The government has made the case that progress on recent reforms mean the international community should stop its annual resolution on Myanmar’s human rights record and drop the country from its broader human rights agenda.
The search is intensifying for a Thai helicopter that disappeared with three people on board while searching for two mountain climbers.
The 540-acre plantation in Rakhine State's Gwa Township is an example of one very local attempt to save a fast disappearing global ecosystem.
IT is almost impossible to walk through the rehabilitated mangrove plantation in Kan Ngu village in southern Rakhine State’s Gwa township. The mud sucks in your boots at every footstep while the roots bar your way at every turn as you try to avoid stepping on the mangroves.
"Please watch out, be sure you don’t step on the young plant," U Kyaw Win, the plantation manager, warned me as we passed a small sapling at about calf height, hiding amongst the adult trees that stand 1.8-2.1 metres (6-7 feet) tall.
The 540-acre plantation is one very local attempt to save a fast disappearing global ecosystem. According to the World Atlas of Mangroves, published in 2010. The first global assessment of the state of the world’s mangroves, it found roughly a quarter of the world’s mangrove cover has been lost due to human activity.
However, estimates for Myanmar put the rate of deforestation much higher. A 2013 report from the National University of Singapore estimated through the use of satellite imagery that mangrove cover the Ayeyarwady delta had declined from 2623 square kilometres (650,000 acres) in 1978 to 938 square kilometres (230,000) by 2011. Experts fear that if that rate continues Myanmar’s mangrove forests could disappear within a few decades.
Mangrove swamps nurture greater numbers of fish and shrimp and they are also a good natural defence against coastal erosion, tsunamis and storm surges during cyclones. If fewer acres hadn’t been cut down before Cyclone Nargis, conservationists say fewer people may have died in the subsequent storm surge as mangroves would have weakened the force of the waves.
Much of that habitat loss has occurred in Rakhine State, where mangrove cover declined from 1620 square kilometres (about 400,000 acres) in 1980 to about 600 square kilometres (about 150,000 acres) in 2013.
The Kan Ngu rehabilitation project was launched in 2011 with support from the Coastal Livelihood and Environmental Assets Restoration in Rakhine (CLEARR). The larger project has resulted in the creation of mangrove and other types of community forests in 42 villages in Gwa township and Kyaintali sub-township over the past three years.
While the mangrove forests had originally been cut to meet demand for wood and charcoal, residents found that they had more income opportunities when the mangroves grew back, said U Kyaw Win. The increased earnings meant more people could afford to use electricity and purchase consumer goods, like televisions, he said.
“Aqua resources such as fish, pawn, crab and oyster are increasing again because of the mangrove forest," U Kyaw Win said. "Now there are many people who have their own boats and fishing net.”
Some of the adult mangroves in the Kan Ngu plantation can be cut down for building materials with approval from the forest department, while branches can be taken sparingly for use as firewood.
“We patrol to protect our plantation every day and we wish to extend more plantations in the future.”
One resident of Gyain Gyi village in Gwa township said that the village hopes to expand its community plantations even further in future.
"We have conserved 50 acres of mangrove [community] forest since 2011 and another 70 acres of community forest [on land] since 2013. We benefit from having firewood, food and housing materials from the forest. The forest also prevents erosion. We would like to expand our plantation if we have more land," U Myint Toe said.
CLEARR project manager said the forests were important for ending the cycle of poverty in Rakhine State, which is the second-poorest state or region in Myanmar.
"The loss of habitat for aqua resources, such as fish, prawn and oysters, has led to less income for the people who rely on these resources,” he said.
But without action, he said, Rakhine’s mangrove forests would likely disappear. “Mangrove forests have been cut down for many years. In the future, unless there is some proper effort put into conservation, it will be hard to find forests in good condition.”
Hopes for signing a nationwide ceasefire in October have dimmed, with government, Tatmadaw and ethnic armed group commanders still wrangling over a range of military and related questions, negotiators said at the end of five days of intense discussions last week.
Rakhine State officials insist a citizenship scrutiny project in Myebon township has not been suspended, despite media reports to the contrary and protests from local Rakhine residents.
The Ministry of Information is preparing to take two publications to court after mediation through the Myanmar Press Council (Interim) failed to yield a result acceptable to both sides, according to minister U Ye Htut.