Martaban on course for Ramsar list

By Ei Ei Toe Lwin
Volume 31, No. 614
February 13 - 19, 2012

REPRESENTATIVES from an organisation that oversees implementation of an international treaty on wetland sites have agreed to consider adding the Gulf of Martaban to its List of Wetlands of International Importance.

The issue was discussed at a workshop in Nay Pyi Taw on February 2 mark the 41st anniversary of World Wetlands Day that was attended by representatives from the government, non-government organisations and the Ramsar Secretariat.

The Ramsar Convention was signed in 1971 and member countries are “required to maintain the ecological character of their Wetlands of International Importance”, according to its website.

To date 160 countries have signed the convention and Myanmar became a signatory in 2004. A conference of Ramsar members is held every two years.

In 2011, Biodiversity and Nature Conservation Association (BANCA) proposed the inclusion of the Gulf of Martaban, which encompasses sections of Yangon and Bago regions and Mon State around the month of the Sittoung River, on the list of important sites.

The proposal outlined why the gulf was a valuable wetland and should be recognised as Myanmar’s second Ramsar site, after Moeyungyi Wildlife Sanctuary in Bago Region.

“We accepted the proposal from BANCA and we discussed the issue in detail at the ceremony for World Wetlands Day. Representatives from the Ramsar Secretariat, professionals from both local and international organisations and university professors also attended this workshop,” said U Win Naing Thaw, director of the Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forestry’s Nature and Wildlife Conservation Division.

“We will discuss all the facts that come out of this workshop at the [Ramsar conference] to be held in August 2012 in Bulgaria. We expect the Gulf of Martaban will listed as Myanmar’s second Ramsar site,” U Win Naing Thaw said.

BANCA and BirdLife International conducted a joint survey of the Gulf of Martaban from 2008 to 2011, focusing particularly on areas where the spoon-billed sandpiper (Eurynorhynchus pygmeus) winters.

The survey found that the gulf supports a number of vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered species, including 50-70 spoon-billed sandpipers and more than 36 species of wading birds.

“The Gulf of Martaban meets all of Ramsar’s criteria. This area is already listed as an Important Bird Area by BirdLife International and needs to be included as a protected area system (PAS) under the Ramsar Wetlands of International Importance,” said BANCA chairman Dr Htin Hla.

“At the workshop we discussed the Gulf of Martaban in detail and [representatives from the Ramsar Secretariat] told us to send a proposal to their office. They are ready to accept the gulf as a Ramsar site. ... They also encouraged us to survey other places that meet Ramsar criteria.”

Mr Samba Chan, a senior conservation officer at BirdLife International’s Asia division, estimated that there were 18 sites in Myanmar that met Ramsar eligibility criteria for being designated as Wetlands of International Importance.