Myanmar Consolidated Media
Education feature story
60th Anniversary of Indonesia~Myanmar

Deforestation causing landslides, says expert

By Aye Sapay Phyu
August 22 - 28, 2011

LARGE-SCALE deforestation has increased the risk of landslides in mountainous areas, a prominent academic said last week.

U Kyaw Htun, an associate professor and head of the Department of Engineering Geology at Yangon Technological University, said deforestation was the most significant of several man-made factors in landslides, along with indiscriminate blasting and quarrying, mass construction of houses and heavy structures on hillsides and disposing of excavated material down hillsides.

“Soil erosion is … exacerbated by heavy rainfall and deforestation. The uncontrolled flow of rainwater on a sloped surface washes away soil and boulders, threatening people living along the base of hilly regions,” U Kyaw Htun said at a policy and technical workshop on enhancing capacity for disaster risk reduction, held at the Myanmar Engineering Society headquarters in Hlaing township on August 17.

According to the government, forest coverage in Myanmar declined from 61 percent in 1975 to 59pc in 1989, 52pc in 1998 and 47pc in 2010.

U Kyaw Htun said landslides of various sizes occurred frequently in mountainous regions, particularly Rakhine and Chin states and Sagaing Region in the west and Shan, Kayin, Kachin and Mon states and Tanintharyi Region in the north and east.

“Because these areas are sparsely populated, the direct impact of landslide is usually damage to infrastructure rather than human settlement,” he said.

U Kyaw Htun said landslides needed to be included in national hazard mitigation programs and education about landslide should be introduced, especially in landslide-prone areas.

The workshop, which also focused on the threat posed by tornadoes, was sponsored by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Relief and Resettlement Department in collaboration with Japanese NGO Sustainable Environment and Ecological Development Society and the Myanmar Engineering Society.

More than 100 participants, including government officials, engineers and members of the disaster risk reduction working group attended the one-day workshop. Another workshop on the same topic was to be held in Nay Pyi Taw on August 19.