, countries like Myanmar hope to get some positive encouragement and assistance.
The report produced by the ADB and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) makes for grim reading, should the predictions eventuate. Under a “business as usual” scenario, a 6 degree Celsius temperature rise is projected over the Asian landmass by the end of the century, with an increase as high as 8 degrees C forecasted in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, and northwest China. “These increases in temperature would lead to drastic changes in the region’s weather system, agriculture and fisheries sectors, land and marine biodiversity, domestic and regional security, trade, urban development, migration, and health. Such a scenario may even pose an existential threat to some countries in the region and crush any hope of achieving sustainable and inclusive development,” the report said. In addition to this, according to the 2016 Climate Risk Index, Myanmar is the second-most vulnerable country in the world to the effects of climate change. According to the latest projections, Myanmar faces more extreme weather events as temperatures rise: more cyclones, more storms, more floods and more droughts. Before 2000, cyclones made landfall along Myanmar’s coast once every three years. Since the turn of the century, cyclones have made landfall every year.
In spite of this, the picture is not that bleak. The plethora of economic opportunities offered to the Asian countries, specifically Myanmar, is headed by a ‘firming recovery’ in the form of major industrial economies and the government’s continued reforms. As per the Myanmar Climate Change Alliance (MCCA), a joint initiative of the UN-Habitat and UNEP, Myanmar is one the fewest countries in the LDCs who take climate change seriously, especially when it comes to adaptation. Climate change is a reality which needs to be addressed urgently and Myanmar is doing relatively well in this regard. To take the issue in an optimistic manner, the country’s economy is expected to accelerate at around 7.7% in 2017 and to 8.0% in 2018, while the current account deficit will widen the imports, growing faster than the exports. The recent government effort in strengthening the legal and regulatory framework has also helped in enhancing the conducive environment for private businesses and investments, which will, in turn, drive further economic growth. Consolidating the country’s legal and regulatory framework is crucial to develop a vibrant private sector and tap Myanmar’s huge growth potential, the report says.
The link between economic opportunity and climate change is something that has to be given immediate attention by the Asian countries, especially Myanmar. The job of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by subsiding the global temperature to below 1.5 degrees Celsius is undoubtedly a herculean task but it would result in various opportunities for the international community. According to various reports released by leading media agencies, Asia has already become a leader in clean energy investment, with the lead was taken by China investing humongously in renewable energy. This raises the question of funding for climate adaptation and mitigation efforts. Myanmar is already receiving external assistance from a couple of entities, such as Global Environment Facility, the EU, and bilateral development partners. It is also said that the country will have access to future funding through the Green Climate Fund, which distributes the annual $100 billion contributions made by advanced economies, agreed at COP21 in Paris last year.
The country also offers a plethora of opportunities for investors, stakeholders and private sector involvement. Vast natural gas deposits, innumerable suitable locations for hydropower generation, and unexplored potential for solar and wind power generation are some of the key areas which would definitely attract investment in the coming years. In this regard, Myanmar’s power sector puts forward a plethora of opportunities to both foreign and local investors. According to the government reports, the installation of considerable additional capacity to the current 4,422 MW as well as the rapid construction of transmission lines are national priorities. In order to reach the objective of full national electrification until 2030, the power sector of Myanmar needs to evolve and develop in an efficient manner. The participation of both public and private sector is essential in this regard. It could also be stated that the country needs to build an effective mitigation strategy which involves not only the state but also contributions from the non-state actors, in order to procure finance and maintain coordination, at the time of financial drip.
However, the recent shift in geopolitical trends with the prominence gained by emerging economies, like China, India and Brazil certainly provides a positive push to Myanmar for constructing their economy in a sustainable way.