Myanmar is rich in forest resources and about 47% of the total country is still forested. However, with more than $6 billion worth of illegal timber being traded, extinction stalks Myanmar’s forests. Widespread degradation of the most densely wooded areas means that so-called “closed forest” more than halved in size, from 30.9 million to 13.4 million hectares.
Experts say corruption and poor protection have enabled rampant illegal logging that lines the pockets of crony businessmen, soldiers and rebel groups alike. A quasi- civilian government that replaced outright military rule in 2011 has sought to stem the flood of timber from the country with a ban on the export of raw logs which took effect on April 1.
Wildlife group WWF said the biggest driver of forest loss has been large-scale conversion for agriculture, often after woodland is degraded by logging or the collection of wood for fuel. It welcomed the export ban and said the government has also slashed quotas for teak and other hardwoods by 60% and 50% respectively for the coming fiscal year compared to 2012/13.
“But given the high volume of illegal logging and exports in Myanmar, it will take a long time before we see how effective the ban will be,” said WWF’s Myanmar conservation programme manager Michelle Owen.