Burmese 'more aware' of climate change

Dec 9, 2009 (DVB), The devastation wrought in Burma by cyclone Nargis last year has made people more aware of the potential for climate change to impact on the country, a Burmese environmentalist said.

The comments come as the Burmese prime minister, Thein Sein, joins world leaders in Copenhagen this week for the UN Climate Change Convention. The impact of Nargis pushed Burma into second place in a Global Climate Risk Index, released yesterday.

According to the head of the Forest Resource Environment Development and Conservation Association of Myanmar (FREDA) organisation, U Ohn, inhabitants of the cyclone-stricken Irrawaddy delta are implementing measures to reduce the impact of future extreme weather events.

In a report submitted to a regional Southeast Asian ministers' conference in July, U Ohn said that he had detailed the possible contribution that heavy deforestation in Burma is making towards climate change.

"I made the point that, despite deforestation, there are 34 million hectares of forest still remaining in Burma; one hector of forest land can absorb up to 12.47 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year," he said. "Saving about half of these forest lands would do a lot to reduce global warming."

The added that FREDA and around 17 international NGOs were cooperating in the development of a mangrove project along the 2500-kilometer coastal stretch of southern Burma.

"In 1999, we planted 4000 acres of mangrove trees in 26 villages in Pyarpon district [Irrawaddy delta] where the population is around 16,000 people," he said. "When cyclone Nargis hit, only three people died in that area.

"But in Bogalay, where people cut down mangrove trees for farming work, over 100,000 people died."

As a result, he said that more locals in the delta region were approaching NGOs for assistance in planting mangroves en masse.

The claim was corroborated by renowned Burmese environmental writer, Kyaw Yin Myint, who said that irregular climate patterns, such as the prevalence of hot weather during traditionally cool periods, was making people more aware of climate change.

"But it seems like only a few people aware that the climate change has a link to environmental issues," he warned.

The Copenhagen conference is being billed as a make-or-break scenario for world leaders to pledge action on halting climate change.

The talks are reportedly already in disarray after a leaked document showed that senior delegates will be asked next week to sign an agreement that gives more power to rich countries over decision making on emissions targets.

Reporting by Htet Aung Kyaw

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