Myanmar is facing galloping deforestation, losing forests to oil palm and rubber plantations, while the mangroves of its Irrawaddy Delta have shrunk in area by a whopping 64.2 per cent in 33 years, two new reports have shown.
Deforestation In The Ayeyarwady Delta And The Conservation Implications Of An Internationally Engaged Myanmar – a study by the National University of Singapore (NUS) – said an average of 51 sq km of mangroves a year were lost from 1978 to 2011. Thus, the Irrawaddy Delta’s mangroves shrank from 2,623 sq km to 938 sq km in that period.
The study, published on November 21 in the online journal Global Environmental Change, used cutting-edge technology to map the depleting mangroves.
It noted that unlike in the Mekong Delta where mangroves have been destroyed by aquaculture, in the Irrawaddy Delta, they were lost to harvesting for fuel wood and conversion into paddy fields. Aquaculture is still almost non-existent in the area.
The delta has a population of close to eight million. But it is also an area of high biodiversity, with more than 30 endangered species, the report said.
The mangroves also act as a buffer against sea-level rise and the kind of storm surge during Cyclone Nargis in 2008 that killed 130,000 people in the region. more…