Myanmar's Environmental Issues
Myanmar has a long way to go toward a clean environment. The government does not currently have sufficient efforts in place to protect the environment. Don’t be too alarmed by the following figures — there are pristine areas of Myanmar, relatively unscathed by deforestation and hasty development.
As a traveler, you are supporting Myanmar’s brand-new tourism sector, which relies on Myanmar’s attractions remaining intact and unsullied. The more tourism grows, the more likely it is the government will put more effort into preserving Myanmar’s natural beauty.
Deforestation has been a huge issue, and removal of mangroves near the coast cleared an even more devastating path for the deadly Cyclone Nagris in 2008.
Myanmar has lost 3,459,475 acres (1.4 million ha) of forests to deforestation. This is because all of Myanmar’s economy relies on agriculture, forestry, fishing and mining, all of which require significant cleared land. Illegal logging is also a problem.
Without sufficient management, Myanmar will completely kill off some of its most abundant natural resources.
Littering in Myanmar
During your travels, you’ll notice that often the landscape is often marred with trash and litter. Even in places heavily visited by tourists, garbage is often found along riverbeds and beaches. Locals seem to be unaffected by the sight.
The government has started nationwide initiatives to raise awareness of this problem. In Bagan, billboards read in Burmese and English, "Save the classics, clear the plastics!" As public education raises awareness of this problem and new infrastructure for recycling is created, there is hope for significant improvement in the next decade.
Myanmar has blamed some of the littering on visitors from mainland China. Numbers of visitors from China are on the rise. Although increased tourism almost certainly has an environmental impact, locals are also prone to littering. Traditionally, the Burmese dealt with trash by burning it, but they have not yet developed an effective way to dispose of plastic.
All this being said, Ngapali Beach has a reputation as being one of the cleanest beaches in Southeast Asia.
Threats from Industry
Myanmar's vast natural resources are also a cause for concern. The environmental impact of harvesting these reserves is not closely monitored. As big industry moves into profit from these resources, deforestation, pollution and overfishing are real threats to the local population's way of life.
Mynamar has some of the worst air pollution of anywhere in the world. In addition to the stress this places on the environment, it also negatively impacts health in Myanmar. Lung, cardiovascular, and pulmonary disease are a major concern.
Households still use significant solid fuel, like wood and coal, which negatively affects the air quality more than clean-burning gas.
Plans for the Future
Myanmar’s government does not have the resources necessary to assess the damage to natural resources. There has been some outside help, most notably from Finland. The Natural Resources Institute of Finland is working with Myanmar’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation to assess the forests and plan a sustainable way forward.