- By Maung Tha (Archaeology)
Myanmar is home to an extraordinary diversity of wetlands, which include mountainous wetlands; large freshwater
marshes and lakes; and coastal mangroves, mudflats and coral reefs. Natural lakes such as Indawgyi and Reed and man-made lakes such as Meikhtila Lake and Moeyungyi Wetlands are popular places for local and foreign visitors.
Among many aquatic bodies of natural formation and artificial creation in Myanmar Meikhtila Lake is the largest and prominent. Meikhtila Lake is formed both naturally and artificially to supply water to local people. Moeyungyi Wetlands, situated about 70 miles north of Yangon by the Yangon-Mandalay highway in Waw Township,Bago Region, is used for storing water to irrigate farmland.
Likes Moeyungyi Wetlands, the other ecosystems support fisheries, provide clean water, store carbon and protect local people from the impacts of floods, tsunamis and landslides.
Moeyungyi Wetland Wildlife Sanctuary, established in 1896, used to be a reservoir which changed naturally into wetland with the extend of 40 square miles.
Moeyungyi Weland was originally constructed as a reservoir by British colonialists in 1878 after they occupied the lower Myanmar to supply water to the Bago Sittaung Canal in order to facilitate the transport of timber by boat. After passing of time, it became a wildlife sanctuary with an area of 40 square miles. It now functions as a source of fresh water for downstream areas where rice cultivation takes place.
Moeyungyi Wildlife Sanctuary and Wetlands Resort have attracted local and international tourists. “Myanmar has rich wildlife resources which include over 1,000 species of birds, 130 of which resided in the Moeyungyi Wetland.
Migratory water birds annually visit the Moeyungyi Lake in early November. It is home for 20,844 birds from 44 species of migratory birds and 67 species of resident water birds according to the figures for the end of January.
Since 1988 the government has designated the 25,600-acre wide Moeyungyi Wetland a wildlife sanctuary, on which about 17 villages rely on for their daily survival. Plans are underway to perform a survey on migratory birds coming to the wetlands in winter. The survey programme had conducted by the ministry in cooperation with bird observers and experts to collect exactly the numbers and species migrating to the wetland each year.
Promoting the tourism industry is one of the government’s proprieties to reduce poverty by implementing community-based tourism services in the country.
Bird Species Richness
Myanmar is blessed with a rich and diverse bird fauna. Currently, some 1,117 species have been recorded from the country. These include 8 endemics and 45 species that are globally endangered. There are 55 IBAs (Important Bird Areas). According to the Myanmar Bird and Nature Society, Myanmar is one of the richest and most diverse bird fauna in the world.
The Moeyungyi becomes one of the favourite places of the bird-watchers who watch species of the forest migratory birds in the region and it is an ideal place for picnickers, naturalists, botanists and bird-watchers.
They will have an opportunity to appreciate over 42 water bird species, and 33 shore bird species as well as more than twenty species of aquatic grass and herb (Emergent macrophytes) especially Kaing grasslands, the most suitable breeding breeding ground for water birds.
In addition to watching hundreds of resident and migratory water birds, they can study wetland environment by boat. Moeyungyi offers sweet little bungalows where visitors can have a very special overnight and then it is really nice to wake up in the middle of the different birds’ song in the middle of wet land.
Although the Moeyungyi Wetlands is still a haven for birds and a wonderful place to visit, there are a number of environmental issues that threaten it long-term such as bird trapping, battery /electro-fishing, the trafficking of turtles and snakes. Cooperation is of vital importance to rules and regulation for the conservation of biodiversity and its environment.
The Moeyingyi covers almost 104 square kilometers (40 square miles) and was designated as a Ramsar site in 2004. It is a permanent freshwater lake and plays hydrological, biological and ecological role to the resident and migratory water fowls and the local people.
Wetland areas are important for Myanmar and are essential for agriculture in the country and cooperation is needed to conserve the wetland areas effectively not only to reduce climate change, and environmental disasters which are being faced all over the world, but also to increase the development of the country and improve the economic lives of the people. Therefore the importance of conserving wetlands is very important.
Wetland Migratory Birds
Wetlands are important natural resources in Myanmar. They are natural heritages of the country and play a vital role in the economy of Myanmar. Principle wetlands of Myanmar are mangroves, swamp forests, lakes and marshes. Coastal forests provide many valuable resources such as fishery, forest products and medicinal plants. Besides, they act as natural barriers against introduction of sea water into the agricultural areas as well as prevent the costal land from erosion.
The Moeyungyi is a well-known place wetlands as well as Important Bird Areas in Myanmar. The key representative lakes in Myanmar need to be preserved to maintain the biological diversity of wetland ecosystem. Myanmar is considered as integral part in the context of wise use and international importance of wetlands in Asia, and accordingly Myanmar has been participating at the regional wetland collaboration.
Due to population increase and growing demand on fresh water resources there is a heavy pressure on the long term conservation of wetlands in Myanmar.
Collaboration of relevant stakeholders in the wise use of wetland is urgently needed in Myanmar. It needs to look at the livelihood of poor communities living near the wetlands so that their dependence on wetland resource can be made sustainable.
Increased national and international collaboration are needed to manage and conserve the wetland of international importance in Myanmar.
The Moeyungyi is one of the tourist destinations in Bago where only two and half hour drives from Yangon and not very far away from Bago. It is regarded as a paradise for bird watchers and eco tourists. It is located in Bago and Waw townships of Bago division and along Yangon – Bago – Pyinpongyi highway.
Translated by Willion Ko