Myanmar is conducting surveys of its wetland sites to gauge potential for listing them as areas of international importance under the Ramsar convention, the environmental minister said on February 2.
Only the Moeyingyi Wetland Wildlife Sanctuary in Bago Region has so far been listed as a Ramsar site but a number of others are likely to be put forward for inclusion once the surveys are completed, Minister for Environmental Conservation and Forestry U Win Tun said during a ceremony at Moeyingyi to mark World Wetlands Day.
"The ministry in cooperation with local and international non-government organisations has been conducting site-specific surveys on potential Ramsar sites, including Indawgyi Wildlife Sanctuary, Meinmahla Kyun Wildlife Sanctuary and the Gulf of Mottama, which is an important habitat for the endangered spoon-billed sandpiper," he said on February 2.
The minister also launched an information centre at Moeyingyi that was established with the support of the Norwegian government.
Moeyingyi covers almost 104 square kilometers (40 square miles) and was designated as a Ramsar site in 2004. Adopted in 1971, the Ramsar Convention commits member countries to maintaining important wetland areas.
Wetland areas in Myanmar are mainly associated with the Ayeyarwady, Chindwin and Sittoung river basins, as well as coastal regions. A survey conducted in 2004 by the Forestry Department with assistance from Japan identified 99 sites.
U Win Tun said Myanmar's wetland areas are important for a number of reasons, including climate change mitigation and adaptation, agriculture and tourism.
"Wetlands provide reliable water [supplies] and fertile soil for improved agriculture production. They play a vital role in achieving sustainable development in developing countries like Myanmar," he said.
World Wetlands Day is a worldwide annual campaign to conserve the wetlands areas. This year's theme was "wetlands and agriculture", which aimed to highlight the need for cooperation in the management of wetland and agricultural areas.