CSOs demand law for protecting biodiversity and local rights

Htun Lin Aung (Myitkyina)

Civic and Social Organizations (CSOs) demanded a law for protecting biodiversity and bylaws that better protect ethnic nationals in order for them to not lose their rights.

In a released statement, there are 2 national conservation areas with total area of 40455151 acres and it accounts for one third of Kachin State. It is also half of entire Myanmar’s natural conservation area. It also stated that the designation of those natural conservation areas without letting local residents know in advance had led to many locals having to move away unwillingly from their homes. The most basic livelihood of locals which are (foraging and gathering of food, manufacturing and right to travel) were lost as a result. By doing so, it will affect losses of places set for paying homage, their symbols, and traditional customs.

Kachin State, an unstable portion of the country due to internal conflicts, is now facing the designation of conservation areas which will lead to more disputes and then fighting between different armed forces. Therefore, in the law for protecting biodiversity and by-laws for ethnic nationals to protect their rights, the CSOs demanded utilizing a practical approach which will preserve human rights of the native residents of the region, right for traditional culture, right for land use, justice in socio-economic lives, and peace and stability in daily lives.

“Without discussing with locals of Puta O for convening natural preservation areas, the areas were designated. Locals live in anxiety because they had know nothing about it in advance. In 1998, when establishing preservation areas in Kachin State, 71 houses were removed. Our Kachin State faces negligence from government. They set the natural conservation areas and prevented the locals from farming with rules and laws. It showed that humans are not valuable enough to be on par with wild animals. We know that there are laws which already states that the agreement from local residents are crucial if one desire to implement conservation processes where ethnic nationals reside. What I would like to say is whether the intent or the work is good or bad, if there is no harmony from the locals, it will not achieve success,” said Chan Pe Ram from Puta O.

Officials said that government is facing challenges in implementing amending law and by-laws  for protecting biodiversity. The workshop was held on August 31 at the city hall in Myitkyina.

On July 28, 2017, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation announced that 895040 acres (1398.5 square miles) were added as conservation areas in Puta O, Machanbaw, and Naung Mon townships in Puta O district.

Locals of the above mentioned areas earn their daily livelihood on these lands by farming, fishing, logging, hunting, and foraging for herbal plants. Therefore, locals of  Puta O, Machanbaw, and Naung Mon townships simultaneously held a protest on September 28, 2017.

In Kachin State, there are 71 reserved forests (1246279 acres), 34 outside of reserve forests (3194858 acres), 7 national parks and sanctuaries (4945151 acres).

At present, big businesses are now doing cultivation works after clearing lands in Kachin State, as local people worked for farming and wood cutting, illegal transporting of woods to China for nearly 3 decades, excessive use of wood as charcoal, China is one example of a go-to place to earn good money for trading of forestry products such as wild animals and herbs which as a consequence, lead

 to rapid disappearance of natural resources.