By Thant Zin Win
A coordination meeting at the Yangon Region Chief Minister’s office on 5 August agreed to convert 39,977.52 acres in Thongwa, Kyauktan and Kungyangon townships into protected mangroves. Director U Thein Toe of the Yangon Region Forest Department said their department would need to work together with the farmland management department, statistical department, fisheries department, general administration department and affiliated organizations to implement the mangrove process. U Thein Toe said some of the area is already converted into mangroves while the rest are either untouched or illegally exploited. He said they will have to apply to reclaim some of the land from the Central Committee for Vacant, Fallow, and Virgin Land Management. He said some of the land had been issued for other uses but he fears this may destroy the land. He said mangroves will benefit the people and can protect the area from natural disasters. The director of Forest Department also said since the region is close to the sea, there are many areas that the central committee has granted that have remain untouched. He said they will reclaim those areas and return lands that have regrown forests to a collective ownership. He said the local residents are hoping for this as well. He said they will discuss with all relevant villages to divide the forests and are aiming to complete this within the current government administration. He said local residents are pleased with this news.
While destruction to mangroves are minimal in Yangon Region the forest department said most land is destroyed due to misuse for other purposes.
“About four to five thousand local residents have signed for the mangrove project,” said Ko Zaw Min Thu, head of the southern Yangon District branch of US-based Landesa Rural Development Institute. He said local residents have been waiting for an answer for 3 years as there are prawn breeding farms in the mangrove area. He said the Union Government will issue the area as a collective mangrove forest ownership once demarcation is complete and will divide rights to work in the area like the mangroves in Let Khoke Kone, Mandalay.
Ko Zaw Min Thu said the locals will conserve the mangroves as it helps multiply fish and prawns and boosts ecotourism. He said they have given awareness training to all concerned villages and have formed supervising groups as well. He said all the local residents have signed and petitioned for this project and only hope it will take action before the changeover to the next government administration. The forest department said they will keep the existing and petitioned prawn breeding farms untouched but take legal action towards trespassers. (Translated by Zaw Htet Oo)