Shan State’s iconic Inle Lake has been granted Biosphere Reservation status by the United Nations heritage agency UNESCO – a promotional campaign to raise awareness and protect the beauty spot from environmental degradation.
“The benefits [of the status] of course include wider awareness, and the local community has to be taken into confidence so they are more involved. Ideally, the idea is to improve environmental conservation and sustainable livelihoods development,” UNESCO’s Sriharsha Masabathula told DVB on Wednesday.
“You can see that the name is the Man and Biosphere [MAB] programme to recognise the interaction between humans and nature and make that sustainable through environmental awareness, and through increased awareness get more support from the world,” he added.
The decision to grant the title as part of the UNESCO Man and Biosphere programme was taken at a meeting in Paris between the 34 member states of UNESCO’s International Coordinating Committee on 9 June.
Inle Lake, covering 490,000 hectares, is home to 267 species of birds and 43 species of freshwater fishes, otters and turtles. It now becomes Burma’s first Biosphere Reserve and joins a network of 631 diverse sites under the World Network of Biosphere Reserves.
Sardar Umar Alam, the head of UNESCO Myanmar, said, “In addition to its ecological importance, Inle Lake is also unique for the way the local inhabitants have adapted their lifestyle to their environment. Farmers from one of the dominant ethnic groups in the region, the Inthas, practice floating island agriculture, locally called ‘Yechan”.
Asked about efforts to preserve the livelihoods of local people who depend on the lake, Sriharsha Masabathula told DVB that the responsibility of the government lies primarily with the government.
“The MAB process under the government ensures that everyone is consulted and everyone is informed about it and taken into confidence, basically awareness-raising,” he said.