A place for people and wildlife lake indawgyi, myanmar

03 Oct 2018

Located in northern Myanmar, Indawgyi Lake is the largest natural freshwater lake in Myanmar. On 2 February 2016 , World Wetlands Day, it was designated a Ramsar Site, demonstrating the commintment of the government of Myanmar  to conserve this special area, which supports the livelihood of some 30,000 people and is  home to a great diversity of water birds, fish and reptiles.

The site regularly supports at least 20,000 migratory and resident water birds, including coot, purple swamphen, tufted and ferruginous ducks, lesser whistling ducks and black-headed gulls, to name just a few. Five globally-threatened turtle and tortoise species are also found here along with 93 fish species, seven of which are endemic to these wetlands and have only recently been discovered to science.

Around 30,000 people live in the lake's basin, most of whom earn a living from the lake through fishing, rice farming, livestock grazing, and extracting forest products from the surrounding watershed.

Some of these practices have been unsustainable, such as overfishing in the lake and firewood extraction in the watershed. "We have been working at Indawgyi Lake since 2010 to address these challenges together with local communities, the Forest Department and the Department of Fisheries," said Frank Momberg, Fauna & Flora International's Myanmar Programme Director.

Firewood extraction and consumption have been reduced through fuel-efficient stoves and community forestry. To improve fisheries management, local communities participated in the designation of fish conservation zones to protect fish breeding and nursery grounds. The Department of Fisheries just approved nine community-managed fish conservation zones, including a ‘no-fishing zone' around Shwe Myint Zu Pagoda, an iconic cultural building on the western side of the lake.

Indawgyi's outstanding cultural and natural heritage is attracting an increasing number of tourists. To ensure tourism is sustainable and benefits local people, Fauna & Flora International (FFI) has launched a community-based ecotourism initiative offering new adventures such as kayaking, cycling and trekking – all of which provide jobs for local youth.

According to Frank Momberg, "Local people are often dependent upon wetlands because of the benefits that they provide, such as water for drinking and irrigation, as well as in providing food such as fish. Therefore it is critical to promote the wise use of wetlands and manage them in collaboration with local communities."

Despite the good progress for conservation as highlighted by the Ramsar designation, major challenges lay ahead, in particular illegal artisanal gold mining on streams in the watershed, which is causing sedimentation and pollution in the southern part of the lake.

Adapted fromt the Ramsar website www.ramsar.org